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Drivers kick it up a notch at Talladega!

The NASCAR Sprint Cup series roars into Talladega Superspeedway this week giving race fans everywhere a taste of some of the most exciting races they’ll see all season: Four wide at nearly 200 mph on the biggest, baddest track in the world.

This track just looks scary, even through the television set, let alone just having to drive it. It’s the largest track on the tour at 2.66 miles with 33 degrees of banking in the turns. Drivers just mash the pedal, use the aerodynamics of the car to propel themselves in the draft, and give the fans a show like no other two times a season.

This will be the second restrictor-plate race of the season, but the first with the new spoiler which is more like a fin rather than the wing that was introduced with the car of tomorrow in 2007. At Daytona this year, NASCAR introduced the new restrictor plate which gave drivers more throttle response and the change was for the better as fans saw 52 lead changes among 21 drivers.

At Talladega, we can expect to see the same kind of excitement, and possibly even more because of how wide the track is compared to Daytona. The drivers are sure to use every inch of that width too.

Even though Daytona is much different from Talladega, we still can refer back to what we saw and can expect the similar cast of characters that did well there to do the same this week. At Daytona we saw Jamie McMurray solidify himself as a quality driver in plate races while capturing his second win at Daytona giving him three combined plate wins.

The Childress drivers all showed they were very happy with the new throttle response and were in position for each to win. Kevin Harvick led the most laps for the day and finished seventh, Clint Bowyer led the race late and finished fourth and Jeff Burton was just behind both in 11th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn’t do much for the entire day during the Daytona 500, but came charging to the front on the final restart and finished second, a race that kind of rejuvenated the Junior Nation and also helped a nice beginning to what has been a steady year thus far.

Continuing their recent surge in plate races was Roush racing, who had been helped the last two years with McMurray, but also includes last year’s Daytona 500 winner, Matt Kenseth. The top three Roush drivers all finished in the top-10 in this year’s Daytona 500.

The team that has been noticeably absent from contention the last two seasons of plate racing has been the Hendrick drivers. Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson went on a tear from 2004-2007, but have gone winless since. At Daytona this year, only Earnhardt Jr. was a factor late among the Hendrick cars.

This week, I think we’ll see similar results like we saw at Daytona, only in regard to having fresh faces running up front. I like the Childress and Roush cars to run well and McMurray surely can’t be ignored with all his recent plate racing success.

Last season, Brad Keselowski drove a part-time car to victory lane with a thrilling finish and paid out at over 100 to 1 odds. McMurray won the fall race paying out at 35 to 1 odds. The favorites for this race are likely to have high odds just because the normal strengths of teams are thrown out the window. This is truly a race in which anyone can win and that is part of what makes it one of the more exciting races of the year.

Kurt Busch is probably the best plate racer to have never won. He led multiple times at Daytona in February and has been knocking on the door at Talladega and Daytona for a long time, but he doesn’t have a win on either. His brother Kyle wasn’t as impressive as he has been in the past in plate races while at Gibbs, but he has learned the art of the draft pretty well and should be near the front as well.

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