The Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway will mark the ninth race of this year’s Sprint Cup Series season, and one of the most difficult to predict in fantasy racing.
Anybody who’s ever seen a superspeedway race knows that the “big one” is lurking around every corner, and can knock out many good cars in less time than it takes to change four tires and refuel.
Last year, Brad Keselowski turned Carl Edwards in the tri-oval on the final lap to secure his first career victory.
It was a scary moment for Edwards, as his car wound up touching the catch fence in mid-air, injuring eight fans, and he hasn’t won since.
Despite the safety improvements made to the cars, these sorts of wrecks are always possible, and are more common at the big tracks than anywhere else.
In other words, this weekend is a fantasy crapshoot. To that end, let’s have some fun.
Joey Logano is my pick for this weekend’s race. Keep in mind that we had a surprise winner in Keselowski last year, a definition that Logano would certainly fit.
He led laps in both Talladega races last year, finishing ninth in the spring and third in the fall. His team has also gotten it together this year, and they’re legitimate Chase contenders. Hey, it’s worth a shot.
My dark horse pick for the weekend is none other than Michael Waltrip.
Competing in only his second race of the season, this will mark the first time in months that Prism Motorsports looks to actually complete the full race with one of its cars, the No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota.
Waltrip drives for the race sponsor and has won at the track before. Again, it’s worth a shot, isn’t it?
Three more, all of whom will probably fall victim to bad luck because I picked them:
Hey, remember when Dale Earnhardt Jr. won four Talladega races in a row? He’s led laps in 18 of his 20 career Talladega starts, too.
He was pretty strong at Daytona at the beginning of the year, and he’s pretty overdue for a win.
His Talladega luck is also pretty good. Of his five DNFs at the track, three were due to engine failures, and those were DEI power plants, not the Hendrick ones he currently receives.
Picking at Talladega is all about luck. Jeff Burton may have some of that at Talladega.
He’s led at least one lap in six of the past seven Talladega events, including in each of the past four, a span in which he has finished no worse than 12th .
Burton has the patience to let the race come to him and the luck to avoid wrecks; only two of his five DNFs were due to accidents, and they came in 2005 and his 1994 track debut.
Finally, Jamie McMurray is currently one of the best restrictor-plate drivers on the circuit, winning the past two races under the format. Jamie Mac has led in six of his past nine Talladega starts.
He does, however, have some poor luck at the track, crashing out in three of the past eight events.