2018 GEICO 500 Picks and Predictions: Top Sleeper Bets for the GEICO 500: The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for the GEICO 500. It’s NASCAR’s biggest track, but more importantly, it is one of two restrictor-plate tracks on the schedule.
There is nothing better at leveling the playing field in than the power-sapping restrictor plates. They bunch up the entire field, and the pack racing produces big wrecks that often eliminate many of the big names. Needless to say, the plate tracks have been known to produce some surprise winners over the years, and there are drivers who will be in contention this weekend that can finish on the lead lap most weeks.
Sunday’s race is a golden opportunity to hit it big betting on a sleeper, and I’ve highlighted some of my favorite longshots for the GEICO 500 at Talladega.
2018 GEICO 500 Picks and Predictions: Top Sleeper Bets for the GEICO 500
Aric Almirola (25/1)
He came within half a lap of winning the Daytona 500 this year before being dumped, but that doesn’t change the fact that he has been one of the best plate racers in recent years. Almirola is a former winner of the July race at Daytona, and he has finished in the Top 15 in the last six plate races, cracking the Top 5 in three of the last four. Almirola’s numbers stack up with any driver out there, and he could be a steal at these odds.
Jamie McMurray (40/1)
Yes, McMurray is inconsistent at the plate tracks, but he is also a proven winner. He is a two-time winner at both Daytona and Talladega, and among active drivers, only Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson have more wins at plate tracks. McMurray has also cracked the Top 5 in back-to-back spring races at Talladega, finishing second last year. You have to love the 40/1 odds on a driver who has shown he can seal the deal time and time again.
Paul Menard (40/1)
When it comes to momentum at the plate tracks, not many drivers have more than Menard. In fact, he leads all drivers with an 8.0 average finish over the last six restrictor-plate races, and his four Top 10s during that span are tied for the most in the series. Menard finished sixth in the Daytona 500 to open the year, and it is definitely worth noting that he is now driving for a satellite team to Team Penkse. All three Penske drivers happen to be among the betting favorites, and Menard has essentially the same equipment. Why not try to take advantage.
Austin Dillon (50/1)
He used his bumper to pick up a win in the Daytona 500, but even before picking up his first restrictor-plate win, Dillon had already amassed a decent resume at the plate tracks. In 19 career starts, he has logged eight Top 10s, including five in the last 10 races. I’ll take 50/1 odds on the guy who the first plate race of 2018 and has been a consistent Top 10 threat at the plate tracks.
Ryan Newman (50/1)
Newman runs hot and cold at the restrictor-plate tracks, but he is currently in the middle of one of his hot stretches. He has finished eighth or better in each of the last three plate events, and he was the runner-up at Talladega last fall. Richard Childress Racing always seems to field competitive plate cars, and taking a chance on Newman’s hot hand might not be a bad gamble.
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