The task of sitting here looking at the list of drivers and comparing their race histories, recent struggles or successes, states of their current teams, or plain old gut feeling, then trying to come up with who will or won’t do well at a restrictor plate track is maddening. Simply put, no one dominates Talladega. Just when you think you’ve got a lock, you find out the man in question fails to finish half his restrictor-plate track events. For what it’s worth, though, I have once again compiled my list of guys you will want this weekend, and will basically sit and hope they all miss the Big One. Or maybe the Big Two, or Big Three…
Well, this week I am thinking that Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart are going to be the ponies you want to bet on. Harvick has a career finishing average of 16th at Talladega and won with a thrilling last-second pass on Jamie McMurray coming to the start-finish line on the final lap back in April. Harvick has also finished in the top 15 in all six Chase events, with five of those six being top 10s – giving him some momentum moving forward.
Stewart is a bit of a stretch looking at his recent struggles at the superspeedway. Since NASCAR let him win back in 2008 after the infamous Regan Smith pass, he has failed to crack the top 15. But prior to that, he posted eight top-three finishes and does have the same average finish as Harvick. Stewart knows that this track has the potential for the biggest shuffle in the points standings of any in the Chase, and if he can come out on top, then who knows how far up he could move depending on who gets gobbled up in the big wreck. Look for both in the top 10 this Sunday.
Who Will Carry You
This week, you are going to want Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya and Elliott Sadler. Before just shrugging off Sadler, consider this one: after getting your studs and the first two drivers in this section, Sadler is about all you are going to be able to afford. There is an upside here, too, obviously, or he wouldn’t be getting mentioned. He has an average superspeedway finishing spot of 22nd, and if he hits that number Sunday, then you are definitely getting a return on your investment with him. Also, Sadler has come home in the ninth and tenth spots in the last two fall Talladega races so he is more than capable of sneaking in a top 15 for you.
Montoya runs well at these plate tracks and just has to polish his skills at who to follow late. He’s got a pair of top fives here and if he follows his teammate McMurray at the end, he may have another. McMurray is the hottest restrictor-plate racer with two wins and a second in the last four events, including winning this year’s Daytona 500. Since the Chase started, his average finish is ninth with a win two weeks ago, so don’t be surprised to see him in victory lane this Sunday. Pretty much anyone of these guys is capable of winning… or finishing 35th, for that matter.
Who Will Bury You
I am well aware of the fact I have pretty much declared man love for Jimmie Johnson since the Chase started, but this week I’ve got to say avoid him. He just seems to get into a lot of the wrecks at these plate tracks and once even got wrecked by Mark Martin before the race even started. In 17 career ‘Dega starts, he’s failed to finish seven times. That makes him far too expensive to have on your team this week with this kind of history.
Well there you have it, my best guesses for this weekend’s race at Talladega. I think they are all pretty solid, but I guess we’ll see where they all are when someone runs out of patience or talent coming through the tri-oval and ends the day for half the field. So good luck this weekend with whomever you decide to go with, set your lineup in Frontstretch‘s Game of Tomorrow and we’ll see you back here next Thursday when we preview the race from Texas.