NASCAR Geico 500 preview

NASCAR heads to the legendary Talladega Super Speedway for the Geico 500

Talladega. Getty Images.

This Sunday, The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for the largest oval in the world, Talladega Super Speedway. This race is one of the most anticipated races on all of the schedule as it is known for its three and four wide racing and the amount of surprise winners we usually see here. This is the race that I always circle on the calendar to watch; there is simply no predicting on what will happen when the green flag drops at the self-proclaimed "Baddest racetrack on the planet." The obvious variable to watch out for this weekend is the infamous "big one." It seems every time they come to a track like Talladega or Daytona, there has been a multi-car wreck that wipes out most or a lot of the field.

We have seen it every year they have come here so there will be strategy to try and avoid it. One of the most popular ways drivers try and steer clear of this is by riding around towards the back of the field. This has worked very few times. Drivers like Dale Jr and Jeff Gordon have done this and won races because of it. On the other hand, there have been many times to where it hasn't worked. It should be interesting to see how these drivers tackle the high banks.

One of the main headlines of this race is the decision to ditch the Restrictor-plates here that NASCAR has used for nearly 30 years. The new cars will carry a larger tapered spacer and will make their spoiler on the back of the car much larger. These changes are to reduce Horsepower down to 550 which in large part will slow the cars down. While it sounds like a lot, NASCAR officials say they don't expect the style of racing to change too much. A lot of people scoffed at this decision but overall, I am not sure it will make too much a difference come race day. On the bright side, a lot of racing fans will get their wish as the sport has finally abandoned plate racing. It should be a sight to see come first practice on Friday afternoon.

The clear favorite coming into this weekend has to be Aric Almirola. As you know when we come to tracks like this, I have always had him as king of the underdog but this weekend, I truly think he has the best chance to win. Since 2016, he has a 4.25 average finish including a win in last year's fall race so it's clear he knows how to get around tracks like this. It has been good to see one of the good guys in NASCAR get a chance driving for one of the sport's top teams and he has made the most of his opportunity. Look for Aric to be one to watch come sunday.

If you are looking for sort of an underdog story this week, look no further than Matt DiBenedetto. As everyone knows, Bob Leavine and his group of guys have really done a lot to help improve their race team, from forming an alliance with Toyota and Joe Gibbs to hiring a new crew-chief in Mike Wheeler who has been successful with Denny Hamlin. They had a great run going in the Daytona 500 after Matt lead a race high 49 laps until a late race incident knocked them out of contention. This week, I think they get their redemption and get a solid finish if not a victory. I think that Matt can win in this series and what a statement it would be if he was to get his first win here at Talladega.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

NASCAR.COM

It is the end of an era this week at Homestead-Miami Speedway as the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series ends it season here for the final time. It was announced earlier this year in 2020 that NASCAR would conclude its season at Phoenix ending a 17-year tradition. While this track will still have a race here next season, it will be very weird to see champions week in Phoenix as opposed to the sunny beaches of Miami. This track has provided some of the most thrilling finishes in the past including the 2005 Ford 400 when Greg Biffle and Mark Martin finished side by side or of course in 2011 when Tony Stewart came back from multiple laps down to beat Carl Edwards for the championship. While the track will remain on the schedule next year, it simply won't be the same considering the circumstances. Not only is this track a fan favorite but also a favorite among drivers as well. I hope that NASCAR can reconsider to move this race back when they completely overhaul the schedule again in 2021.

Last week, Denny Hamlin went on to claim 37th career victory after annihilating the competition. With this victory, Hamlin will race for a chance to claim his first championship. This was a relatively calm race where there wasn't a lot going on. Passing was scarce throughout the race as it has been on a lot of these types of race tracks. Overall, the race was a pretty massive disappointment. Many fans were upset that this would be the track that would move to the season finale next season after what we saw on Sunday. While I understand their frustration, once again this goes back to how massive these spoilers are on this car and what a huge amount of drag they provide on smaller tracks like this one, if they can go to a smaller spoiler I think this problem should be eliminated. Let's hope that is the plan going forward next season and NASCAR's higher ups will listen to their drivers for once.

Another major headline this week was the announcement that next season Daniel Suarez will not return to the #41 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing. As many would expect the driver that moves up to replace him is Cole Custer. This comes as a sort of a surprise considering there was news that the team was working with Suarez and his people on an extension. According to Adam Stern, after Suarez's sponsor Arris modems was purchased by a new company this postponed contract negotiations with the team and they simply ran out of patience. This is extremely unfortunate for Suarez. While many people were critical of him not being able to claim his first win, Suarez was having a pretty solid season. While I am happy to see Custer get his chance, I hope Daniel can find a competitive ride in 2020.

As I wrote earlier, this race will decide the champion. The four drivers that have made it are Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Hamlin. These four drivers easily have a great case on why they have made it this far. The four have combined for 21 wins so it's safe to say these are the best four drivers in NASCAR right now. Of the four the favorite going into this race is Hamlin. Throughout his career, Hamlin has won everything there is to win but a championship. He has come painfully close so many times, including in 2010 when he spun out early at Homestead or in 2014 when he finished seventh behind Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick. Many believe that this is Denny Hamlin's year and they have great reason for thinking so. He has won here twice back in 2009 and 2013 so he should be a great threat to take victory. One of the unsung heroes when it comes to Hamlin's success has been crew-chief Chris Gabehart. Not only has he has done an excellent job at making this car fast, he has also done a good job at keeping his driver from getting too riled up; at Martinsville he was able to restrain Hamlin from going and knocking Joey Logano's lights out so he has done a great job of that as well. Look for Hamlin to be fast come Sunday.

While he isn't exactly the favorite, Kevin Harvick definitely isn't one to sleep on when it comes to these big races. When this format was first implemented in 2014, Harvick was its first champion. While he hasn't been able to follow up with a championship since, he has still been around the top four as he has made it to the championship race every year but 2016. He has been the definition of consistency and will definitely be up front. Throughout the season, Harvick has been kind of under the radar as he didn't win his first race till New Hampshire in July. He has really come to life since then by winning three races including the one that locked him into Homestead at Texas. Look for the #4 Mustang to be a contender.

It has been quite the season for Kyle Busch. In the regular season, he was able to claim four victories at tracks like Poccono and California. The second half of the season has been a different story. Since then he has yet to find victory lane and has had numerous instances of bad results including blowing an engine at Indy and voluntarily parking his car at the Charlotte Roval after his car was damaged from an earlier accident. Regardless of his troubles, Busch has been able to collect enough stage points over the races preceding the playoffs and find himself right back in the championship race. While any other time I would like his chances, I believe that right now his heart seems to be somewhere else but I could very well be wrong. Regardless Busch will definitely make this race very interesting.

The driver I have winning the title this year is Martin Truex Jr. As we all know, Truex has had to overcome a lot of adversity to get to where he is. Last season, after he finally seemed to find some stability and a championship, the ground seemed to be pulled underneath him as it was announced late last year that Truex's team Furniture Row would cease operations. While most pretty much nkew Truex would move to Joe Gibbs racing, this was just another obstacle for the vetran driver. When moving on to Joe Gibbs, Truex and his crew chief Cole Pearn would pick up almost right where they left off and go on to win seven races and breeze a spot in the championship race at Homestead. This week, I think that Truex will cap off an incredible season with another win and a second championship and here is why I think so, of all drivers nobody has finished better than Truex. He currently enters this race with a 1.50 average finish since 2017. The man has been the closest thing to automatic here and this week should be no different. Look for Martin Truex Jr. to take the checkered flag and claim his second championship.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome