NASCAR at Talladega 2014: Start Time, Live Stream, TV Schedule and More

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistMay 3, 2014

TALLADEGA, AL - MAY 02: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, on track during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2014 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' new playoff system has made for a wild and unpredictable start to the season. All signs point to that continuing on Sunday in the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

It often feels like anything can happen on superspeedways in this age of racing, and that has been proven true at Talladega in recent years. Seemingly no track on the circuit has produced more surprise winners, which means that the landscape of the Chase for the Sprint Cup could potentially change in a significant way this weekend.

Here is all the information you need to know regarding how and when to watch the Aaron's 499 along with predictions for which drivers will contend for the victory.

 

Where: Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala.

When: Sunday, May 4 at 1 p.m. ET

Watch: Fox

Live Steam: Fox Sports Go

Radio: Motor Racing Network

 

Qualifying Info

Qualifying for the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway will take place on Saturday, May 3 at 1:10 p.m. ET on Fox, according to NASCAR.com. Here is a look at the order in which the drivers will take the track during qualifying.

Aaron's 499 Qualifying List
No. on TrackCar No.Driver
17Michael Annett
288Dale Earnhardt Jr.
31Jamie McMurray
441Kurt Busch
599Carl Edwards
621Trevor Bayne
727Paul Menard
85Kasey Kahne
910Danica Patrick
1077Dave Blaney
1134David Ragan
1222Joey Logano
1340Landon Cassill
1426Cole Whitt
1548Jimmie Johnson
1678Martin Truex Jr.
1732Terry Labonte
1838David Gilliland
1983Ryan Truex
2047A.J. Allmendinger
212Brad Keselowski
2266Michael Waltrip
2313Casey Mears
2498Josh Wise
2531Ryan Newman
263Austin Dillon
2720Matt Kenseth
2833Brian Scott
2923Alex Bowman
3016Greg Biffle
319Marcos Ambrose
3243Aric Almirola
3342Kyle Larson
3418Kyle Busch
3595Michael McDowell
3635Eric McClure
3717Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
3844J.J. Yeley
3911Denny Hamlin
4024Jeff Gordon
4114Tony Stewart
4236Reed Sorenson
4387Joe Nemechek
4415Clint Bowyer
4551Justin Allgaier
464Kevin Harvick
4755Brian Vickers
NASCAR.com

 

Drivers to Watch

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

DARLINGTON, SC - APRIL 12: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina.  (Photo by K
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With a win to his credit and a comfortable fifth-place spot in the standings, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is sitting pretty in terms of qualifying for the Chase. Earnhardt is fully aware that a second win would stamp his ticket and remove all pressure until the final 10 races, though, so expect him to do everything possible to take the checkered flag.

Talladega may represent Earnhardt's best chance for a second victory as he is second among active drivers with five career wins at Talladega. He is also tops in terms of average finish for drivers with at least 20 starts on the superspeedway with a mark of 14.6, according to Racing-Reference.info.

Earnhardt hasn't won a race at Talladega since 2004, but he is racing better now than he has in an extremely long time. Earnhardt also has to be feeling some good vibes after striking a three-year sponsorship deal with Nationwide, per Bob Pockrass of Sporting News.

There is no question that Earnhardt has had his struggles in recent years, however, he finally seems to be developing into an elite driver. A points title is the next logical step in his career, and winning at Talladega will bring him one step closer to that accomplishment.

 

Jeff Gordon

DARLINGTON, SC - APRIL 11: Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina.  (Photo
Jeff Curry/Getty Images

Jeff Gordon is unquestionably one of the greatest drivers in the history of NASCAR, and he has enjoyed a resurgent 2014 season that sees him atop the points standings. Gordon and the No. 24 car have been absolutely spectacular this year with seven top-10 finishes in nine races. The only downside, though, is the fact that Gordon hasn't yet visited victory lane.

Gordon has essentially done everything but win a race this year. As good as he has been, there has to be some concern within his team due to the importance of winning. Nobody would blame Gordon if frustration started to set in, but he is confident that a win is on the horizon if he continues to run up front, according to Zack Albert of NASCAR.com:

I mean, as good as we're running, I definitely feel like we can win races just about anywhere that we go, and if we continue to perform like this, we are going to win. That's how you win. I mean, yeah, there's sometimes when you just pick the right pit strategy. There's other times you get a good restart, and then there's times when you just go and outrun them. I'll take outrunning them more times than any because I think that's when the multiple wins are going to come.

Gordon's track record at Talladega suggests that his first win of the season could come Sunday. Gordon has six career victories at Talladega, and no regular driver has more experience there than he does. A breakthrough seems inevitable, and it may very well happen this week.

 

Brad Keselowski

RICHMOND, VA - APRIL 25: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Detroit Genuine parts Ford, practices during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 25, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo by Raini
Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

It has been an all-or-nothing season for Brad Keselowski thus far, and there is no doubt that he wants it all at Talladega. The former Sprint Cup champion is in good shape with a win in his back pocket, and his seventh-place overall standing is solid as well. Keselowski has only finished in the top 10 in four of his nine races, though, so he has a penchant for getting lost in the shuffle.

Predicting what will happen at Talladega is an exercise in futility since one big crash can take out half the field. Staying out of trouble is one of the biggest keys to success on superspeedways, which isn't necessarily always one of Keselowski's strong suits.

He will need to be good in that regard Sunday afternoon, though, since he didn't exactly set the world on fire in practice. According to Team Penske on Twitter, Keselowski was a pedestrian 19th during preparation for the Aaron's 499:

There are plenty of equalizers at Talladega, however, so Keselowski will be in the mix as long as he remains on the track and the lead lap. With two wins and six top-10 finishes in 10 tries at Talladega, Keselowski has proven that he knows how to conquer one of NASCAR's toughest tracks.

 

Prediction

While past performance and experience at Talladega matter to some degree, there is a certain aspect of randomness involved as well.

That was quite clear last year when David Ragan and Jamie McMurray were the winners in the spring and fall races respectively. Anything can happen in the closing laps, so the goal for most drivers is to simply be in the running late.

Middling drivers often take chances and go for the win at Talladega, but that sentiment will be even greater this year since a single victory can potentially propel an underdog into the Chase.

Among the under-the-radar drivers worth watching are Ragan, David Gilliland and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 

Ragan has a win and seven top-10 finishes in 14 tries at Talladega. He is 31st in the standings with a low-level team in the form of Front Row Motorsports, but he knows how to perform well at Talladega, and he was third-fastest in practice.

Gilliland is in the same boat as Ragan. They are Front Row teammates, and neither of them have anything to lose. Gilliland has twice finished in the top five at Talladega, and it will be interesting to see if he and Ragan have a chance to work together in the latter stages.

As for Stenhouse, his sample size is small with just two Sprint Cup starts at Talladega, but his average finish of eighth is intriguing. He has a couple of excellent teammates in tow, and he could be the beneficiary of some teamwork down the stretch.

Another name to keep in mind is Brian Vickers. He has been surprisingly good this season as he sits 10th in the standings, but he really needs a win to solidify his Chase spot. He has won at Talladega before, and he has finished in the top 10 in nearly half of his starts there.

RICHMOND, VA - APRIL 25:  Brian Vickers, driver of the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota, climbs into his car in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 25, 2014 in Richm
Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

Of course, stars like Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick have all won at Talladega in the past, and they figure to be factors as well.

There is little doubt that the Aaron's 499 will provide one of the most exciting finishes of the year, and luck will finally be on Gordon's side as he turns his great racing into his first victory of the season.

 

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