Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson Have to Stay out of Trouble at Talladega

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Last week NASCAR was at the 1.5 mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was a typical race at a somewhat typical track. This week will not be. This week NASCAR and the Chase for the Sprint Cup is back at Talladega Superspeedway for some wide open restrictor plate racing. This week is the Camping World RV Sales 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. The race is 500 miles or 188 laps.

Looking at the standings for the Chase for the Sprint Cup it looks very much like Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are racing for the Championship. No one will give it to them though as racing at Talladega is a wild card. If any one of them or both get caught up in a big wreck two more drivers, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon, might just be back in contention. The main reason is at this race unlike last week there can easily be 35 or more cars on the lead lap at the end. If you damage your car beyond repair even on the last lap you may just finish 35th and give up 35 points.

So can we expect to do good here? Well quite simply just about everyone. At other tracks we have been using driver ratings in order to determine who to watch for. If you look at the ratings below for this track it is obvious that just about all of the top 13 drivers are in it. They statistically have the same ratings. Also notice that there are many drivers who are not in the Chase on the list. Notice Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are not on the list but their ratings are not that far off, Harvick 77 20th best and Busch 79.9 16th best.

The driver ratings show us that everyone can be in it to win it. David Ragan won this race in the spring driving for a team that is not a threat to win every week. So what is the strategy? Kevin Harvick put it best, “Don’t wreck. That’s the perfect strategy. How you do that I don’t know, but I’m hoping we have the luck we need to make sure that we don’t have any major issues this weekend at Talladega.

If both Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson can come away clean from Talladega Superspeedway and perhaps have top five finishes then they will be battling for the Championship. If only one does then that driver will most certainly win the Championship. If neither of them finish well then we may perhaps have a closer battle for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. That is what we will be watching for and why we will be on the edge of our seats on every lap.

If you can’t get to Talladega Superspeedway the race will be broadcast Sunday, October 20th on ESPN at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for RantSports.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary, or on Facebook, Pinterest, and Google.

Top 13 Driver Rating at Talladega
Matt Kenseth………………………… 91.5
Dale Earnhardt Jr………………….. 89.9
Jeff Burton…………………………… 89.3
Brian Vickers……………………….. 87.3
Kurt Busch…………………………… 86.8
Brad Keselowski……………………. 85.7
David Ragan………………………… 85.0
Aric Almirola………………………… 83.9
Ricky Stenhouse Jr……………….. 83.9
Jimmie Johnson……………………. 83.1
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 81.8
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 81.6
Jamie McMurray…………………… 81.5
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (17 total) among active drivers at Talladega Superspeedway.


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