The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series descends on Talladega Superspeedway for the 32nd race of the 2011 season, the Good Sam Club 500. This race at ‘Dega promises to be one of the wildest races of this season. Brian Brown took a look at past performances, season trends, and spoke with NASCAR contacts to predict how the field should finish on Sunday.
When: Sunday, October 23, 2011; 2:19 p.m./et
Weather: Mostly sunny with a high around 72; wind out of the N at 4 mph. There is a ZERO percent chance of precipitation.
The Track: Talladega Superspeedway
Talladega Superspeedway is a 2.66 tri-oval. It has steep 33 degree banking in the turns and 18 degree banking on the straight-aways. The banking allows the cars to run at intense speeds. As a result of these speeds NASCAR has made ‘Dega a restrictor plate track. This means all cars entered in the race must use the restrictor plates on their engines to limit air-intake and thus reduce horsepower. Winning in a restrictor plate race takes often as much or even more luck than skill. The driver that gets the right push at the right time can come from outside the top 10 into first place on the final lap of the race. Additionally, NASCAR has banned the “Talladega-Two-Step” for this weekend’s race. Two cars will no longer be allowed to draft for an extended period of time as occurred during this year’s races at Daytona and the spring race at Talladega.
Key to Race: AVOID THE BIG WRECK
As is the case with most restrictor plate races the field will become bunched up in two-wide groups. These packs cruise around the track just inches away from each other. It takes just one car to have a flat tire or lose control to cause a massive accident. If a driver can get lucky and stay away from the inevitable big crash they have a great chance to finish inside the top 20. In fantasy leagues a race like this is very difficult to predict. As a result we suggest those of you in leagues that allow you to only pick a certain driver an allotted amount of times per year to select a team made-up of guys that you normally wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. Drivers like Trevor Bayne and David Gilliland often can be just as dangerous in a restrictor plate race as the usual superstars like Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards.
46 cars will attempt to qualify for 43 spots. Cars not in the top 35 in the 2011 owners point standings will have to qualify based on speed. Starting positions 1-43 will be determined by qualifying on Saturday, October 22 at 12:15 pm/et.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet:
No. 29 Kevin Harvick: Harvick has been excellent the past three races at ‘Dega. He won last year’s spring race, finished second in the fall and took fifth this spring. He is our top pick this weekend.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: Johnson won this spring’s race at ‘Dega and he will be a good-shoe this weekend as he attempts to chase championship No. 6.
No. 22 Kurt Busch: Busch has cracked the top 10 in nine his last 13 starts at Talladega. He is a great option on Sunday.
No. 24 Jeff Gordon: Gordon has six career wins at Talladega including both the 2007 races. He could be showered by beer cans again this weekend.
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: After finishing no worse than second in seven-straight 'Dega races Junior has cracked the top 10 just four times in the past 13 races at the track. He will need lots of luck on Sunday to regain his “King of Talladega” nickname.
6 to 10
No. 20 Joey Logano: Logano has impressed everyone in his first few trips to Talladega. It won’t surprise us if he finishes inside the top five on Sunday.
No. 14 Tony Stewart: Stewart won the 2008 fall race at Talladega and is itching for another win at the track. He will push the limits.
No. 99 Carl Edwards: Edwards has led just 24 laps in 14 career starts at Talladega, but he is so close to the championship he will take some chances that might result in a win this weekend.
No. 11 Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has brought fast sleds to Talladega six of the past eight trips to the track. He will be strong again this weekend.
No. 33 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has been awesome the past two races at ‘Dega. We like his chances on Sunday.
11 to 20
No. 17 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has led just 39 laps in the past nine races at Talladega. He will be just outside the top 10 when the checkers fly.
No. 42 Juan Pablo Montoya: Montoya has had quality finishes at ‘Dega in the past and could surprise with a win this trip to the track.
No. 1 Jamie McMurray: McMurray snuck a win at Talladega during the November 2009 race and won at Daytona last year. He is rapidly becoming a force in all restrictor plate races.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski: Keselowski used his front bumper to win the 2008 spring race at ‘Dega. He has the aggressive style to win again this weekend.
No. 83 Brian Vickers: Vickers has been simply awesome at ‘Dega during his career. In 14 starts he has five top 10 finishes. This is a great weekend to sneak him onto your roster.
No. 00 David Reutimann: Reutimann finally figured out how to drive at Talladega last year. We expect he will be fast again this weekend.
No. 56 Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. had great cars in seven of the past 10 races at Talladega. He is a high risk/high reward pick this weekend.
No. 6 David Ragan: Ragan has been better than average atTalladegaduring his career. He will likely hang back and hope to pick the correct draft on the late laps. This is the best strategy to use at 'Dega and it could result in another top 10 finish for the No. 6.
No. 31 Jeff Burton: Burton is having a terrible season, but he has cracked the top 12 in four of the last seven trips to Alabama. He might be worth using this weekend in deep leagues.
No. 18 Kyle Busch: Rowdy has averaged just a 25th place finish at Talladega during his career. He has won at the speedway, but we expect he won’t have enough patience to take the checkers this weekend.
21 to 30
No. 27 Paul Menard: Menard has run great in five of the past seven ‘Dega races. He is a great sleeper pick this weekend.
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Biffle's success atTalladegahas been very limited. In 17 career Cup starts at the track he has just four finishes better than 13th. His lack of success makes him a risky pick.
No. 39 Ryan Newman: Newman has run well in five of the last nine Talladega races. He has the ability to run in the front and is an okay pick this weekend.
No. 5 Mark Martin: Talladegaisn’t one of Martin’s favorite tracks. He will be doing well to crack the top 20 on Sunday.
No. 43 A.J. Allmendinger: Allmendinger has struggled in all but one of his career starts at ‘Dega. There are better options this weekend.
No. 34 David Gilliland: Gilliland is always fast on restrictor plate tracks. He is worth taking a look at.
No. 4 Kasey Kahne: Kahne's average finish at Talladega is 22nd. This is a track he would prefer to avoid.
No. 13 Casey Mears: Mears has averaged a 21st place finish at Talladega the past four years. He should crack the top 30.
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose impressed with a fourth place finish at Talladega in 2009, but he hasn’t done much since.
No. 21 Trevor Bayne: You can’t forget this year’s Daytona 500 champ. We expect he won’t handle this swing at restrictor plate racing so flawlessly, but he is still worth taking a gamble on.
No. 15 Michael Waltrip
No. 78 Regan Smith
No. 7 Robby Gordon
No. 32 Terry Labonte
No. 47 Bobby Labonte
No. 51 Landon Casill
No. 66 Michael McDowell
No. 71 Andy Lally
No. 55 J.J. Yeley
No. 46 Scott Speed
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 38 Travis Kvapil
No. 36 Dave Blaney
No. 37 Josh Wise
No. 35 Geoff Bodine
No. 97 Kevin Conway
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Kurt Busch
4. Jeff Gordon
1. David Gilliland
2. Brian Vickers
Bust of the Week:
R.I.P. D. Wheldon