The seventh race of the 2009 Chase for the Championship takes place on the weekend of Halloween and at one of NASCAR’s scariest tracks.
Talladega Superspeedway will have all 43 drivers on their toes for the 188-lap event that has many saying the Chase standings could be completely shaken up come Monday morning.
Jimmie Johnson enters Talladega with a 118-point lead and with the goal of staying out of trouble. Teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. comes back to the Alabama track where he’s won five times still looking for his first win of the season and to play spoiler in the Chase.
Five of our Creatures come to Talladega after picking up a win last weekend in Martinsville courtesy of Denny Hamlin. However, the top three in points stayed exactly where they were in points and the Creatures behind them closed the gap just a little bit.
This week anything can happen on the big track in Alabama and they’ll be looking for the driver that has the best opportunity to be in one piece at the day’s conclusion.
Ben Bomberger: Kurt Busch
Talladega weekend, the weekend that can shake things up both on the track and in our Creature standings. If I'm the only one sweating it out over whom to select for Sunday's race, I'd be very surprised. But in the end, I opted to go with the Blue Deuce—Kurt Busch.
Busch has hit the high banks in Alabama 17 times and has collected six top-fives, 12 top-10s and an average finish of 12.1. His average running position of 14.7 ranks him fifth best and his 1,100 laps in the top 15 (64.5 percent) are best in the Series.
Busch finished sixth at this track in April and I'm hoping he can give me a solid points day as the calendar turns to November this weekend.
James Broomhead: Tony Stewart
Yes, it's a bit of a risk picking a big name for the curve ball that is Talladega, but it's going with the law of averages. He's good on plate tracks, and Talladega is a plate track.
Of course, he's also had his fair share of wrecks at plate tracks, but who hasn't?
Mary Jo Buchanan: Brian Vickers
In his Chase diary, Vickers says, "We're starting to get our mojo back.” I think Vickers is right. He is good at Talladega and I think this might just be his weekend to step back into the limelight.
Kelly Crandall: Kyle Busch
After literally having to pick a name out of a hat, I’m going to go with the man that has been fast at all the plate tracks this year. This will be Kyle’s last weekend with Steve Addington as his crew chief and they’ll be looking to break up on a good note.
Busch won at Talladega in April of last year and was in contention for this win this year until late in the race. At Daytona he was a strong contender for the 500 win and in July, we all know what happened.
The kid is fast and putting the pedal to the floor is something he does very well. I see no reason he won’t do that on Sunday.
Mason Dunn: Erik Darnell
Crazy track calls for a crazy pick, so I pretty much just threw a dart at a board and here we go. Should be interesting as Darnell is my pick.
Adam Heasley: NO PICK SENT
No pick sent.
Danielle Henderson: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Dale Jr has always been good at the two restrictor plate tracks. To be quite honest all of the Earnhardt's thus far have been good restrictor plate racers. If the big one doesn't collect Junior in its Halloween maddness expect to see him up front, leading laps and taking the checkered flag at Talladega.
Kara Martin: Tony Stewart
This week is certainly a crap shoot when it comes to who to pick, there really is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing a driver for the Amp 500, that being said I am going with my man Tony Stewart.
Despite the fact that Stewart's only win at Talladega was a controversial one last Fall that had everyone up in arms as to whether or not it was his to take, Stewart's record at the track speaks for itself.
With six second place finishes, Stewart is one of the most consistent drivers when it comes to 'Dega. As a driver/owner, he already has one restrictor plate race win under his belt this season after taking the checkered flag at Daytona in July, so we know that he has what it takes to get up front and ride hard and fast.
SM Napier: Tony Stewart
Stewart will run better than the race in April and should win it this time using strategy. He'll run the first 166 laps, staying out of trouble, avoiding the big one, and with 20 laps to go he'll work his way into the lead for the win
David Phillips: NO PICK SENT
No pick sent.
Jen Preston: Joey Logano
Betting against Jimmie Johnson may be crazy, but so is standing up a 7'3", 400-plus pound giant.
That’s what Joey Logano did this past week on Monday Night RAW. Logano finished ninth in April and in the spirit of doing something crazy, I'm hoping for something other than Hendrick dominance.
Rob Tiongson: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
I have to go with the popular pick and of all the races remaining, this is most likely his last shot at a victory in 2009. Not only would it be a fan favorite victory of this season, but it would also revitalize some confidence in this second-generation driver.
After Denny Hamlin’s dominating victory in Martinsville, VA last weekend, here is how the Creatures head to Sweet Home Alabama.
Ben Bomberger (6,013 ) Denny Hamlin won (4 )
Mary Jo Buchanan (-27 ) Denny Hamlin won (2 )
Kara Martin (-28 ) Denny Hamlin won (4 )
Kelly Crandall (-124 ) Jimmie Johnson finished second (2 )
Rob Tiongson (-172 ) Jeff Gordon finished fifth (2 )
Jen Preston (-211 ) Denny Hamlin won (2 )
James Broomhead (-244 ) Jimmie Johnson finished second (3 )
Mason Dunn (-295 ) Kyle Busch finished fourth (0 )
SM Napier (-318 ) Denny Hamlin won (3 )
David Phillips (-458 ) NO PICK SENT (2 )
Danielle Henderson (-552 ) Casey Mears finished 19th (2 )
Adam Heasley (-983 ) NO PICK SENT (3 )
Point leader Jimmie Johnson will attempt to stay out of the big one and kept his point lead intact. Johnson missed the big wreck in this race last year that took out many of his fellow Chasers.
Tony Stewart comes to Talladega a long shot for the 2009 Championship but as the defending winner of the AMP Energy 500 after Regan Smith was disqualified for going below the yellow line. It was Stewart’s first and so far only win at the superspeedway.
And Juan Pablo Montoya returns to Talladega where he won his first career pole earlier this year. Montoya, however, finished 20th in the event.