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).

This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads for Charlotte Motor Speedway for their memorial day classic, the Coca Cola 600. This is one of NASCAR's crown-jewel events as it's the longest race on the schedule. The race is known for how challenging it is on the car and drivers endurance and even though there have been a few dominating performances as of late this race usually comes down to attrition so surviving this race is the most important factor of getting a good result.

In last week's All-Star race there were plenty of headlines to talk about. When the dust settled, Kyle Larson captured the victory and the million dollars after going nearly four-wide to make the pass for the lead in the closing stages of the race. While Larson and his crew celebrated, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman were involved in one of NASCAR's more memorable dust ups in recent memory. On the cool-down lap, Ryan Newman ran into the side of Clint Bowyer's Ford mustang causing him to spin head-on into the wall. After this Newman was then greeted by a series of hay-makers from Clint as he was still strapped in the car. After he was done, Bowyer retreated back to his wrecked race car before Newman could exit. This altercation definitely got people talking, even Bowyer's boss Tony Stewart weighed in. Earlier this week, Stewart told his employee that "If he was going to get into a fight at least take your helmet off. No matter how you look at it, this fight brought a lot of people to the sport and in my opinion, this is what makes NASCAR so great. I am sure that both guys will hash it out and get back to racing this week."

Overall what really got overshadowed last weekend was how great the racing was. There were two photo-finishes in the open and lots of battles for position and there were also some great runs by drivers trying to get their season turned around; Darrell Wallace Jr was the prime example. While he may have not won the All-Star race, the second year driver stole the show. He was able to scratch and claw his way into the race by edging out Daniel Suarez at the end of Segment two of "The All-Star Open" and then he went on to have a great run by finishing fifth. The other example was Larson who would wind up winning the main event. He also had to transfer to the All-Star race by virtue of the All-Star open. It has been no secret that it has been a tough year for both drivers so maybe with their success this can really boost their confidence for the rest of the season.

The driver I have winning here this week is William Byron. Throughout the history of this race, we have seen many drivers claim their first win here in the Coca Cola 600. This is the race where Hall of Fame drivers like Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte were able to really kind of establish themselves as elite drivers. This week, I think we see kind of a new era begin. Overall, I have been critical of Byron in the past but there has been no denying this young man can drive a race car. He proved that on Friday by capturing the pole for Sunday's race. This track hasn't been kind to the young driver as he finished thirty-ninth here last season, but it's important to note that 2018 was his rookie year. He now enters his race with arguably the greatest crew-chief of all time and a rookie season under his belt. Look for Byron to take the #24 car back to victory lane come Sunday.

(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).


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