|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|
FANTASY: Thundering Into Talladega
There's something about Richmond that always brings out the anger in drivers. This past Saturday was no different.
Matt Kenseth raced Brad Keselowski tough with the No. 2 looking to make a late pass for the lead. To his credit, Kenseth didn't block Keselowski, but he pinched him up toward the wall enough that Brad took offense. He got out of his car and pointed at Kenseth after the race ... then went and gave a congratulatory jump on the hood of Joey Logano's car, his teammate and race winner. That's the Brad we know!
Later, FOX cameras caught Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears in a skirmish by their haulers. Mears appeared to violently grab Ambrose, and the Aussie shook free and landed a right haymaker, which surprised Mears. Both were fined and put on probation for the actions.
So, yep, the thunder clouds are rolling on this year's NASCAR season, and it's going to keep getting more intense. With the Sprint Cup Series headed to Talladega this weekend, pack racing will only create more turbulence, and there are sure to be a few lightning bolts thrown during the Aaron's 499.
Here's a look at the drivers that might coast away into sunnier skies at Dega:
Talladega Superspeedway is the largest track on the schedule at 2.66 miles. It is one of two race tracks that uses restrictor plates, which means the cars won't be able to go as fast as they might otherwise be capable. The result? Pack-racing.
See above. Pack-racing is always a wild card. David Ragan won this race last year, while his Front Row Motorsports teammate, David Gilliland, finished second. That about sums up the unpredictability.
Team owners should stay away from the drivers that they plan to start all nine times this year. Wasting a start at such a wild card is just that: a waste.
- #4 Kevin Harvick - With the bad luck he's faced in 2014, it's easy to see Harvick ending this race with a wadded up car. Then again, he's won two races this season, and his luck seems to have turned a corner. He's a wild card at a track that's a wild card. Feeling lucky?
- #15 Clint Bowyer- This guy needs to catch a break somewhere. Talladega seems like an unlikely place to do that, but the uncontrollable variables might be exactly what Bowyer needs to clear his head and just go for it. He has two wins at Talladega and eight top-10s in 16 starts, a 50% top-10 finish rate at Dega is impressive.
- #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Like Bowyer, Junior has cashed in a top-10 in 50% of Talladega starts (14 for 28). He also has five wins at the track and won the restrictor-plated Daytona 500 in February.
- #48 Jimmie Johnson - The No. 48 hasn't been putting together the most impressive title defense in its history, but Johnson will go on a hot streak soon. Save the starts for then and don't even consider using him at Talladega.
- #1 Jamie McMurray - He picked up his second career win at Talladega last October. He'd previously won at the track in 2009 and followed that up with second a 2010, but didn't record another top-10 until last year's win. Consistent he is not, but this is one of the few times all year that McMurray is worth considering, so it might be worth the gamble.
- #17 Ricky Stenhouse - It's a small sample size, but Stenhouse finished 13th and third at Talladega in his only two career starts at the track last season.
- #34 David Ragan - Did you know over the last five races at Talladega that Ragan has earned the most points in the standings of any driver? He won this race last year and has an active streak of four consecutive top-10s at the track.
- #38 David Gilliland - Like his teammate (Ragan) at Front Row Motorsports, Gilliland has found success at Dega. He has finished 15th or better in each of the last four races at the track.
- #9 Marcos Ambrose - Hate to make him angry, but he has a 25.4 average finish at Talladega. He's not the best pick of an off-the-cuff driver this week.
- #99 Carl Edwards - With just five top-10s in 19 Dega starts, he's not worth considering.
- #51 Justin Allgaier - It hasn't been a large improvement, but Allgaier has shifted from finishes in the high 20s earlier in the year to finishes in the low 20s for the past four races. Talladega is enough of a wild card, that he could surprise with his performance.
- #66 Michael Waltrip - He comes out of retirement just to race the restrictor plate races, which makes sense as they're the only track layout at which he's ever won (three Daytona, one Talladega).
- #3 Austin Dillon / #42 Kyle Larson - These are the only two drivers that are worth starting week-to-week on the C-list. Starting them at a restrictor plate track is a huge risk.
Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily rank order.