NASCAR

NASCAR Betting Guide: YellaWood 500

Joey Logano has consistently competed in Talladega despite the high-variance nature of the track. Can he get his fourth career Talladega win on Sunday in the YellaWood 500?

At this point in the season, our outright bets will normally focus on drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Those drivers have big-time motivations to win because doing so would lock them into the next round of the playoffs. A trophy and a check are good motivators, too, but the drivers left in the playoffs are also there for a reason. They've got some giddy-up.

This weekend, that's not as much of an issue.

At Talladega, the pool of drivers who can realistically compete is much larger. As such, we don't need to focus on just the 12 remaining championship contenders when betting outrights. Anybody's in play, as long as we think they can get the job done.

This isn't to say we should ignore playoff drivers, by any means. NASCAR has had the round-by-round format in the playoffs since 2014, and a driver still eligible for the championship has won each of those races. But of 30 top-10 finishers in the past 3 Talladega playoff races, only 8 were playoff-eligible drivers.

With that in mind, we've got a lot of freedom when looking at the betting board. Who stands out based on the odds at FanDuel Sportsbook? Let's check it out.

Joey Logano (+1200)

It's hard to find drivers who are consistent on such a high-variance track type. Joey Logano is one of the big exceptions.

Logano has logged a top-10 average running position in a whopping 10 straight Talladega races. The second-longest streak among drivers in the field belongs to Logano's teammate, Ryan Blaney (+1300), who has done so four times. In that 10-race stretch, Logano has three wins and six top-fives, so he's converting those runs into good finishes.

Logano has run into some tough luck recently, finishing outside the top 10 in five straight superspeedway races. That may be why he's not the favorite entering the weekend. But Logano has led at least 30 laps in three of those five, and he has had a top-10 average running position in all three superspeedway races this year. Logano ranks first in my model by a pretty decent margin, so even at a relatively short number, he stands out as a value.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+2400)

Talladega is a high-variance track where wrecks are plentiful. You would think that would make things rough on a guy nicknamed "Wrecky." But this is where Ricky Stenhouse Jr. earns his salary.

Stenhouse -- like Logano -- has managed to find consistency in a spot where few can say the same. He has 9 career top-10s in 14 career races, and across the past 8, he has a win and 5 top-5s.

Stenhouse's wild driving style is riskier at a narrower track like Daytona than it is in Talladega. With the wide turns and decreased emphasis on handling, you've got more room for error. He's good at Daytona, too, but the track composition helps explain why this is his preferred pad.

Because he's not in the playoffs, Stenhouse will start this race back in 26th. That's rough at a spot where track position does matter, but he was runner-up here in the spring after starting 20th. He can get the job done no matter where he's starting at a track where he is this lethal.

Erik Jones (+4400)

Unlike Stenhouse, Erik Jones is known more for his abilities at Daytona than Talladega. He got his first career win there in 2018, and he also won the Busch Clash this February. But Jones almost bucked that reputation this spring.

On the final straightaway, Jones had a run in the outside lane. He likely would have won had Blaney not gone all Dikembe Mutombo on him.

Jones finished fifth, but he clearly had the juice to get the job done that day. And yet we can still snag him at +4400.

Narratively, we've also got a couple things in Jones' corner. The first is that he'll have teammates pushing for a win at the front who could potentially help him. That matters on superspeedways.

The second is that Jones still doesn't have his ride locked down for 2021. He'll land somewhere because he's young and hyper-talented, but a win would definitely bump that demand north a bit. He's shown he can win on superspeedways in the past, so lobbing a Hail Mary here is definitely in his range of outcomes.

Chris Buescher (+4400)

Only three drivers have had a top-10 finish in all three superspeedway races this year. Two of them are among the favorites in Blaney and Denny Hamlin (+1000). The other is Chris Buescher, who has actually been close to winning twice.

In the Daytona 500, Buescher was in the process of passing Hamlin with just a few laps left. While Buescher was on Hamlin's outside with momentum, a caution came out to reset the field. Buescher wound up finishing third.

Then in Talladega, Buescher was shoving Kevin Harvick (+1200) out in front of the field. They mistimed the bump, so the field caught up and swallowed them, but Buescher still converted with a sixth-place finish. He was ninth in Daytona a few weeks ago, though it was in less flashy fashion.

The drivers in Buescher's proximity on these tracks in 2020 are all drivers with odds much shorter than his. He has proven throughout the years that he can measure up on superspeedways, and now he's finally got some more ponies under the hood. Buescher's top-10 odds are also a bit long at +210, but with how wide open this race can be, it can't hurt to throw a couple bucks at a win, as well.