Talladega isn't the greatest place to get off a losing streak.
Not that we're technically on a losing streak; we had Jeff Gordon winning last Saturday night's Phoenix event, which he did, as a +385 favorite. But in an excruciating turn of events, Dale Earnhardt Jr. got caught on in the pits during a late caution, went a lap down, and wound up losing his head-to-head match-up against Greg Biffle, who didn't have nearly the car Junior did, and who trailed the #8 all night. Drat.
So we lost a little money, and now we head to the 'Dega, probably the sport's most random site. It's random, of course, because the Big One is never more than a few laps away: the giant wreck that takes out half the field, since the cars all ride so impossibly close together at 190 mph with restrictor plates on their carburetors. The favorites can lead all day, as did Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch in this year's Daytona 500, only to get slam-drafted late and see the afternoon go up in a puff of tire smoke. It's nerve-rattling for us; imagine how crazy it is for the drivers themselves.
Anyway, we can but try. Here are the best bets for the Aaron's 499 from Talladega.
Last Week: Gordon's win couldn't overcome Junior's terrible luck (which he's now experienced two weeks running), meaning we dropped 0.38 units on 1.5 units wagered. For the season, then, we stand a positive net 1.49 units on 12 units wagered, a return of 12.4%. Note also that if you eschew the conservative betting scheme I outline below, and simply place one unit on every wager I recommend, for the year you'd be up 17.52 units on 32 units wagered, for a 54.8% return. As always, though, be aware that that betting scheme is far riskier on a week-to-week basis.
Take Tony Stewart (+403), 1/6th unit. Smoke is the favorite Sunday for a reason. He had close to the best car at Daytona, but wrecked from the lead and wound up 43rd. Leading up to last fall's Talladega event, he'd finished second in three consecutive races here, though he'd never won. Stewart made all kinds of noise this week about how NASCAR is essentially fixing races by creating phantom cautions in advance of green-flag pit stops, thereby bringing the field together again for late restarts. NASCAR isn't pleased about that, and they won't be pleased by the firestorm Stewart creates winning this race, either. Talk about a post-race interview you want to watch.
Take Kurt Busch (+1123), 1/6th unit. And if it's not Stewart, I think it'll be the older Busch. My opinion is that Busch had the best car in the field in Daytona this February, and that he very well could've won the race had he and Stewart not smacked into one another while jostling for the lead late. Hopefully he learned a little something, which is: don't fight for the lead until the final five laps. Busch has five consecutive Talladega finishes in the top eight, and while he hasn't won a plate race in his career, he's come close on several occasions.
Take Matt Kenseth (+1436), 1/6th unit. This is a value bet, pure and simple. The Hendrick cars (Jeff Gordon (+608) and Jimmie Johnson (+649)) have better chances to win, having already proven they can take plate-track events. But getting Kenseth at this price is too good to pass up, because he's no slouch when it comes to Talladega. His last three finishes here? Fourth, sixth and third. And remember, Kenseth actually had a great chance for the win in the last couple laps at the Daytona 500 (after Stewart and Busch had wrecked), but got taken out by Kyle Busch (+1352) and his over-aggressive racing. Kenseth will win a plate-track race someday, and getting him at better than 14-1 means you can take a chance on him this weekend.
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