2016 GEICO 500 Odds, Free Picks & Predictions – Favorites and Contenders: For the second time this season, the Sprint Cup Series will visit a restrictor-plate track. Massive Talladega Superspeedway will host Sunday’s GEICO 500, and the 2.6-mile tri-oval is the largest track on the schedule.
While Talladega and Daytona are the only two tracks that use restrictor plates, they have some important differences. Talladega has a much wider surface, so while cars can comfortably go three-wide and sometimes even four wide, the added side-by-side racing can also lead to some larger, more violent wrecks.
The other difference is the location of the start/finish line, which is much further down the front stretch at Talladega than at Daytona. As a result, last-lap passes are commonplace at Talladega, and wild finishes are the norm.
2016 GEICO 500 Odds, Free Picks & Predictions – Favorites and Contenders
He is the defending winner of Sunday’s race, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads all drivers with six wins at Talladega. Last year, he led the most laps in both races at the track, following up his win in the spring race with a second-place run in the fall event. Over the past two years, Junior’s three wins at plate tracks are the most in the series, and during the same stretch, he leads all drivers with five finishes of third or better and 382 laps led.
His victory in the Daytona 500 earlier this year was just the latest in a recent run of success at restrictor-plate tracks for Denny Hamlin. Since the start of the 2014 season, he leads all drivers with seven top-10s and a 9.0 average finish in plate races. During the same stretch, he has won at both Daytona and Talladega, and he ranks third in laps led.
In the last three races at Talladega, no driver has led more laps than Jimmie Johnson. In fact, he has led multiple laps in eight of the nine restrictor-plate races over the past two seasons, leading the second-most laps of any driver over the stretch. He is a five-time winner at plate tracks overall, and Johnson has three top-five finishes in his last five plate events, including a pair of runner-up finishes.
He came out of nowhere and scored the first Cup Series win of his career at Talladega while driving for a single-car team, and Brad Keselowski has continued his dominance at the track now that he is an established star. In addition to his three wins here, he has finished seventh or better in five of his last nine starts.
After coming within half a lap of winning the Daytona 500 for the third time earlier this year, Matt Kenseth will try to finish what he started this weekend at Talladega. He has three finishes of third or better here since 2012, including a win, and he ranks second in laps led at the track. Kenseth always seems to be running near the front at Talladega, and he is more than capable of finishing there, as well.
One of the rising stars at the restrictor-plate tracks is Team Penske driver Joey Logano. He won the Daytona 500 in 2015 to notch his first plate track win, and later that year, he went to victory lane at Talladega in the fall. Logano is also a two-time winner at Talladega in the XFINITY Series, so he knows how to navigate NASCAR’s biggest track.
He has won at both Talladega and Daytona in his career, and Kevin Harvick always seems to show up at the front when it counts at restrictor-plate races. Since the start of the 2014 season, his six top 10s in plate races is tied for the second most, and he has five straight top 15s at Talladega, including three top-10s in his last four starts at the track.
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