From the shortest track to the longest track, that’s the story of the Cup circuit these days. After tackling the bullring of Martinsville, stock car racing’s best now return to the annual “lottery,” 500 miles of knee-buckling action at Talladega. Everyone knows about the Big One, the high-speed racing… and now, apparently, that the track was built on an Indian burial ground. Race fans know the lure of the sport’s fastest speedway… and the sirens of its infield when things go wrong. So nothing needs to be said to preview this race… it is Talladega. And that means just like every fantasy owner out there, the Frontstretch Fantasy Insider is doing one thing… crossing their fingers that they dodge the wrecks.
By the Numbers
Best Average Finish at Talladega Superspeedway (since 2005, active drivers)
Brad Keselowski, 1 start, 1.0
Marcos Ambrose, 1 start, 4.0
Scott Speed, 1 start, 5.0
Joey Logano, 1 start, 9.0
Kurt Busch, 9 starts, 11.2
Kyle Busch does not have a stellar record at Talladega, but his most recent races at the track have been productive even if the finishes don’t reflect it. Busch won the spring race in 2008 during his stellar run at the beginning of that season. During the fall race that year, he led 20 laps but got shuffled back to a 15th-place finish at the end. Then, this spring he was caught up in a wreck after leading 42 laps and ended up a lap down. But Busch has led a total of 74 laps in the last three races here and he’s driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, who has put together a very strong restrictor-plate program over the last few years. Don’t forget, too, Busch was leading with a few hundred yards to go at Daytona in July before he attempted to block Stewart and wrecked. Look for Busch to have a great finish in Steve Addington’s swan song as his crew chief. – Mike
Jeff Gordon is about the gamble of gambles at Talladega… in the last nine races at the track, he’s had only three single-digit finishes. Thing is, every single one of those was a win. Gordon is one of the best place racers NASCAR has seen without an Earnhardt in their name, and the No. 24 car can only be kept down at Talladega…and out of victory lane…for only so long. With teammate Jimmie Johnson playing it safe, expect Gordon to return to victory lane on Sunday. – Bryan
AMP Energy Sugar Frees
Aside from a few guys that had good runs in their lone starts at Talladega, Kurt Busch has the best average finish of all drivers there. While he’s never scored a victory at the track, he’s been the closest thing to consistent that fantasy racers can find in a plate-race scenario. With seven top-10 finishes in the last nine Talladega events and laps led in all but two of those races as well, Busch knows how to find the front of the pack… and stay out of trouble in it. The blue deuce is about as close to safe as there is to be found this Halloween weekend. – Bryan
Dale Earnhardt Jr. may be having a horrific season, but this is Talladega. Don’t forget, he was right there watching Carl Edwards tear down the fence this spring, winding up second in that race to Keselowski in what’s his best finish of the season to date. This may be a year to forget for Earnhardt, but he can certainly put a good foot forward towards next year with a win this weekend. And even if he doesn’t, he should easily be in position to score a top-five finish for your team. – Mike
AMP Energy Shots
Keselowski has shown in his short career that he has a bit of a knack for plate racing. He’s scored top-10 finishes in half of the plate races he’s run in the Nationwide Series and scored his only victory in the Cup series at Talladega this spring. Driving for James Finch again this weekend, if Keselowski can get himself into the right position like he did in April, he could very well score another top-five finish. – Mike
Bobby Labonte is still in the honeymoon phase of his tenure with TRG Motorsports, which means he should continue to run well. A brief glance at the stats shows that in his last three rides with Petty Enterprises, Hall of Fame Racing and now TRG that the 2000 Cup champ runs well early in his time with a team before tapering off, and that’s all good news for the No. 71 bunch. Remember, former TRG driver David Gilliland ran well here in the spring before being caught in a wreck, and Talladega is awful kind to small-time teams (just ask Phoenix Racing). – Bryan
The Last Word
Everyone calls Talladega the wild card race of the Chase, and for good reason – the plate tracks produce tight pack racing where one misstep can take out a third or more of the field. With NASCAR reducing the size of the restrictor plate again after the big wreck at the end of the spring race, the pack will be even tighter, with the movement of cars from the back to the front will be even more dependent on the help of other drivers. Lean on those who’ve shown true drafting talent, as well as the luck to avoid the wrecks, and you should have a decent chance of escaping with minimal damage from this weekend.
Results of our Experts in the Frontstretch Fantasy Games
Game of Tomorrow
Bryan – 8920
Mike – 8495
Bryan – 6490
Mike – 6700
Bryan – 16564
Mike – 14522
To help the readers track how well our experts are doing, we’ll keep track of the cumulative points scored by all three drivers every week, as well as the total for the season.
Bryan – 375 11006
Mike – 452 10670
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