The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series descends on Talladega Superspeedway for the 10th race of the 2012 season, the Aaron’s 499. 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, May 6, 2012; 1:19 p.m./et.
Weather: Partly cloudy with a high around 90; wind out of the W at 4 mph. There is a 10 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 last year’s 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.
44 cars will attempt to qualify for 43 spots on Saturday, May 5 at 12:10 pm. If the first practice is run, but qualifying is unable to take place, the starting lineup will be based on speeds from the car's fastest lap from the first practice, with top-35 cars in owner points no longer segregated from the non-top 35 cars. Previously, the top 35 cars lined up in front of all other eligible car owners.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet:
No. 29 Kevin Harvick: Harvick has been excellent in three of the last four races at ‘Dega. He won the 2010 spring race, finished second in the fall and took fifth last spring. He is our top pick 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 14 races at the track. He will need lots of luck on Sunday to regain his “King of Talladega” nickname.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: Johnson won last year’s spring’s race at ‘Dega and he will be a good-shoe this weekend.
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. 11 Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has brought fast sleds to Talladega seven of the past nine trips to the track. He will be strong again this weekend.
6 to 10
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. 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. 31 Jeff Burton: Burton has cracked the top 12 in five of the last eight trips to Alabama. This is the weekend to use Mr. Burton.
No. 15 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has been awesome the past three races at ‘Dega. We like his chances on Sunday.
No. 56 Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. had great cars in eight of the past 11 races at Talladega. He is a high risk/high reward pick this weekend.
11 to 20
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. 99 Carl Edwards: Edwards has led just 25 laps in 15 career starts at Talladega, there are better weekends to use Crazy Carl.
No. 17 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth has led just 60 laps in the past 10 races at Talladega. He will be just outside the top 10 when the checkers fly.
No. 1 Jamie McMurray: McMurray snuck a win at Talladega during the November 2009 race and won at Daytona last year. He has become a force in all restrictor plate races.
No. 51 Kurt Busch: Busch has cracked the top 10 in nine his last 14 starts at Talladega. He is a good option on Sunday.
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. 27 Paul Menard: Menard has run great in six of the past eight ‘Dega races. He is a great sleeper pick this weekend.
No. 5 Kasey Kahne: Kahne drove a great race at ‘Dega last October. We like his chances to be fast again this weekend.
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.
No. 10 David Reutimann: Reutimann figured out how to drive at Talladega during the 2010 campaign. We expect he will be fast again this weekend.
21 to 30
No. 39 Ryan Newman: Newman has run well in five of the last 10 Talladega races. He has the ability to run in the front and is an okay pick this weekend.
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Biffle's success atTalladegahas been very limited. In 18 career Cup starts at the track he has just four finishes better than 13th. His lack of success makes him a risky pick.
No. 34 David Ragan: Ragan has been better than average at Talladega during 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. 34.
No. 22 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. 9 Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose impressed with a fourth place finish at Talladega in 2009, but he hasn’t done much since.
No. 43 Aric Almirola: Almirola should be fast enough to get the Famous 43 into the top 30.
No. 13 Casey Mears: Mears has averaged a 21st place finish at Talladega the past seven years. He should crack the top 30.
No. 21 Trevor Bayne: You can’t forget last 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. 32 Terry Labonte: Texas Terry will have the No. 32 inside the top 30 on Sunday.
No. 78 Regan Smith
No. 55 Michael Waltrip
No. 47 Bobby Labonte
No. 93 Travis Kvapil
No. 83 Landon Cassill
No. 97 Bill Elliott
No. 98 Michael McDowell
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 36 Dave Blaney
No. 30 David Stremme
No. 33 Tony Raines
No. 49 J.J. Yeley
No. 23 Robert Richardson
No. 26 Josh Wise
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Jeff Gordon
1. Martin Truex Jr.
2. Paul Menard
Bust of the Week: