Talladega offers value for bettors

By Jeff Cogliandro  (Point Spread Weekly) 

The NASCAR series rolls into Talladega for the middle race in the round of 12 for the 2018 championship. It seems as though Talladega is flying under the radar a bit, as many are still considering the effects of the Roval. There is little doubt that the playoffs are still top heavy with the Big 3, along with Keselowski and Elliott leading the charge. However, leading into Talladega there is the possibility that the points and standings could look wildly different when the series exits Alabama, and heads for Kansas next week. On more than one occasion we have seen drivers with championship aspirations get caught up in one of the many multi car accidents at Talladega. It would not be surprising to see the same thing occur this weekend.

Depending on where you look, value can be found on the drivers who are deeper in the playoff standings. One such example of this, is Alex Bowman who is presently at 1000-1 to win the title at one of the major sportsbooks in Las Vegas. This price provides value, and I will explain why.

Alex Bowman is 20-1 to win at Talladega at the same sportsbook. If he were to win at Talladega then he would automatically qualify for the round of eight, which would plummet these championship odds. To take it a step further, his teammate Chase Elliott has already qualified for the round of eight with his win last weekend at Dover. Elliott could come into play again this weekend should he decide to help push Bowman to a victory. This would secure spots for the two Hendrick drivers left in the Chase for the Cup. We also should consider the fact that Bowman is currently in last place in the standings by a significant margin of -34 points. Therefore the drive to advance by only achieving a win is at the forefront of his strategy.

While we know it would take a lot for this scenario to occur, at these massive odds there a chance for hedging if Bowman were to catapult deeper into the playoffs. You could make a similar case for Aric Almirola entering Talladega at a minuscule 100-1 to win the title. However, Almirola’s positioning of -10 points below the cutoff is significantly better than Bowman’s. This margin helps to explain some of the gap in odds between the two drivers. The take home message is that both drivers really need a win to advance. Talladega appears to be their best chance to acquire this needed win.

The overwhelming majority of the time we put our financial focus into the driver matchups. However, when it comes to the restrictor plate races we usually take a different approach. The reason for this, is because the value on a matchup is significantly decreased when so many drivers are typically eliminated over the course of a restrictor plate race. Restrictor plate tracks have a history of taking out both favorites and longshots. An example of this is Brad Keselowski who leads all drivers with three wins in the last eleven restrictor plate races. However, he also leads all drivers with a whopping six DNFs during that same span.

When all types of drivers can be on the brink of being eliminated from a restrictor plate race, value emerges on longshot drivers. In the previous three restrictor plate races this season, the eventual winners had pre race odds of 40-1, 10-1, and 25-1. Sticking with this long standing theme, we will look to employ the same strategy. This can work by compiling a team of drivers who foremost have value in their odds, and drivers that tend to avoid trouble.

Let’s examine many of the drivers entering Talladega. Please shop the prices as the quantity of drivers and their associated skills that comprise of the “Field bet” will affect the odds of many of the other drivers on the board who are solo wagers.

Brad Keselowski (7-1): Keselowski has two wins in the last five races at Talladega but also has two DNFs during that same span. As strong as Penske has been by winning five of the last six at Talladega, Keselowski’s propensity for ending his day early makes him a tough ticket. If playing one favorite he could be the best choice as he is truly feast or famine in these situations.

Chase Elliott (8-1): Being assured of making the round of eight, Chase Elliott can simply allow the race to unfold and perhaps gain some stage points in the process. He has two top-5 finishes and four DNFs in the last eleven restrictor plate races. As mentioned previously he could also push his teammate Bowman to the front.

Joey Logano (8-1): Another Penske powerhouse, Logano won earlier this season at Talladega. Like his teammate Brad Keselowski, Logano has two wins and two DNFs in the last five races at Talladega.

Field (10-1): There are times when the field offers decent value. This is not one of those times are there are only a driver or two in this field bet that offer a real chance of victory. NASCAR has a group of cars that are frankly not competitive and you would not want to water down the odds with some of these drivers in a Field bet. The preferred method can be to target any drivers of consideration and find their odds outside a field bet. Generally their solo odds are high and there is a better chance to make a larger profit by wagering this way should they win.

Ryan Blaney (10-1): Ryan Blaney had a strong run at Daytona before being eliminated by a wreck. Seeing his speed, there is ample reason to believe that he will be a major contender if he runs clean. Like his teammates at Penske, Blaney has two DNFs in the last five races at Talladega.

Denny Hamlin (12-1): With one win in the last eleven restrictor plate races, Hamlin has been a smooth driver when it comes to avoiding incidents. He has only two DNFs in that span of races which makes him one of the safer drivers. However, Hamlin who drives a Toyota has that factor going against him, as Fords have been dominate.

Kevin Harvick (12-1): Although Kevin Harvick has not had a lot of recent success at Talladega he has avoided trouble for the most part with only one DNF in the last five races there. Commanding a Stewart-Haas Ford there appears to be better value on him at 12-1 in comparison to Hamlin at the same odds. Neither driver may be worthy of their price in comparison to others on the board.

Kyle Busch (12-1): Without a win in the last eleven restrictor plate races, Kyle Busch has suffered much of the same fate as the non Ford drivers. He has four DNFs in that same span of races. There is value for the bookmaker in a name, and Kyle Busch is suffering from this as his odds should be higher.

Aric Almirola (15-1): Since coming to Stewart-Haas Racing, Aric Almirola has been a staple amongst the front runners at the restrictor plate tracks. Coming off last weekend’s near miss at a victory in Dover, Almirola should be a contender if he can avoid issues. Having only two DNFs in the last eleven restrictor plate races, Almirola has the rare combination of speed and safety.

Clint Bowyer (15-1): With one top-5 in the last eleven restrictor plate races Clint Bowyer has not a typical deep contender in these races. He does have a manufacture edge but it will take more than that for him to get to victory lane.

Kurt Busch (15-1): One of the stronger restrictor plate drivers is Kurt Busch with six top-10 finishes in the last eleven plate races. Last year’s Daytona winner who drives a Ford has value at the current odds.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (15-1): This is one of Stenhouse’s specialty tracks as the former Talladega winner has run well, both there and at Daytona. With the Ford edge, Stenhouse will need to simply do like all the other drivers and not get caught up in an accident. He does tend to push the envelope in these cases which in the past has brought his day to a head, with not always the most desirable results.

Alex Bowman (20-1): We covered him above and the fact remains that in order to win the title as almost impossible as that might seem, he will need to win at Talladega if there is any shot. I expect him to do whatever necessary and I believe that Chase Elliott or another Hendrick driver could help him if in a position to do so.

Erik Jones (25-1): The winner of the July Daytona race looks to put a positive spin on being eliminated from the playoffs. It would take quite a run for Jones to end up winning and not one that does not seem too plausible. He has three DNFs in the last five Talladega races.

Kyle Larson (30-1): Not running with a lot of success on restrictor plate races is Kyle Larson. Although he is not in a Ford, Larson could prove to be a troublemaker for the rest of the field as he is looking to secure a spot in the next round. His long odds could prove to be fruitful if Larson avoids trouble.

Austin Dillon (40-1): The Daytona winner has a strong presence on the restrictor plate tracks as he has six top-10 finishes in the last eleven such races. At current odds if playing the group of longshots there is reason for him to make the cut. Again please see the size of the Field bet and how that relates to odds on long shot drivers.

Ryan Newman (50-1): With only one DNF in the last eleven restrictor plate races at odds this high, Ryan Newman is solid wager. He has the respect of the other drivers as well which is handy when trying to get drivers to draft. Newman makes the cut if playing the long shots.

Brendan Gaughan (100-1): Depending on the sportsbook, Brendan Gaughan can be found either solo or part of a Field bet. As a solo driver there is value as he is a veteran driver who has a history of running well in restrictor plate races. He makes the cut as a solo driver by avoiding the muddy waters of the Field.

There will not be any driver matchup plays this weekend as we will protect our margin, with the ability to take an alternate approach. At Dover we went 1-0 in matchups which brings our season record to 55-33. As always please acquire any latest developments prior to wagering.

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