Column By: SHANE CARLSON / RPW – TALLADEGA, AL – The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races into Talladega Superspeedway this weekend, a fan-favorite racetrack for many reasons.
For one, the restrictor plate racing, in play since 1988, has equalized the field in terms of having the ability to compete for a win. This week, a driver who normally runs at the tail end of the field has a shot to win the race. The old saying goes something like, “If you’re in it, you can win it.” Talladega presents an opportunity for lower and middle-tier teams to run up front and steal a win, which fans love, and the sponsors love even more.
To win at Talladega, drivers must avoid getting collected in “the big one,” which is bound to happen at some point during the race. On the racetrack, many drivers tell themselves the front of the field is the best place to stay out of trouble, but the truth is, there’s nowhere to hide. Wrecks can happen at any time, and at any place on the track. Winning at ‘Dega means you were the first survivor in what is sure to be a race of attrition.
Aerodynamics is the other factor at play this weekend. Which, in turn means we will see pack racing all day long. Cars are mere inches away from each other for the entirety of the 2.66 miles it takes to complete a lap, for 500 miles. Patience will be key, as sometimes drivers will be boxed in with nowhere to go, or they’re dropping through the field. At any rate, Talladega should be a good race on Sunday afternoon, but definitely not your typical Sunday afternoon cruise.
2 PM ET
Radio: Motor Racing Network
My Pick to Win is…
No. 6 Advocare Ford Fusion
With the announcement that Matt Kenseth is coming back on a limited schedule to share driving duties of the No. 6 car, it undoubtedly has shaken the confidence of Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner. But it also adds to the desire to win. There’s no better time to prove to others that Bayne is still capable of being a competitive driver. Talladega, being the great equalizer it is, provides a good opportunity for Bayne to go out and win. There’s no shortage of motivation.
- Kyle Busch: Winner of three straight, so…yeah.
- Kevin Harvick: The season’s trend-setter for winning three in a row. Did it before Busch earlier this season.
- Martin Truex Jr.: Qualifies up front every single week and is a contender to win too. Talladega has not been kind to Truex. In 26 starts, he has 12 DNFs, with a career-best finish of fifth.
- Joey Logano: Quietly second in points, Logano was the winner of the first two stages last week at Richmond, before fading in the final stage.
- Clint Bowyer: Bowyer and the 14 group are making steady gains and using the momentum from their Martinsville win to continue to run near the front of the field.
- Brad Keselowski: Brad K returns to Talladega with an opportunity to tie Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for second on the Talladega wins list with six.
- Denny Hamlin: A disappointing run in Richmond has Hamlin eager to race on Sunday as he tries to keep pace with his JGR teammate, Kyle Busch.
- Ryan Blaney: Blaney has absolutely benefitted from the mentorship of Logano and Keselowski in-house, and should be confident in ‘Dega. He had the best car in Daytona to start the year, so I expect some good results out of the 12.
- Aric Almirola: Almirola should be considered a dark horse to win on Sunday, and the 10 team’s overall performance has also increased alongside his SHR teammates.
- Austin Dillon: Nowhere to be found since his Daytona 500 win. He’ll hope to change that Sunday.