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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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.