Saturday, October 22, 2016

Final Talladega Driver Ratings: 2016 Alabama 500

The Hendrick Motorsports cars should all be good; Chase Elliott might have to win to move on in Chase. 
Micah Roberts' Sprint Cup Driver Ratings
Alabama 500
Talladega SuperSpeedway
Sunday, October 23, 2016 - 11:20 am PT

RATING  DRIVER    ODDS                  PRACTICE 1            PRACTICE 2           QUALIFIED           MAY '16* 
 1. Brad Keselowski (11/2)          23rd               DNP                  2nd              1st 
Four-time winner, including May where he led most laps (46); won two of the three 2016 plate races.
 2. Denny Hamlin (10/1)              14th               11th                   8th             31st
2014 winner and dominated Daytona Speedweeks; 11.7 average finish in 11 plates race since 2014.
 3. Kyle Busch (12/1)                 17th                 9th                  14th             2nd 
2008 winner; one of best on restrictor-plate tracks in 2016 with a third-place and two runner-ups.
 4. Joey Logano (17/2)                26th               13th                  16th            25th
2015 winner, also won 2015 Daytona 500; sixth and fourth-place finishes at Daytona this season.
 5. Matt Kenseth (12/1)               16th                2nd                    3rd           23rd
2012 winner, runner-up in 2014; led 39 laps in May before being in accident with six laps to go.
 6. Jimmie Johnson (10/1)           15th                1st                    17th          22nd
Two-time winner, the last time in 2011; runner-up in 2015. Has already advanced to Round of 8.
 7. Chase Elliott (12/1)                21st                3rd                     4th            5th
Fifth in May (led 27 laps). Has to make up 25-points to advance to next round, win likely needed.
 8. Austin Dillon (20/1)                27th               15th                     9th           3rd
Only Hamlin has better restrictor-plate average finish than his 11.9 in 11 starts since 2014.
 9. Kevin Harvick (12/1)                 9th                DNP                 22nd          15th
2010 winner with 15.3 average finish in 31 starts. Already advanced to next round, so it's free-roll.
10. Greg Biffle (50/1)                    1st                DNP                    5th          20th 
No wins in 27 starts (19.7 avg), but all the Roush cars have been fast in 2016 with plates on.

* Results from the Geico 500 at Talladega on May 1, 2016. Sunday's event is the fourth and final race on a restrictor-plate race this season.

Note: Four drivers will be eliminated from Sprint Cup Chase contention after this race as the Round of 8 begins next week at Martinsville.

Odds courtesy of William Hill sports books.

Micah Roberts, a former sports book director, has been been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1994. Follow on Twitter @MicahRoberts7

LAS VEGAS -- Sunday's Alabama 500 at Talladega SuperSpeedway's monstrous 2.66-mile layout will be the final race in the Round of 12 and the sixth during the 10-race Sprint Cup Chase. Two drivers have already qualified to advance to the Round of 8 by virtue of winning, and three other drivers have a relatively safe lead in points, but for the other seven drivers there's lots to be worried about. At the conclusion of the race, four drivers will be eliminated from NASCAR's version of the playoffs.

Talladega races might offer the most exciting brand of racing in the series because everything is huge, such as the speeds at 200 mph. The track is the longest in the circuit, has the steepest banking at 33 degrees and the wrecks are spectacular 10 to-15 car pile ups. The cars are bunched up side-by-side, sometimes four wide, and because of the restrictor-plates, most cars are equal meaning up to 35 of the 40 drivers are all bunched together and each has a legitimate shot to win.

For betting purposes, those type of traits aren't attractive. There's too much randomness. There's nothing worse than seeing your wager go down the tubes with the best car because of being involved in another drivers mistake. And all it takes is one simple wiggle from a car.

What I like to do for the plate races is drop my normal weekly NASCAR bankroll down by 50 percent, and rarely will I play any match-ups unless given +115 on anyone. I'll then spread wagers around on six to seven drivers to win and hope for my highest return on investment cashes. It takes a lot of luck, and very little skill to cash.

How I come to find those drivers is almost like a lottery, or just simply drawing a driver number out of a hat. Yes, it's that random. I don't have relevant practices to go off like a normal race, so it's basically just going by past history of drivers on plate races and maybe seeing something stand out with a certain driver in those races despite maybe not finishing well.

As for the practices, the times are almost irrelevant because of the massive speeds obtained during the draft. The two practice sessions from Friday aren't going to reveal much. In fact, the drivers don't even think it's too important as only 25 drivers practiced in the final session. If the crew chief and drivers don't think it's important, that's good enough for me.

What solid ground we do have to work with when wagering a Talladega race is looking at recent races there and at Daytona. This is the final of four plate race this season. Denny Hamlin (10/1) started the season off by winning the non-points Sprint Unlimited and then won the Daytona 500 the following week. Brad Keselowski (11/2) has won the past two, at Talladega in May and Daytona in July. Kyle Busch (12/1) has finished third or better in all three of the points-paying plate races this season.

For Hamlin, he felt the Talladega wrath in May with a 31st-place finish. For Keselowski, he's a four-time winner at the beastly track, including the first win of his career with a part-time underfunded team. Those two are the favorites for obvious reasons, but you can't be faulted for taking a shot on a long shot.

Drivers that offer a great opportunity to cash at long prices this week come from the Roush Fenway racing stable. Trevor Bayne (60/1) finished third at Daytona in July and 10th at Talladega after leading 22 laps. Bayne's only career win was the 2011 Daytona 500 where it paid out at 100-to-1 odds. Greg Biffle (50/1) has never won at Talladega in 27 starts, but he was fastest in Friday's practice and also had the best 10-consecutive lap average. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (50/1) has a 12.8 average finish at Talladega in six starts which is tops among active drivers.

With less cash wagered and sitting at the edge of your seat waiting for the "big one" to happen, you definitely get the most bang your buck in these type of races, and sometimes you may even come out ahead with the winner.

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