NASCAR's Version of Chess at 200mph: 2010 Aaron's 499 Fantasy Preview

Ashley McCubbinAnalyst IApril 22, 2010

TALLADEGA, AL - MARCH 16:  Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Pennzoil/Shell Chevrolet, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, lead the draft with the new spoilers during testing for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Talladega Superspeedway on March 16, 2010 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

Track Stats:

Name: Talladega Superspeedway

Race Date: April 24, 2010

Location: Talladega, AL

Length: 2.66 miles

Banking in turns: 33 degrees

Banking on the frontstretch: 16.5 degrees

Banking on the backstretch: two degrees

Grandstand Seats: 143,231

Tickets/track info: or 1 (877) GO2-DEGA


April Winner: Brad Keselowski


In a finish that just mirrored that of the movie Talladega Nights and a finish that’d be talked about for months to come, Keselowski took his first ever career win. Coming off of turn four, Carl Edwards held the lead and thought he had it won. Though when they got to the tri-oval, Keselowski made his move and Edwards blocked causing the two to make contact and send Edwards flipping.


It’s a finish that is still debated amongst fans with regards to who was to blame and a finish that was has come up in discussion since via other instances between both.


Top 10

1. Brad Keselowski

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

3. Ryan Newman

4. Marcos Ambrose

5. Scott Speed

6. Kyle Busch

7. Greg Biffle

8. Brian Vickers

9. Joey Logano

10. Jeff Burton


October Winner: Jamie McMurray

The fall finish wasn’t as dramatic as the spring as it was McMurray holding Kasey Kahne off after Kahne made a late race move following the big one.




Driver Rating from 2009 Aaron’s 499 has a driver rating system that is suppose to help in picking who is a good

fantasy choice. Their formula combines the following categories: wins, finishes, top 15 finishes, average running positions while on lead lap, average speed under green, fastest lap, most laps led and lead-lap finish. The maximum points one driver can obtain for one race is 150 points.


For more specific information and further understanding, please visit


Here are the top 10 drivers and their ratings following the 2009 Aaron’s 499

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 112.2

2. Denny Hamlin with 104.5

3. Kurt Busch with 100.1

4. Matt Kenseth with 99.9

5. Brad Keselowski with 98.9

6. David Ragan with 96.0

7. Jeff Burton with 94.8

8. Kyle Busch with 93.1

9. Martin Truex Jr. with 90.4

10. Casey Mears with 90.1




Good Picks


Kurt Busch

A lot of people wouldn’t consider Kurt Busch on the list of their restrictor plate picks, unless you look back at the 2008 Daytona 500. However, he has always been good at putting himself in position to win restrictor plate races and it shows by his stats at Talladega.


Coming off the big announcement that he’ll have a nice sponsor in 2011, it’d be fitting for Busch to finish off his time with Miller Lite in winning fashion and possibly a championship.


In 18 races, Busch has six top fives, 12 top 10s and an average finish of 13.1.


When you look at the restrictor plate tracks overall, Busch ranks third in earning points when all four races are totaled (527) last year with an average finish of 12.8, one top five and three top 10s.



Dale Earnhardt Jr.


Considered the pied piper back in the early 2000s and the man who learned to draft from his father, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is somebody that stands out when it comes to picking at Talladega. He knows what he’s got to do; it’s just a question as to if he can put the pieces together. Lately that hasn’t been the case as he hasn’t won at Talladega since 2006, however it’s very well possible that this is where he and his crew could break through for 2010.


They’ve been coming on strong after their struggles last year, including a top 10 finish last week. Crew chief Lance McGrew yesterday said during the Amp Up The 88 Chat that the only problem seen with the car during testing was a little bit of overspray on the hood, as according to the driver.


In 20 races, Earnhardt has five wins, eight top fives, 10 top 10s, and has an average finish of 14.0.


When you look at the restrictor plate tracks overall, Earnhardt ranks 16th in earning points when all four races are totaled (443) last year with an average finish of 19.8 and one top five.



Jimmie Johnson


Johnson is good every where and has run strong at Talladega in the past. He’s run so strong that when you combine the last nine races, he has gained the most points.


Johnson is off to a good start in 2010, leading the points after eight races, poised to win his fifth championship in a row. Talladega may be a spot of survival for Johnson, though in trying to survive, he may get lucky and become the victor.


In 16 races at Talladega, Johnson has one win, four top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 17.0.


When you look at the restrictor plate tracks overall, Johnson ranks 11th in earning points when all four races are totaled (468) last year with an average finish of 17.3, one top five and two top 10s.



Elliott Sadler


Call it lucky or call it good, Sadler gained the most points at the restrictor plate tracks last year. Some may be surprised to hear this stat, yet to those who have watched plate racing closely, they know that’s not the truth. Sadler is another driver, like Busch, who puts himself quietly in position to win and is just looking on the opportunity to capitalize.


This year is contract year for Sadler so a win for him could do numbers in helping him find the best situation. Add in the fact that Richard Petty Motorsports has been tarnished in the media lately and a positive note for them to build on, it’d be a win-win situation for all.


In 21 races, Sadler has one top five, four top 10s and an average finish of 23.6.


When you look at the restrictor plate tracks overall, Sadler ranks first in earning points when all four races are totaled (548) last year with an average finish of 10.8, one top five and three top 10s.




Other Notables:

This week I struggled with choosing the four drivers to pick as there are so many other possibilities. Other key drivers that I could’ve mentioned are Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, and Matt Kenseth among others. Talladega creates the nature that anybody and everybody can do well so there are so many people that could be chosen.




Lucky Again?

In their first two starts at Talladega, both Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano faired well. Keselowski won the spring race and finished eighth in the fall while Logano finished ninth in the spring and third in the fall. Could they do well again? It depends on if things go their way.




Stories to Watch:


The Big One: The Big Wreck is guaranteed to happen – it’s just a question of what lap and who is in it. It always shakes up the running order and sometimes produces a surprise winner so watch your back.


The Crazy Finishes: With the nature of the racing and how things come down at the end, the finishes have been crazy at Talladega every year. Look for anything and everything to happen in the final laps as if somebody makes the right move, it could pay off and they may surprise you.


Talladega is a Crap Shoot in that I can tell you who has run well in the past, who has the best stats and who you should pick statistically, though in the end it doesn’t matter. With the nature of restrictor plate racing, anything and everything is possible so you never know who is going to win or finish well. Good luck picking as you never know if you’ll be right or wrong till the checkered flag.