The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series descends on Talladega Superspeedway for the 10th race of the 2014 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 5, 2014; 1:20 p.m./et.
Weather: Sunny with a high around 83; wind out of the WSW at 7 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 continued to ban the “Talladega-Two-Step” boring races of past years.
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. Really it is a crap shoot. As a result drivers like David Ragan, Trevor Bayne and Jamie McMurray often can be just as strong of an option to win in a restrictor plate race as the usual superstars like Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth.
47 cars will attempt to qualify for 43 spots.
Fantasy Cheat Sheet:
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Junior is doing everything in his power to regain his “King of Talladega” nickname. He is our top option this weekend.
No. 11 Denny Hamlin: Hamlin ran awesome at Daytona this spring and should bring much of the same equipment to the track this weekend. We love his chances.
No. 20 Matt Kenseth: Kenseth won the fall 2012 race at ‘Dega and ran great last spring. Look for him to be strong again this weekend.
No. 2 Brad Keselowski: Keselowski used his front bumper to win the 2008 spring race at ‘Dega then won again in 2013. He has the aggressive style to win again this weekend.
No. 4 Kevin Harvick: Harvick has been excellent in five of the last eight races at ‘Dega. He is one of our top picks this weekend.
6 to 10
No. 1 Jamie McMurray: McMurray snuck a win at Talladega last fall and won at Daytona two years ago. He has become a force in all restrictor plate races.
No. 15 Clint Bowyer: Bowyer has been awesome in five of the past seven races at ‘Dega. We like his chances on Sunday.
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson: Johnson won the 2010 spring race at ‘Dega and he will be a good-shoe this weekend.
No. 24 Jeff Gordon: Gordon has six career wins at Talladega. He could be showered by beer cans again this weekend.
No. 22 Joey Logano: Logano has impressed everyone with how he has driven so far in his career at Talladega. It won’t surprise us if he finishes inside the top 10 on Sunday.
11 to 20
No. 78 Martin Truex Jr.: Truex Jr. had great cars in 11 of the past 15 races at Talladega, but he is in a new ride this season. He is a high risk/high reward pick this weekend.
No. 5 Kasey Kahne: Kahne drove great at ‘Dega in three of the past five trips to the track. We like his chances to be fast again this weekend.
No. 18 Kyle Busch: Rowdy has averaged just a 22nd place finish at Talladega during his career. We expect a lot of that is due to his lace of patience. He is someone that could just as easily win as place 43rd.
No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse has been great at ‘Dega so far in his career. He will be solid again this trip.
No. 31 Ryan Newman: Newman has run well in just six of the last 14 Talladega races. He has the ability to run in the front and is a fine pick this weekend.
No. 99 Carl Edwards: Edwards has led just 31 laps in 19 career starts at Talladega, there are better weekends to use Cousin Carl.
No. 41 Kurt Busch: Busch has cracked the top 10 in nine his last 18 starts at Talladega. He is a good option on Sunday.
No. 3 Austin Dillon: Dillon ran well at Daytona this year and didn’t embarrass himself with how he drove last fall at Talladega.
No. 14 Tony Stewart: “Smoke” will struggle at ‘Dega this visit. We still feel he is hindered by last season’s leg injury.
No. 34 David Ragan: Ragan won at ‘Dega last year. He is a decent pick.
21 to 30
No. 27 Paul Menard: Menard has run strong in eight of the past 12 ‘Dega races. He is a great sleeper pick this weekend.
No. 16 Greg Biffle: Biffle's success at Talladega has been limited. In 21 career Cup starts at the track he has just seven finishes better than 13th. His lack of success makes him a bit of a risky pick.
No. 38 David Gilliland: Gilliland is always fast on restrictor plate tracks. He is worth taking a look at.
No. 55 Brian Vickers: Vickers has been terrific at ‘Dega during his career. He is a great option to round-out your roster.
No. 42 Kyle Larson: Larson wasn’t great at Daytona this year. There are much better weekends to use the talented rookie.
No. 43 Aric Almirola: Almirola should be fast enough to get the Famous 43 into the top 30.
No. 10 Danica Patrick: Danica was decent at Daytona this year and could crack the top 15 with a push at the right time.
No. 9 Marcos Ambrose: Ambrose impressed with a fourth place finish at Talladega in 2009, but he hasn’t done much since.
No. 13 Casey Mears: Mears has averaged a 21st place finish at Talladega the past nine years. He should crack the top 30.
No. 21 Trevor Bayne: You can’t forget the 2011 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. 47 A.J. Allmendinger
No. 51 Justin Allgaier
No. 32 Terry Labonte
No. 66 Michael Waltrip
No. 36 Reed Sorenson
No. 98 Josh Wise
No. 26 Cole Whitt
No. 7 Michael Annett
No. 23 Alex Bowman
No. 40 Landon Cassill
No. 83 Ryan Truex
No. 87 Joe Nemechek
No. 95 Michael McDowell
No. 77 Dave Blaney
No. 44 J.J. Yeley
No. 33 Brian Scott
No. 35 Eric McClure
My Yahoo! Fantasy NASCAR Team for this Week:
A. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
B. Denny Hamlin
B. Brad Keselowski
C. Trevor Bayne