Top oddsmakers unanimous: Dale Earnhardt Jr. favored to win at Talladega

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With 36 races on the schedule, let’s face it: odds on who is going to win a particular race are pretty much the same from race to race.

(And it’s usually Jimmie Johnson – or it just seems that way.)

But every so often, the oddsmakers and their predictions catch our eye for big races like the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and the spring race at Talladega.

Well, it’s spring and this weekend is the Aaron’s 499 at NASCAR’s largest high-speed oval (2.66 miles), and one of the biggest oddsmakers – Linemakers.com – is picking Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the 10-1 favorite in Sunday’s race.

No surprise, Junior won NASCAR’s last restrictor plate race, the season-opening Daytona 500.

But what is surprising is that Junior is the odds-on pick to win even though he hasn’t reached victory lane at ‘Dega in nearly 10 years!

(It sure doesn’t seem that long – unless you’re a long-suffering Junior fan, and then it probably seems like 10 decades, not years.)

Despite his nearly decade-long winless streak at ‘Dega, Earnhardt has a career-best five wins in 28 starts at Talladega (coming in his first 10 starts there), along with four runner-up finishes, including last fall’s race there.

Linemakers.com isn’t the only big oddsmaker picking Earnhardt to win. So, too, are three of the other biggest: TheSpread.com, Bovada.lv and the Glantz-Culver Line, all who also have Junior at 10-1 odds.

Before we get to some of the key picks for Sunday’s race, let’s not forget that Talladega can produce some real longshots taking the checkered flag, like David Ragan in last spring’s race there (he was a 75-to-1 shot), and Jamie McMurray at 20-1 in last fall’s Chase race there.

Here’s Linemakers.com’s driver odds for winning Sunday’s Aaron’s 499:

10-1: Dale Earnhardt Jr. 10-1

12-1: Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart

18-1: Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer

20-1: Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle

25-1: Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray

30-1: Brian Vickers

40-1: Michael Waltrip and Paul Menard

50-1: Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

75-1: Aric Almirola, Marcos Ambrose, AJ Allmendinger, David Ragan, Casey Mears, Justin Allgaier and Danica Patrick

100-1: Trevor Bayne and David Gilliland

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Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)