|12/03/15||The Champion By NHMS Numbers|
|11/20/15||The Championship Four Preview|
|11/13/15||Phoenix: Three To Watch|
|10/30/15||Martinsville: Three To Watch|
|10/18/15||Kansas: Three To Watch|
|10/05/15||Charlotte: Three To Watch|
CHASE FANTASY: Talladega
It's time for another elimination race. Another four will be knocked out of NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
After suffering issues at Kansas to open the Contender Round, not Brad Keselowski (16th at Charlotte), nor Jimmie Johnson (17th), nor Dale Earnhardt Jr. (20th) managed to gain any ground back with their mediocre finishes in the Bank of America 500 this past Saturday. That means that those three, all of whom have been considered championship favorites for much of the season, will need to race their way into the Eliminator Round.
Talladega is a wild card, and crazy enough things could happen to advance at least one or two of those drivers to the next round without a win, but don't plan on it. Keselowski is 19 points off the cut to advance, Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. are 26 apiece, and all three would need to jump Matt Kenseth (one point out) even if they caught eighth-place Kasey Kahne.
Win or go home is a pretty strong guideline for those three drivers. Here's how they stack up from a fantasy NASCAR standpoint:
Green Flag - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior once won four consecutive races at Talladega, then followed the run with two second-place finishes and another win. That was a stretch way back in 2001-2004, but he showed with his season-opening win in the Daytona 500 this year that he still knows how to get after it in the restrictor plate races. There's no sure thing in these types of pack races, but Junior is a pretty good option.
Caution Flag - Brad Keselowski
"Bad Brad" got himself into trouble at Charlotte with his post-race actions when he played demolition derby with the Nos. 11, 14 and 20 cars. Keselowski's antics showed a couple things: the first, that he's frustrated; the second, that his frustration is taking a toll on his mental focus. He's the kind of firecracker that can find motivation from this adversity and run off with a race win, but Talladega is not a good place for a reckless driver. If Keselowski gets too aggressive, he could find his championship hopes tossed against the wall and crumpled up.
Red Flag - Jimmie Johnson
The six-time champion has buttered his bread on the intermediate tracks on his way to his titles, but performed poorly at both Kansas and Charlotte in this segment. He hasn't had that ... at all. It's been eight races since Johnson led a lap, which includes stops at Dover and Charlotte, two tracks at which he holds the distinction of the winningest driver of all-time and won at each earlier this year. Anything can happen at 'Dega, but No. 48 has been shockingly uncompetitive in recent weeks and appears headed to an early offseason.