This weekend the NASCAR series makes the first of two trips to Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. The restrictor plates that had become such a mainstay of the circuit at Talladega and Daytona for many years are now gone. Replacing the restrictor plate is the tapered spacer, which can be described as looking like a cross section of an ice cream cone or funnel. The purpose of the tapered spacer is to help direct air into the engine to boost horsepower. The result of the tapered spacer is that it gives the driver better throttle response than restrictor plates.
The other major rule change for Talladega is the 9-inch spoiler, which is one inch taller than the typical spoiler that has been run this season. This taller spoiler catches more air, and while it likely helps the handling of the car, the trailing draft is massive. This is a much more pronounced draft that should allow the trailing cars to make up ground on the leaders very quickly.
From what was seen in practice, the drivers appear to have a higher level of confidence in the handling of their cars under the new rules. As a bettor, this can be looked at in a couple of ways. There is the possibility that the drivers will be able to sweep and cut on the track cleanly. However, there is also the possibility that their blooming confidence will get them into trouble, and we will see mass carnage.
One factor that can be taken from the practice sessions is that the cars seem to have an excellent ability to pass and make up ground. If what we have seen holds true, it would be hard to imagine that the leader of the final lap will go on to win the race. There is simply a huge tow behind the leader, and keeping a charging driver at bay will be a monumental task for any leader.
Considering the moves that were displayed during practice, there is little doubt that majority of the drivers in the race have a shot to win. The Penske team has been dominant as have the Fords by winning seven straight races at Talladega. However, it appears that any of the manufactures have an equal shot to win. The likelihood for a least one major wreck should also play a large role in handicapping. The chance for several of the odds favorites ending up in the garage early has been all too common in years past.
With the high chances of significant track incidents, wagering on driver matchups really loses the value that we enjoy on a typical race week. Keeping this in mind we look to shift our wagering perspective. Rather than focus on driver matchups, we will look for drivers who have good odds value to win the race.
There is one more item that I feel is specifically important this week. Depending on where you choose to wager, the “Field” bet can be vastly different in odds, driver makeup, and size. If there are drivers that I feel are carrying the Field bet, then I try to find them at listed odds, outside the Field wager. This can provide much higher value than the Field wager does alone. One example that comes to mind is Kasey Kahne winning at Sonoma years ago, where he was 18-1 within some Field wagers, while being at high as 85-1 outside the field.
Due to the vast unknowns entering the race, and the high chance for wreckage, I will sometimes try to take a shot with a few drivers to win at sizable odds. Below are some of the drivers based on value that I would consider if making up a team of mid to long shot drivers. The goal is to construct your wagering team from a pool of restrictor plate specialist, while trying to maximize value. Again due to the new race package, any plays this week should probably be small in a fiscal nature.
Drivers with odds of 15-1 or less are not listed for the purposes of a value ticket.
Aric Almirola (16-1): The Westgate has a fair price on Almirola who is the most recent Talladega winner. Almirola and Kurt Busch appear to carry significant value at listed odds.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (16-1): Specialist on the restrictor plate tracks who has been remarkably consistent at Talladega over the last several seasons. Stenhouse is also a former Talladega winner.
Kurt Busch (18-1): Leads all drivers with 273 points in the last eight races at Talladega.
Ryan Newman (40-1): Newman has the type of aggression to muscle his way to a victory. Being in a Ford, and with a team that has a great superspeedway program only helps his chances.
Darrell Wallace Jr. (80-1): Richard Petty Racing has four chances to win this season and legitimately Talladega one of them. Wallace has an bulldog approach from a mental standpoint that works well at current odds from the Westgate.
David Ragan (80-1 Westgate): Winner of the 2013 Talladega race, this is a wager of survival. If several cars are taken out Ragan could find himself in contention. Ragan is 30-1 at the South Point as he is part of the “Field” wager.
Ty Dillon (80-1 Westgate): One of the better restrictor plate racers, and is similar to Bubba Wallace in that he really only has four chances to win this season.