Talladega is a big, fast, scary race track. The 2.66-mile high banked oval in the middle of Alabama is one of the most feared tracks the series visits.
The restrictor plates make both races very exciting for fans, but sometimes dreaded by drivers. Often, it’s a crap shoot as to who will win as the odds are better to get caught up in the “big one” than to actually win or escape with a top five.
While that means some drivers don’t look forward to coming to ‘Dega, there are a few Chase drivers that don’t mind making the trip to the high banked track in October because they know they can make up points on the guys that struggle there.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior has raced at Talladega 25 times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He’s won there five times and is among the best out of the Chase drivers at Talladega. His driver rating is the highest among the 12 drivers and he’s usually strong there.
Junior also has nine top fives and 13 top 10’s at ‘Dega and should be a threat on Sunday. He’s arguably the best restrictor plate driver in the series today as he’s just like his dad was in this type of racing. He knows where to put his car at the right moments and how to be there in the end.
I’d say Junior is the favorite on Sunday.
“Smoke” is one of the best plate racers out there today, but hasn’t had much success at Talladega. In 27 career starts he only has one win. Stewart has nine top-5′s and 13 top 10’s, however, so he does run well.
Stewart’s better plate track is Daytona, but judging by how his season’s going, he has to be looking forward to having the same success he had back in Daytona in July at Talladega. His team’s plate program is usually strong and he can make some points up on the four drivers in front of him in the standings this weekend.
Clint Bowyer is surprisingly good at Talladega. In 13 career starts he’s finished in the top 10 more often than not with seven top-10 finishes. He also has two wins and four top-5′s, making for an impressive Talladega resume.
Bowyer ran great here back in May and I think he could repeat that success this weekend. He’s been strong the past few years at Talladega and comes in with tons of confidence. That’s probably the biggest thing you should have at plate tracks. Without confidence to make the right moves, drivers usually fade to the back and get caught up in trouble.
I would bet Bowyer is looking forward to this race to gain momentum for the rest of the Chase. He knows he’s good here.
Keselowski is having a career season. He’s been running great on tracks that he normally doesn’t run well on. He comes into Talladega with huge momentum in winning two of the first three Chase races and leading the points. He also comes in with confidence as he’s one of the best drivers at Talladega in the series.
Confidence and momentum are two huge things to bring into Talladega and that could be dangerous.
In seven career ‘Dega starts, Keselowski has two wins there including his first career victory. He’s got three top fives and five top 10’s to go along with those two victories. Penske usually has a strong plate program and I don’t see that changing this weekend.
Expect Keselowski to be up front contending for a win in the end.