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Aaron’s 499 Betting News and Notes

Aaron’s 499 Betting News and Notes

Odds & Ends - Talladega

Talladega Superspeedway Data

Race #: 10 of 36 (05-06-12)
Track Size: 2.66 miles
Race Length: 500 miles
Banking/corners: 33 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 16.5 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 2 degrees
Frontstretch: 4,300 feet
Backstretch: 4,000 feet

Top 12 Driver Rating at Talladega

Jeff Burton 91.3
Dale Earnhardt Jr 90.2
Denny Hamlin 88.7
Joey Logano 88.6
Brian Vickers 87.3
David Ragan 87.1
Kurt Busch 86.2
Tony Stewart 84.3
Matt Kenseth 83.7
Jeff Gordon 82.6
Jimmie Johnson 81.9
Juan Pablo Montoya 81.8

Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2011 races (14 total) at Talladega.

Qualifying/Race Data

2011 pole winner: Jeff Gordon, 178.248 mph, 53.723 seconds
2011 race winner: Jimmie Johnson, (156.261 mph, 04-17-11)
Track qualifying record: Bill Elliott (212.809 mph, 44.998 seconds, 04-30-87)
Track race record: Mark Martin (188.354 mph, 05-10-97)

Driver Ratings for Winners

Driver-Year (Driver Rating Series/Driver Rating Rank)
Jimmie Johnson-2011 Spring (82.5/11th)
Kevin Harvick-2010 Spring (74.7/20th)
Brad Keselowski-2009 Spring (Debut at track/None)
Kyle Busch-2008 Spring (95.0/2nd)
Jeff Gordon-2007 Spring (97.1/3rd)
Jimmie Johnson-2006 Spring (73.4/17th)

Pre-Race Driver Ratings of the year the driver won at Talladega (last six spring races).

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Driver Highlights - Talladega

Jeff Burton (No. 31 CATERPILLAR Chevrolet)

Five top fives, 14 top 10s
Average finish of 18.5
Average Running Position of 15.8, seventh-best
Series-best Driver Rating of 91.3
48 Fastest Laps Run, 13th-most
Series-high 5,426 Green Flag Passes
Average Green Flag Speed of 192.185 mph, third-fastest
1,596 Laps in the Top 15 (60.0%), third-most
Series-high 3,834 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green)
Kurt Busch (No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Inc. Chevrolet)

Six top fives, 13 top 10s
Average finish of 14.9
Average Running Position of 15.3, fourth-best
Driver Rating of 86.2, seventh-best
4,792 Green Flag Passes, second-most
Series-high 1,621 Laps in the Top 15 (60.9%)
3,440 Quality Passes, second-most

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet)

Five wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s
Average finish of 15.0
Average Running Position of 14.9, second-best
Driver Rating of 90.2, second-best
62 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
4,555 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 192.159 mph, fifth-fastest
1,618 Laps in the Top 15 (60.8%), second-most
3,152 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)

Six wins, 14 top fives, 18 top 10s; two poles
Average finish of 16.3
Driver Rating of 82.6, 10th-best
1,238 Laps in the Top 15 (46.5%), 10th-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota)

Three top fives, five top 10s
Average finish of 17.8
Average Running Position of 15.8, fifth-best
Driver Rating of 88.7, third-best
54 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
4,004 Green Flag Passes, 13th-most
1,206 Laps in the Top 15 (53.0%), 13th-most
2,567 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet)

Two wins, five top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
Average finish of 16.9
Average Running Position of 17.6, 13th-best
Driver Rating of 81.9, 11th-best
1,290 Laps in the Top 15 (48.5%), eighth-most
2,626 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 17 Best Buy Ford)

Three top fives, six top 10s
Average finish of 19.3
Average Running Position of 16.2, eighth-best
Driver Rating of 83.7, ninth-best
4,380 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
1,558 Laps in the Top 15 (58.5%), fourth-most
3,345 Quality Passes, third-most

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)

One win, two top fives, four top 10s
Average finish of 15.0
Driver Rating of 80.6, 13th-best
Average Green Flag Speed of 191.935 mph, 13th-fastest

Joey Logano (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)

Two top fives, four top 10s
Average finish of 14.5
Series-best Average Running Position of 14.3
Driver Rating of 88.6, fourth-best
Average Green Flag Speed of 192.222 mph, second-fastest

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Target/Kraft Chevrolet)

Three top fives, three top 10s; two poles
Average finish of 17.1
Average Running Position of 15.0, third-best
Driver Rating of 81.8, 12th-best
Average Green Flag Speed of 192.057 mph, eighth-fastest

David Ragan (No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford)

Two top fives, three top 10s
Average finish of 18.1
Average Running Position of 16.8, 11th-best
Driver Rating of 87.1, sixth-best
Average Green Flag Speed of 192.135 mph, seventh-fastest

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)

One win, nine top fives, 13 top 10s
Average finish of 15.2
Average Running Position of 16.7, ninth-best
Driver Rating of 84.3, eighth-best
58 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
4,298 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
Average Green Flag Speed of 191.987 mph, 11th-fastest
1,293 Laps in the Top 15 (48.6%), seventh-most
2,256 Quality Passes, 13th-most

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Talladega Storylines for 2012 Aaron's 499

NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Racing continue on the sport’s biggest stage – 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway – this weekend. Aerodynamic and other procedural changes returned traditional pack racing to Daytona International Speedway in February and should have a similar effect at Talladega.

Still, last year’s Aaron’s 499 was statistically compelling with a record number of lead changes and a margin of victory – 0.002-seconds between winner Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer – that matched the NASCAR Sprint Cup record.

Five-time Talladega winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. could bag two birds with the same slingshot on Sunday – giving Hendrick Motorsports its 200th victory and in the process snap a 138-race winless streak dating to June 2008. HMS has won 11 times at Talladega, one fewer victory than Richard Childress Racing. RCR has won three of the last four Talladega races.

Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 is the Nationwide Series’ only 2012 visit to Talladega Superspeedway. Kyle Busch, the defending winner, climbs back into his No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota. Older brother Kurt Busch gave the team its first series victory last weekend in Richmond. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. continues his bid for a second consecutive championship. He’ll need to better last year’s 38th-place finish, one of just two DNFs in his title season.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series continues on hiatus as teams prepare for the May 18 North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Several drivers – Justin Lofton in a Nevada off-road race and James Buescher in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Talladega – will step outside their trucks for racing this Saturday.

Pack Is Back At Talladega After Successful Return Of Pack Racing At Daytona

Traditional pack racing returned to Daytona International Speedway in February making this year’s Daytona 500 one of the memorable in history. Look for more of the same in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, at 2.66 miles in length the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ longest track. Talladega equals excitement: Last year’s Aaron’s 499 matched series records for lead changes (88) and closest margin of victory (0.002 seconds). Fact: every Talladega race finishing under the green flag since introduction of electonic scoring in 1993 has recorded an MOV of under a half second.

Daytona 500 Winner Matt Kenseth On Pack Racing:

“I think you will see racing similar to Daytona. I don’t know why it would be much different. Daytona has the new pavement and a lot of grip just like Talladega. It is the same rules package so I think you will see racing like you did during Speedweeks.”

AJ Allmendinger On Pack Racing:

“I’m excited to get back and hopefully have that big pack racing again. Hopefully, that kind of stays the same as Daytona. To me, to get back in the big packs and getting back to that will be a lot better than over the last couple of years. Hopefully, it continues the same way it was at Daytona. Daytona, to me, was great racing throughout the whole race. I wouldn’t say that I’m ever excited to go to Talladega, but I look forward to getting back to how big pack racing used to be there.”

Denny Hamlin On Pack Racing:

“I think that the pack-racing that we had at Daytona was amazing. I thought it was great racing. The two car tandem didn't win the race -- that's a good thing. Really, they got us to where we were running a fast enough speed that handling became somewhat of an issue. So, all those things I think will equal good racing at Talladega if they keep everything the way that it was."

May Day for June Bug?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. last led the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings after his fifth and last win at Talladega in October 2004. He has four top-10 finishes in the last five spring races at Talladega and a 13th-place finish in the fifth, two years ago.

Following his second runner-up finish of the season at Richmond last weekend, Dale Jr. said: “The team is confident, we're feeling good. We feel like we're competing well. Really close to winning a race. We ain't really raced for a win yet and lost one, so I wouldn't count tonight. But we're getting better at running the top 5 and top 10s. We'll just try to keep doing that. There's too many variables going into races at Talladega whether you feel confident winning or not. There's just too much going on there.”

RCR On A Roll At Talladega

Richard Childress Racing has won three of the last four races at Talladega Superspeedway, and Childress has more wins (12) than any other owner at the track. Childress began his driving career at the track in 1969, and on Thursday, the NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee will be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame by NASCAR President Mike Helton.

Kevin Harvick had this to say about his team’s success at Talladega: “I think if you really look a little deeper into that, there’s some days where we just finish the last few laps and run probably slower than we need to run. But that’s always been something that Richard (Childress) has pushed on the guys is to make sure that when you start something, you do your best to not have that DNF on the chart. So, they do a good job at fixing things and getting them back out on the race track. We’ve definitely torn-up our share of stuff at Talladega as well. But it has been a good place for us. Hopefully we can keep putting ourselves in the right spot and keep that record intact.”

Harvick and fellow RCR drivers Jeff Burton and Paul Menard have yet to win in 2012. Harvick ranks seventh in points.

Bowyer Hopes To Carry Dega Success To MWR

Clint Bowyer has several reasons to be excited about racing at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. Bowyer finished second in last year’s Aaron’s 499 and won the track’s fall race in 2011. He’s also fighting to a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ having just missed qualifying for NASCAR’s post season a year ago. Bowyer, 12th in the standings but just 14 points out of 10th-place, left Richard Childress Racing at season’s end and bids to carry his Talladega success to Michael Waltrip Racing. Teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Michael Waltrip logged top-10 finishes in last year’s fall race. MWR has a single top-five finish at Talladega: David Reutimann’s fourth in the fall of 2010.

Hendrick #200 wins Watch

In addition to reaching the 200-win mark in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Rick Hendrick is a win away from tying Richard Childress for most wins at Talladega with 12. Jeff Gordon has the most wins among active drivers with 6 while teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. has 5. The all-time winner is Dale Earnhardt with 10. Gordon’s last Talladega victory came in 2007 when he swept both spring and fall races. Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is the defending winner of the Aarons 499.

Newman Coors Light Pole Watch

A Coors Light Pole away from 50, Ryan Newman heads to Talladega, where he has no poles and a 14.3 starting position.

Shaking Out The Points

With nine races in the books, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has passed the one-third mark of the 26-race regular season. Just two who didn’t qualify for the Chase a year ago – leader Greg Biffle and Martin Truex Jr. – appear in the top 10 of the standings following the April 28 Capital City 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Ten of the current top 13 qualified for last year’s Chase either via top 10 or Wild Card route. Jeff Gordon (17th) and Kurt Busch (26th) are pretty much consigned to seeking Wild Card berths if they are contend for this year’s championship.

This Date In Talladega History

The Aaron's 499 has been run on May 6 four times. In 1973, David Pearson won against the biggest field in the track's history (60 cars). In 1979, another NASCAR Hall of Famer and a member of the Alabama Gang, Bobby Allison, won. In 1984, a third NASCAR Hall of Famer, Cale Yarborough went to Victory Lane. All three won from the pole. In 1990, Dale Earnhardt claimed his third of a record 10 wins.

Bill Elliott will be appearing at Oxford and Pell City Walmarts on Saturday as part of Walmart’s 50th anniversary Legends of Racing initiative. Saturday, May 5 is the 27th anniversary of overcoming nearly a two-lap deficit under green-flag conditions to claim the win on his way to becoming “Million Dollar Bill” at Darlington later that year.

Bowtie Brigade Savors Talladega Competition

Since 1999, Chevrolet has won at least one race every year at Talladega except 2008. Chevy has won the last four races at the track and four of the last five. Jamie McMurray hopes to repeat his victory of fall 2009 and snap a 48-race winless streak. Teresa Earnhardt – part of the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates ownership – won five consecutive Talladega races from 2001-2003.

Kyle Busch Celebrates 27th Birthday This Wednesday

Busch, who recorded his 24th Sprint Cup victory at Richmond last weekend, said: “To go to Talladega next week, anything can unfold there. I think I've been crashed all but one time, and that time I didn't crash I almost crashed and won the race, so that was cool.” Busch joined older brother Kurt in 26th on the series’ all-time victory roster and with his 105th NASCAR national series victory stands one win behind second-place David Pearson.

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Driver Notes & Quotes for 2012 Aaron's 499 at Talladega

GREG BIFFLE ON TALLADEGA: “I’m really looking forward to Talladega; we had such a good run at Daytona. We feel like the Roush-Yates engines will be the talk of the weekend again about how fast our cars will be in Talladega. I’m hoping for good side-by-side racing, big-pack racing, sort of like it was at Daytona. You’ve got to be there at the end to have a shot. It’s going to be a two-car tandem push for the win and hopefully the No. 16 3M / O’Reilly’s Ford will be out front.”

BIFFLE CREW CHIEF MATT PUCCIA ON TALLADEGA: “We are taking our Daytona 500 car to Talladega this weekend. Talladega is a typical superspeedway race where you’re going to have to survive the whole race to be there at the end. This new package that NASCAR started for us at Daytona allows for a lot more old conventional style drafting and we’ll look for that again in Talladega like we had in Daytona. Qualifying is important with the new package, since you don’t have as much of the tandem slingshot coming from the back like with the old style.”

BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary - RK-781 Last ran Daytona 500 – finished third; Backup - RK-794 Last ran Bud Shootout – finished sixth

CARL EDWARDS ON TALLADEGA: “If we can go to Talladega and work with my teammates the way we have and do the things we have been doing at superspeedways then we will be good. It is still that bottleneck in the season where anything can happen. We don’t have any points to give up so we will go with a different attitude I am sure than my teammates. That is one race that scares our team because we don’t want to be 15th in points right now. We want to be up there marching toward the top five. If we can run there the way we have the last six or eight restrictor-plate races then we will be okay.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 Fastenal Blue Team will be unloading chassis RK-712 this weekend at Talladega. This car won the pole for the Daytona 500 and finished eighth in the race.

MATT KENSETH ON TALLADEGA: “I think this is the most I have ever looked forward to going to Talladega. Our Speedweeks in Daytona was really good with Carl and Greg starting on the front row, and our 17 team being able to win our qualifying race and the 500. I feel like as a group we had, throughout all of Speedweeks, really fast race cars. Without the tandem racing you can actually make some moves for yourself and are racing against everyone else, which is fun and refreshing for plate racing I think. This is probably the most I have ever looked forward to getting there, but you never know what is going to happen when you get there.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-793 (Last run at Bud Shootout)

ARIC ALMIROLA ON TALLADEGA: “Well, this is a big weekend for a couple of reasons. First, and most obvious, is our new crew chief. This will be the first race that Mike (Ford) and I will be working together. It’s a little bit of a different track to start working together since it’s a plate race, but I’m still anxious to work with Mike. He’s a proven winner in our sport and I think he can elevate our program to win races.

“Second, we have VeriFone Sail on the car this weekend. It’s pretty cool to have VeriFone come on board as a team sponsor for us. This has been a pretty exciting week already for us. I think everyone at VeriFone is seeing all the excitement around the race team and we want to continue that this weekend."

ALMIROLA CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 43 team will race chassis No. 716 this weekend. The chassis has never been raced by the team, but has served as the backup for other restrictor plate races.

MARCOS AMBROSE ON TALLADEGA: “I’ve had a few days to rest and recuperate after having back issues in Richmond last weekend, and I’m feeling better and ready to get back in the Stanley Ford this weekend. Richmond was tough, but hopefully the worst is behind me and I’ll be in tip top shape for Sunday’s 500-mile race. The biggest thing we’ll have to concentrate on in Talladega is avoiding the big wrecks and finding a good partner in the draft. I’m looking forward to working with Aric Almirola in practice and during the race this weekend. We worked well together earlier in the year at Daytona, so I know he’ll be a big help this weekend.”

AMBROSE CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 795 for this weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. This Stanley Ford was run previously this season at Daytona.

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON IF THE TYPE OF RACING WILL BE LIKE DAYTONA: “Well, I was around for about 2.5 miles in Daytona (laughs). But I do think we will see some of the same type of racing. I think the warmer temperatures are going to play a factor, especially with the pack-type racing we will have. The elevated temperatures are going to make it harder for us to push and keep cool in the pack. It’s definitely going to be a thinking man’s race.”

RYAN NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 39-606 makes a return trip to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway this weekend after making two previous starts at the 2.66-mile oval. The chassis’ first start at the superspeedway was October 2010, when Newman qualified eighth. He attempted to make a late-race charge but finished 23rd. Although it wasn’t the finish the team had hoped for, it marked the first superspeedway finish for the driver and team in more than a year. The chassis returned to Talladega for last spring’s Aaron’s 499. Newman, who had one of the strongest racecars in the field, was spun twice in two laps – due to inopportune bump drafts – with just a handful of laps remaining. While he was able to save his racecar from sustaining any damage during both mishaps, the incidents put him too far back in the pack and, without a strong drafting partner to help him get back through the field, he finished 25th. After taking a trip to Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February as the team’s backup car, Chassis No. 39-606 will return to action for the first time in 2012 this weekend.

JAMIE McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1009 - Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No.1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats team will be bringing the #1009 chassis in Aaron’s 499. This same chassis was used in last season’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, finishing 22nd.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1215 - Chris “Sunshine” Heroy and the No. 42 Target team will be bringing a brand new chassis, Chassis #1215, to Talladega this weekend.

KEVIN HARVICK ON TALLADEGA: “I like racing at places like Talladega (Superspeedway), you spend a lot of time anticipating the other guy’s next move, so you have to be mentally prepared for a race like this. This a good track for me, and we’ve done well in the past. As a team we need to remain focused, and as long as we don’t make any little mistakes, I think we have a good shot to put the Rheem Chevrolet in victory lane this weekend.”

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 238 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This chassis was most recently driven by Elliott Sadler at Daytona International Speedway in February as the No. 33 RCR Chevrolet, and was utilized in 2011 by the No. 31 team.

JEFF BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 343 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This chassis, built in 2011 for RCR’s No. 29 entry with driver Kevin Harvick, competed in three superspeedway events last season including the Daytona 500 where an engine failure relegated Harvick to a 42nd-place finish. Harvick also guided this machine to a top-five finish at Talladega Superspeedway in April 2011 (started-38th, finished-fifth) and a top-10 finish in July in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway (started-31st, finished-seventh). Burton got behind the wheel of this Chevrolet in the 2012 Budweiser Shootout at DIS where he was involved in an early incident but battled to an 11th-place finish.

Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 388 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet was last seen on track at Daytona International Speedway in February, where Menard earned a sixth-place finish in the Daytona 500.

KYLE BUSCH ON WHETHER WE'LL SEE PACK RACING AT TALLADEGA: “I think we kind of saw a little bit of that at Daytona – there wasn’t much tandem-style stuff going on. You do just overheat too fast and you can’t take a chance in overheating and pushing water out and hurting your motor. It’s a long race. It’s going to be a 500-mile race and the thing about Daytona we may or may not see in Talladega is, at Daytona, it was hard to get the outside lane moving. It seemed like once you got single-filed out on the bottom, the bottom was too strong to hold, and to hold off the outside lane or any progress from the outside lane. Talladega is wide enough that there could be a middle lane and guys could shoot up through the middle and really make some evasive moves or aggressive moves, sometimes. Hopefully, it’s a better race and puts on a better show than my opinion of how the Daytona race played out.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR ON TALLADEGA: “The rule package is similar to Daytona. The pressure relief valve is a tiny bit different. With those two things said and a lot warmer temperatures expected for Sunday, I think it will be harder to keep the cars cool. The two-car tandem should not come into play until maybe the very end. It’s all going to be about how long we can push and keep our engine together. With a certain amount of laps to go, I think we will see teams pairing up and pushing to the end. That’s my prediction. It’s hard to tell how it will unfold considering how the track changes, the actual temperature and what teams have done to improve their overall superspeedway package. Hopefully in the end, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota will be the car out front.

“The NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota that we are bringing will be similar to Daytona, but a lot different from what we had at Talladega last year. It will come down to how well we have prepared for this race. We might not know how good our car really is until the closing laps.”

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Re: Aaron’s 499 Betting News and Notes

Aaron's 499 Preview
By Micah Roberts

When restrictor-plate races come around, it has usually been a foregone conclusion that a Chevrolet would wind up in the winner’s circle just because they usually did. From 2001 to 2007 a Chevy won 11 of the 14 races at Daytona. From 1999 through 2007, a Chevy won 17 of the 18 Talladega races. Between the program of Hendrick, DEI and Childress, they pretty much gobbled up all the competition and wins.

In 2009 that dominance was over and between a few changes in aero-dynamics and other technical aspects to slow the cars down, the racing has never been more equal at Daytona and Talladega. At Daytona, we’ve seen a Ford win four of the last seven races. At Talladega, Chevy has won four of the last eight, the last four coming in a row heading into this Sunday’s race.

Just the thought of racing four-wide, with the driver’s foot mashed on the pedal for the entire Talladega race gets most fans juiced up like no other race. It’s the biggest, baddest track on the circuit and while some fans won’t admit that they like crashes as part of their intrigue in watching NASCAR, it is Talladega that offers some of the most spectacular wrecks of the year. It’s that type of racing and possibility of ’The Big One’ happening that keeps fans on the edge of their seats for the entire duration.

From a betting standpoint, the problem with having more parity than ever before and a high propensity for massive wreckage is that it’s one of the hardest races of the year to handicap. In a usual race week, we have past trends and then get some valuable data from practices. But at Talladega, all that goes out the window and when wagering on the race, it’s almost like throwing darts.

The last four races at Talladega have gone to favorites like Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer twice, but just prior to that, Brad Keselowski and Jamie McMurray won at huge odds. If we throw Daytona into the mix, we’ve got the likes of Trevor Bayne, David Ragan and Matt Kenseth winning at large odds.

It’s a tough race to handicap, but no matter how much your mind tells you to limit the normal bankroll for the race, the heart tells you that you have to have action on the race because it’s Talladega and just maybe, this might be the week to hit a 100/1 long shot like Bayne or 125/1 odds like Keselowski had.

If we use this year’s Daytona 500 as a reference, we can identify a few drivers that should compete well Sunday. The Roush Ford’s were strong led by eventual Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth. For whatever reason, Kenseth hasn’t fared too well Talladega with his last top-5 finish coming there in 2006. But we know the Roush program is strong and anything is possible, so Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Kenseth all have to be considered.

For Biffle, he's got a lot of reasons to be excited this week. Not only is he bringing his third-place Daytona car, but he can seemingly do no wrong thus far as he leads the series in points.

“I’m really looking forward to Talladega; we had such a good run at Daytona," said Biffle. "We feel like the Roush-Yates engines will be the talk of the weekend again about how fast our cars will be in Talladega. I’m hoping for good side-by-side racing, big-pack racing, sort of like it was at Daytona. You’ve got to be there at the end to have a shot. It’s going to be a two-car tandem push for the win and hopefully the No. 16 3M /O’Reilly’s Ford will be out front.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be one of the favorites this week and he might find himself being one of the top bet drivers as far as ticket counts go. Talladega would seem like the appropriate place for him to end his massive winless streak and he comes off a runner-up finish at Daytona, as well as runner-up last week at Richmond. It could be argued that he is having the best year of all the Hendrick drivers which is high praise for a team that has five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and four-time winner Jeff Gordon.

One of the long shots to take a strong look at this week is Kurt Busch. I was high on him coming into Daytona and he would have run well, but got involved in an accident early on. He is one of the drivers that could pull off the upset, driving in the same car that Keselowski won with at Talladega at big odds in 2009. Because of his poor finish at Daytona, and not doing anything spectacular in the other seven races, his odds should be quite high for this race and fetch over 50/1.

Remember, you can’t think of the obvious for this race like we do everywhere else. This is a race where David Gilliland and Dave Blaney also have a shot to win, something we would never think about in the 32 other races. Had the Daytona 500 not been completed because of the fire Juan Pablo Montoya ignited, Blaney would have been the winner.

So while Earnhardt Jr., Harvick and Bowyer get a lot of the attention this week, don’t forget about the Aric Almirola’s, AJ Allmendinger’s, Regan Smith’s and Kurt Busch’s. Throwing darts can sometimes pay off pretty big under these circumstances.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #16 Greg Biffle (25/1)
2) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr (12/1)
3) #99 Carl Edwards (25/1)
4) #29 Kevin Harvick (10/1)
5) #51 Kurt Busch (60/1)

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Driver Handicaps: Talladega
By: Jeff Wackerlin

Motor Racing Network brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Who's HOT at Talladega

• Clint Bowyer has finished seventh or better in his last four starts, including wins in both fall events.
• Kevin Harvick has finished fifth or better in three of his last four starts, including a win in the 2010 spring race.
• Jeff Gordon leads all drivers in wins (6) and laps led (832).
• Five-time winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. has led the most laps (170) in the nine races with the COT chassis.
• Jimmie Johnson's win in this event last year was his third top 10 in the last five races.
• Tony Stewart has one win and six runner-up finishes.
• Brad Keselowski has four top 10s in six starts, including one win.
• Joey Logano leads all drivers with a 14.5 average finish.

Keep an Eye On at Talladega

• Matt Kenseth is coming off his second Daytona 500 victory.
• Jamie McMurray (2) David Ragan (1) and Trevor Bayne (1) each have win(s) in the last 10 races held on restrictor-plate tracks.
• Denny Hamlin (146) Kyle Busch (129) and Jeff Burton (90) each rank in the top five in laps led in the nine races with the COT chassis at Talladega.
• Juan Pablo Montoya finished third in both races in 2010.
• Kurt Busch has completed the most laps (1,621) while running in the top 15 in the last 14 races at Talladega.
• Michael Waltrip, who is back behind the wheel of the No. 55 Toyota, is coming off his 15th top 10 at Talladega.
• Martin Truex Jr. has a 10.3 average finish in four starts at Talladega with Michael Waltrip Racing.
• Carl Edwards has posted a 12.1 average finish in his last 10 starts in restrictor-plate races.
• Kasey Kahne will be shooting for his fourth straight top 10 of the season this weekend.
• Series point leader Greg Biffle will return in the same car he finished third with in the Daytona 500.
• Paul Menard has posted a 9.4 average finish in his last five starts in restrictor-plate races. Staff Picks

Jeff Wackerlin: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Pete Pistone: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Ricky Hamber: Jimmie Johnson
John Singler: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Top 20 Driver Notes - Ordered by current standings

(All stats/notes are in regards to Talladega unless noted)

Greg Biffle: Has finished in the top 10 in three of his last six starts; 20.6 average finish in 18 starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 781) that he finished third with in the Daytona 500.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: Last of five wins came in the 2004 fall race; Finished fourth in this event last year for 12th top 10 in 24 starts; 16.5 average finish in eight starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 699) that he finished second with in the Daytona 500.

Denny Hamlin: Coming off fifth top 10 in 12 starts; Eighth-place finish last fall was third top 10 in the last four starts; Tied for fourth among all drivers in average finish (13.8) and fourth in laps led (68) in the last five restrictor-plate races (Daytona and Talladega);

Matt Kenseth: Has yet to finish in the top 10 in last 10 starts; Second in laps led (93) in the last five restrictor-plate races (Daytona and Talladega); Will return in the same car (chassis No. 793) that he finished 21st with in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona after being involved in an accident.

Martin Truex Jr: Coming off fourth top 10 in 14 starts; 10.3 average finish in four starts with Michael Waltrip Racing.

Jimmie Johnson: Defending race winner; Also won this event in 2006; 16.8 average finish and 218 laps led in 20 starts; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 698) in the Aaron's 499.

Kevin Harvick: Won this event in 2010; Has finish in the top five in three of his last four starts; Will drive the same car (chassis No. 238) that Elliott Sadler finished 27th with in the Daytona 500.

Tony Stewart: Coming off 13th top 10 in 26 starts; Winner of the 2008 fall race; 21.5 average finish in six starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; Tied for second among all drivers in average finish (12.8) in the last five restrictor-plate races (Daytona and Talladega); Will return in the same car (chassis No. 634) that he last finished second with in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona.

Carl Edwards: Finished fourth in this event last year for fourth top 10 in 15 starts; Tied for second among all drivers in average finish (12.8) in the last five restrictor-plate races (Daytona and Talladega); Will return in the same car (chassis No. 712) that he won the pole and finished eighth with in the Daytona 500.

Ryan Newman: Third-place finish in this event in 2009 is only top 20 in six starts with Stewart-Haas Racing; Third in laps led (73) in the last five restrictor-plate races (Daytona and Talladega); Will return in the same car (chassis No. 606) that he last finished 25th with last spring at Talladega.

Kyle Busch: Won this event in 2008 in first track start with Joe Gibbs Racing; 31.0 average finish in last three starts; 24.9 average finish and 139 laps led in 14 starts.

Clint Bowyer: Two wins and a 1.3 average finish in last three starts; Ranks third among all drivers in average finish (13.4) and first in laps led (97) in the last five restrictor-plate races (Daytona and Talladega); Will pilot the same car (chassis No. 679) that finished 10th in the 2011 Budweiser Shootout at Daytona as the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Toyota.

Brad Keselowski: Won this event in 2009 with Phoenix Racing; Coming off second top 10 in four starts with Penske Racing; 15.0 average finish in six starts; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 645) in the Aaron's 499.

Paul Menard: Finished 12th in both events last year with Richard Childress Racing; Leads all drivers with a 9.4 average finish in the last five restrictor-plate races (Daytona and Talladega); Will return in the same car (chassis No. 388) that he finished sixth with in the Daytona 500.

Joey Logano: Leads all drivers with a 14.5 average finish; Tied for fourth among all drivers in average finish (13.8) in the last five restrictor-plate races (Daytona and Talladega);

Juan Pablo Montoya: Finished third in both events in 2010; 17.1 average finish in 10 starts; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 1215) in the Aaron's 499.

Jeff Gordon: Leads all drivers in wins (6) and laps led (832); Swept both races in 2007; Won the pole and finished third in this event last year; 12.7 average finish in last three starts.

Jamie McMurray: Won the 2009 fall race with Roush Fenway Racing; Second-place finish in this event in 2010 is only top 10 in four starts with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1009) that he last finished 22nd with at Daytona International Speedway.

Mark Martin: Will not race this weekend; 2003 fall winner Michael Waltrip will drive the No. 55 Toyota; Waltrip is coming off his 15th top 10 in 51 Talladega starts.

Jeff Burton: Finished second last fall for 14th top 10 in 36 starts; Last top 10 in the spring race came in 2009 in fifth; Fifth in laps led (64) in the last five restrictor-plate races (Daytona and Talladega); Will return in the same car (chassis No. 343) that he finished 11th with in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona.

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Re: Aaron’s 499 Betting News and Notes

Aarons 499 at Talladega Preview and Picks
By Greg Engle

NASCAR heads to its biggest stage this weekend, the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway for the Sprint Cup series Aarons 499 Sunday.

The favorite this week could be the biggest story of the NASCAR season. Five-time Talladega winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. could accomplish two goals Sunday: Give Hendrick Motorsports its 200th victory and snap his 138-race winless streak, dating back to June 2008.

NASCAR opened its season at the other superspeedway, Daytona International Speedway. With the same rules in place that bring back the old style of pack racing as they were at Daytona, look for Earnhardt to shine this weekend.

The pack racing that used to be the norm at the superspeedways was at its height during a time when Earnhardt was dominant at Talladega. He finished second at Daytona and placed second in Richmond last weekend. All the signs point to an Earnhardt victory Sunday.

“I feel like the style of racing we had in the Daytona 500 this year suits me better,” Earnhardt said. “I feel more confident in that style than I do the tandem. I do like having more control of my destiny and making my own decisions for myself. I want to look out for No. 1 and my team all day long and try to do whatever I can to put myself in position to win the race. That is really what I feel like I have been doing all my life. To do anything different just doesn’t feel comfortable. It feels odd to me.”

The Richard Childress Racing stable has won three of the last four races at Talladega. Clint Bowyer, now driving a Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, was behind the wheel of a RCR machine when he won here last fall. But Chevys are dominant at the superspeedway, so look for RCR driver Kevin Harvick, who won in the spring of 2010, to step up to the plate.

Never count out Jimmie Johnson. Earnhardt’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate is the defending winner of this event and has been on the cusp of victory nearly every race this season. Johnson could easily steal Sunday’s show and his teammate’s thunder.

Head to Head

Keselowski vs. Busch: Both have wins here, Keselowski in 2009 and Busch in 2008. Both drivers also have wins this season along with identical career records, with one Top 5 and two Top-10 finishes at Talladega. Busch is coming off a win at Richmond and might have the momentum, but what separates the pair is their average finish at Talladega - Keselowski 15.0 and Busch 24.3. Look for that stat to play out as Keselowski finishes ahead of Busch Sunday.

Matt Kenseth vs. Greg Biffle: The Roush-Fenway Racing teammates are having a great season so far. Biffle is leading the points, Kenseth is in fourth. Kenseth won at Daytona to open the season, but a Ford winning at Talladega is a rarity. Neither has won here, but Kenseth has three Top-5 finishes to Biffle’s one. Kenseth also has an average finish of 19.3 to Biffle’s 20.6. However, Biffle seems to be having a career season, so bank on him to finish ahead of Kenseth Sunday.

Bottom Line

Richard Childress Racing has won more than any other organization at Talladega with 12 wins. Thirty-three of 85 races have been won from a top-two starting position, including 13 from the pole. Twenty-three have been won from a starting position outside the Top 10. The most recent driver to win from the pole was Jeff Gordon in 2007 (spring). The furthest back in the field a race winner started was 36th, which was also Gordon in 2000.


Dale Earnhardt Jr. (+900)
Kevin Harvick (+1,000)
Jimmie Johnson (+1,200)

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Re: Aaron’s 499 Betting News and Notes

Practice Notes & Driver Ratings     
By Micah Roberts

This Week's Race: Aaron's 499

Rating     Driver     Odds     Practice 1     Practice 2     Qualified     Daytona*
1     Matt Kenseth     15/1     3rd     2nd     10th     1st
Notes: No top-5 finishes since 2006, but has the best of the Fords just as he did winning Daytona 500.

2     Kevin Harvick     8/1     5th     DNP     20th     7th
Notes: 2010 winner with three runner-up finishes; great plate racer who sees the air better than most.

3     Dale Earnhardt Jr.     8/1     27th     22nd     18th     2nd
Notes: Five-time winner, the last coming in 2004; using the same runner-up chassis from Daytona 500.

4     Jeff Gordon     12/1     4th     11th     1st     40th
Notes: Six-time winner, the last coming in 2007; has most restrictor-plate race wins (12) in history.

5     Brad Keselowski     15/1     6th     20th     13th     32nd
Notes: 2009 winner, his first ever win; finished fourth last fall. Both Penske cars should fare well.

6     Aric Almirola     100/1     1st     1st     4th     33rd
Notes: Best finish of 13th in 2008; outstanding practices running in packs showing Fords with the edge.

7     Greg Biffle     15/1     24th     3rd     6th     3rd
Notes: Only one top-5 finish in 18 starts, but has advantage with Fords; using third-place Daytona car.

8     Carl Edwards     12/1     15th     14th     7th     8th
Notes: No wins in 29 restrictor-plate races, but has been coming close last 3 years; using Daytona car.

9     Clint Bowyer     18/1     22nd     10th     24th     11th
Notes: Winner of 2010 and 2011 fall races, now with new team; using 10th-place Bud Shootout car.

10     Jeff Burton     20/1     9th     DNP     29th     5th
Notes: Runner-up last fall, his best finish in 36 starts; using Harvick's plate chassis from last season.

Results from the Daytona 500 held February 27, 2012. Talladega and Daytona are the only two tracks that use a restrictor-plate package.

Note: With a smaller radiator used in plate races, several cars are likely to over-heat in the hot Alabama sun while running in packs with no clean air, which further adds to the race being a crap shoot.

Betting Notes: The Fords all look to have the best set-up at Talladega led by Aric Almirola and Matt Kenseth. But their teammates will also be fast and ready seize the moment if it should ever present itself. I was also impressed with both Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger in their Penske Dodges.

Now, after having said all that I'm going with Jeff Gordon in a Chevrolet for the win. Being on the pole doesn't mean anything, but his experience in the draft does. Now that they are pack racing again, Gordon can regain some of that edge he has on the other drivers in plate races. On the same note, Dale Earnhardt Jr will benefit as well. Both should be up front in the final pack helping each other out.

You also have to take a poke with Almirola just because of the large odds. Another driver with high odds who is worth a shot is Jeff Burton, who might just find himself capturing his first Talladega win.

This is basically a race where you can't count anyone out which makes there no argument against any driver. Ryan Newman has an equal chance with Jimmie Johnson, as does Marcos Ambrose with Clint Bowyer. Because it is so wide open, the best bet to make in match-ups is just find a few of the plus-money prices in driver matchups and play them which leads me to Jeff Gordon against several drivers.

Matchup of the Week: Jeff Gordon +110 vs. Jimmie Johnson

Johnson won this race last year, but has also finished 30th, 31st and 26th in three of his last six starts. Gordon hasn't been much better, but the point is that here is a great driver with good equipment getting +110 for no good reason, so take it.

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