Can Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, and Denny Hamlin Stay out of Trouble at Talladega?

Andrew Weber- US PRESSWIRE

Last week, Brad Keselowski used fuel millage to win the race and put all the other drivers including Jimmie Johnson on notice that he is going for this championship.  Last week the track was short and very fast, this week the track is large and much faster.  This week NASCAR is at Talladega Superspeedway for The Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500.

The Talladega Superspeedway is the biggest and fastest track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule.  The track is a 2 and 5/8 mile tri-oval with 33 degrees of banking in the turns, 16.5 degrees in the front stretch.  Unlike all the other tracks on the schedule, the start and finish line is actually at the end of the front stretch instead of the middle.  This makes for some really exciting finishes.

Every driver in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup talks about the Talladega race as being the one race in the Chase where they do not have much if any control over their finish.  It is almost a crap shoot.  A driver can get out of control at any time, whether in the front of the pack or the back, and take out a whole bunch of cars.  Kasey Kahne put it best when he said, “Talladega is really the biggest wild card in the Chase (for the NASCAR Sprint Cup). Almost everyone has a shot at the win, but you can be out of running early, too.”  That is exactly what makes Talladega, well Talladega.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one driver who has one of the best record of all active drivers.  When asked about how to race Talladega Dale said, “We see at Daytona, there’s wrecks on the last lap coming off of turn four.  The only guy that misses those is the guy that’s leading the race or second.  You can wait and not get wrecked on lap 30 or wait and not get wrecked on the last lap.  It just depends.  You’re going to have to get up in there eventually, try to drive through a wreck at some point.  I mean, that’s going to happen to you.”  Dale then added, “ We’ve rode around and played it pretty conservative before.  That hasn’t really worked out.  Last couple times we’ve been racing just as hard as we can race, and I think that’s just about what we’ll do this time.”

Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in race wins at Talladega.  When Jeff was asked about his strategy for winning at Talladega he said, “There is no set strategy that works best. If there was, we all would be doing it. Drafting can be fun and the finish is usually exciting, but you don’t know when, where or if you’re going to be caught up in the ‘big one.’ I’ve raced up front and been caught up in a wreck. I’ve also been involved while running in the middle of the pack and also while running what I thought was a conservative distance back of the main pack, but I’ve also won using each of those strategies.”

Every week, Driver Ratings have been used to indicate any one particular driver’s strength at a track.  Last week Jimmie Johnson had a commanding driver rating of 120.6.  This week there is no driver even in that zip code.  The Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a Driver Rating of 90.0.  Driver Ratings will be good at telling who will run well provided they don’t get caught up in a wreck.  Overall Super Speedway wins would be a better stat to use.  Jeff Gordon with his 16 Super Speedway wins tops the list.  Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all have 7 Super Speedway wins and will be a big threat.

Denny Hamlin does not have any Superspeedway wins.  Brad Keselowski got his first win at Talladega putting him on everyone’s radar and some would say vaulting him to his Sprint Cup Career.  Brad won this race back in May.  Lurking in the middle of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Standings, in fourth, 25 points back is the winner of this race last year, Clint Bowyer.

Who knows what will happen, will we have a big wreck taking out most of the contenders or will they stay clear.  That is why this race will be exciting from lap one until the last lap.  The race is 188 laps or 500 miles.

If you can’t get to Talladega, the race will be on ESPN on Sunday, October 7th at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is the Lead NASCAR writer for RantSports.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary. On Facebook at NASCAR News and Commentary

Top 12 Driver Rating at Talladega

Jeff Burton…………………………… 90.7
Dale Earnhardt Jr………………….. 90.0
Denny Hamlin………………………. 87.0
David Ragan………………………… 87.0
Kurt Busch………………………….. 86.8
Matt Kenseth……………………….. 86.7
Brad Keselowski…………………… 86.2
Joey Logano………………………… 84.8
Tony Stewart……………………….. 84.5
Jimmie Johnson……………………. 81.5
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 81.5
Juan Pablo Montoya………………. 80.4

Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2012 races (15 total) among active drivers at Talladega Superspeedway.

 


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