It’s the Wild Card week in the Chase. The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. With its propensity for crazy restrictor plate racing and multicar “big one” crashes, predicting a winner at Talladega is tricky. Some drivers however stand above the rest, and it’s those drivers that the race winner usually come from. There can however always be a surprise unexpected winner that seemingly comes out of nowhere.
This race is also important as it is the final race in the Round of 12. Four drivers will be eliminated from the Chase Sunday, giving several a bit extra incentive.
Here are my favorites for Sunday’s 32nd race of the year for your betting or fantasy racing leagues. Driver Ratings are compiled from 2005-2016 races (23 total) among active drivers at Talladega Superspeedway. The Driver Rating is a number based on a formula developed by NASCAR which combines “loop data” elements such as average running position, average speed under green, number of fastest laps, and other stats. There is a maximum of 150 points that a driver can earn for each race. The odds are current as of Wednesday.
Brad Keselowski (10-1). Keselowski almost needs a win in order to advance to the Round of 8. Keselowski crashed out at Kansas last week and tumbled in the standings. However, he won here in May and leads all active drivers with 4 Dega wins. The last time a driver swept the season at Talladega was in 2007, and the driver was Jeff Gordon. Few should be surprised if Keselowski, who has the sixth best driver rating, 87.1, equals that feat Sunday.
Matt Kenseth (10-1). Kenseth has one win at Talladega, that coming in 2012. He has the third best driver rating, 89.2, and while he did struggle the last two outings here, Kenseth has looked strong the last two races including a second place finish last week at Kansas.
Kurt Busch (10-1). Busch has been quietly finishing well in the last few races despite not having the best car among the Chase drivers. He has the fifth best driver rating in the field, 88.3, and could be in line for his first career Talladega win Sunday.
Joey Logano (12-1). Logano is the defending winner of this race, leading 20 laps last year en-route to his first Talladega win. He has the seventh best driver rating in the field, 81.9, and is looking not only to move to the next round, but also for redemption for crashing out here in May.
Chase Elliott (12-1). Elliott may seem like a long shot, but in his first Cup start here in May, he finished fifth and led 27 laps. Based on that first, and only, Talladega Cup race, Elliott has the highest driver rating in the field, 101.3, but he showed h e isn’t afraid to mix it up near the front and needing a win in order to advance, Elliott be a threat to score his first Cup win Sunday.
OTHERS: Kyle Busch (12-1) was second here in May and 11th in this race last season. He has the 14th best driver rating in the field, 80.6, but can be a threat to win anywhere, so can’t be dismissed Sunday. Jimmie Johnson (10-1) has two wins at Talladega and the fourth best driver rating in the field, 88.6. He led 34 laps here in the fall, and finished 18th, and struggled to a 22nd place in May.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Hellmann’s 500 will be run on Sunday October 23. Live coverage will be on NBC starting at 1:30 p.m. ET with the green flag coming just after 2:00 p.m. ET.