(Photo credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports)
The NASCAR playoffs head to one of the most action-packed tracks - and the series' biggest - for Sunday's YellaWood 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway.
William Byron shot to the front of the standings with his series-leading sixth win of the year last weekend. He leads Denny Hamlin by nine pointsand Chris Buescher by 20.
The real drama is toward the back of the pack in the Round of 12. Former series champion Kyle Larson is currently holding the eighth and final spot in the next round, but is only two points clear of Bubba Wallace and three ahead of Tyler Reddick.
"Talladega is just so unpredictable," Hamlin said. "Everyone wanted to maximize their points at Texas last week because Talladega and the (Charlotte) ROVAL are very iffy. We feel pretty good about the position we're in, but we still have to go into this week trying to get stage points and put ourselves in a good position to get another good finish before the ROVAL."
Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway
The Date: Sunday, Oct. 1, 2 p.m. ET
The Distance: 500 miles on 2.66-mile speedway
Defending Champion: Chase Elliott
Cup Series Leader: William Byron
TV: USA Network
Radio: SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
6 BEST BETS
Brad Keselowski (1000 at BetMGM)
Keselowski is seventh in the series standings but the co-favorite pre-race for very good reason - his six Talladega victories are twice as many as any other driver in the field. Combined with five consecutive top-10s entering this weekend, it's easy to see why Keselowski is third in the field with 6.7 percent of the total bets backing him to win.
Denny Hamlin (1000)
Hamlin is a two-time previous winner at Talladega who appeared prime for a run at No. 3 from the pole in the spring, only to finish 17th. He has won three times since, including at Bristol two weeks ago before taking fifth in Texas last weekend. Hamlin's average finish over his past three races is 2.67.
Chase Elliott (1400)
Elliott failed to make the playoffs and is still seeking his first victory of the season, but don't sleep on the defending champion. He has two career victories at Talladega and has been in solid form, with Elliott's 11th last weekend his worst in the past five races. He started 29th in the spring race and worked his way up to a 12th-place finish.
William Byron (1600)
He already has a career-high number of victories and leads the standings, but Byron continues to get modest love from oddsmakers. Despite having already qualified for the next stage, Byron is tied for just the seventh-shortest odds at the book.
Chris Buescher (1600)
Buescher is another driver not getting a lot of support from oddsmakers after following up a fourth at Bristol with a 14th at Texas. He ran third in the spring race at Talladega and has been backed by the most money (9.3 percent) at the book this week among non-playoff drivers. That makes Buescher BetMGM's third-biggest liability this week.
Kyle Busch (1600)
Sitting in 12th place and 17 points below the cutoff line, Busch needs a strong weekend. He's come to the right place. In addition to earning his second Talladega victory in the spring, Richard Childress cars historically have performed well on big tracks.
Kyle Larson (2000)
Larson crashed in the closing minutes last week after leading nearly 100 laps, and now sits perilously close to the cutoff line. He did finish a disappointing 33rd in the spring race after qualifying ninth and is coming off a 31st at Texas. However, he had finished first, fourth and second in his three previous races.
--Field Level Media