The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season continues with a trip to Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday for what is notoriously one of the biggest question-mark races of the year. The two superspeedway races run thus far in the season have seen two different winners — including an underdog winner in the Daytona 500. That underdog was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet. He has delivered before on these big tracks, and Sunday's GEICO 500 could easily have another underdog find victory lane.
The usual suspects find themselves at the top of the odds board, with Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano the co-favorites at +1,100. That's all well and good, but Talladega is always the ultimate pick-em race. That's the main reason taking a long shot ends up paying off most of the time.
One driver stands out farther down the odds chart: Justin Haley, the driver of the No. 31 Kaulig Racing Chevy. Haley is in his second full-time season behind the wheel of a Kaulig Cup car, and the team is always in contention at Daytona and Talladega.
The team has already gotten some good news this week. NASCAR announced that a final appeals officer amended the points penalty against the team stemming from the hood louvers incident at Phoenix Raceway earlier this season. This helps Haley, who was stuck deep down in the points with -10 playoff points. The driver of the No. 31 car should give the team some hope for Sunday.
Haley's confidence in this type of racing is as high as anyone's in the series. He burst onto the scene in the Cup Series as a part-time driver for Spire Motorsports in 2019 when he won the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona. He hasn't come close to a win in the series since then, but he has plenty of superspeedway prowess. His four career Xfinity Series victories all came at Daytona and Talladega. Haley's teammate, A.J. Allmendinger, could also help play a role in the Talladega race as well, as he and Haley have worked very well together in the draft. The longer both drivers can help one another, the better opportunity either one of them will have.
Haley sits at +5,500 to win on Sunday, and this is just the type of track where he can succeed. He will be hoping for a much better performance than his 32nd-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500. Chevrolet has been the car to beat at the superspeedways, as the manufacturer has won six of the last seven superspeedway races.
Anything can happen during the 200-lap event, including the famed "Big One" multi-car crash. Haley is definitely an underdog driver who doesn't always get the credit he deserves, especially on tracks like Talladega.
MORE: Terrible Times at Talladega: How a Major Boycott Led to the Worst Race in NASCAR History
Want More Sports News?
Get the biggest and best sports news sent directly to your inbox.