Usually the idea of gambling is saved for the casinos in either Atlantic City or Las Vegas. One enters with the intention of winning a lot of money but unfortunately also knows they could lose what they came in with.
When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series decides to gamble, they add a restrictor plate to the motors. That means 43 cars within a second of each other, every corner could mean calamity and one move could make you a hero or put you in the outhouse.
That is what is expected this weekend in the seventh race of the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
On the schedule this weekend is Talladega, a place where drivers know that every corner means a change and every lap could mean disaster. Those that can avoid disaster will reap the benefits, but those that can't know that many factors were out of their control.
Last week, it was Denny Hamlin taking the victory, nearly completing a task he set out to do at Martinsville. He guaranteed victory, but said in order to make the most gain in the standings, he'd have to win the pole, lead the most laps and take the win.
Two out of those three elements came true, and now, he finds himself six points behind Jimmie Johnson in the Chase. But, Talladega could change that.
The strategy for Hamlin, as he's said, is to be close to Johnson should the "Big One" occur, that way if he happens to be caught up in it, Johnson is as well. Thus, keeping the points close.
But, who's to say we couldn't see a race like we did in the spring? In April, over 30 drivers led the race, and the lead was swapped a record 88 times. That afternoon, Kevin Harvick took the victory. But, another name looms large at this facility.
With a name like Earnhardt, you know plate racing is just natural. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is coming off a seventh-place run at Martinsville and is at a track where he's won five times. Could the No. 88 team pull it off?
Or could it be someone else?
We all don't know what to expect at Talladega, and that leaves our writers in a tough spot. With so many good picks to choose from, but many already used earlier, who did they decide will take the victory at the 2.66-mile super speedway?
Here's a look at the creature picks for the Amp Energy Juice 500.
Misan Ayuka: Kurt Busch
Talladega is the toughest place to pick a winner. It is such a lottery. So I draw No. 2.
Busch has been called the best plate racer without a win. In 19 starts he has six top-fives, 13 top-10s, 111 laps led and an average finish of 12.84, best among active drivers.
He has been struggling lately, but at Talladega, anyone can win and perhaps the blue deuce can notch his first plate win.
Kyle Brandt: Kevin Harvick
Happy and the No. 29 team will be bringing the same chassis to the track this weekend that won the Bud Shootout and the spring race at Talladega.
Kevin is arguably the best restrictor plate racer in the series right now, so I'm giving him a go!
James Broomhead: Jamie McMurray
It's the race you can't predict, it's the race you love but hate and it's the race that more than any other could hold the answer to the question "who's going to win this year."
McMurray has been Mr. Restrictor-Plate this season and goes into the final plate race of the season with as good a chance as anyone else.
Beyond that, the only way of knowing who'll win is to watch the race...from the edge of your seat.
Billy Fellin: Kevin Harvick
Harvick stayed within striking distance of Johnson and Hamlin with a good finish at Martinsville, and I see him continuing that at Talladega.
Christopher Leone: Kurt Busch
As far as the luckiest driver at Talladega goes, it’s Kurt Busch, with only three DNFs in 19 career Talladega starts.
His resultant 12.8 average finish is the sport’s best. From the end of 2004 through 2007, he had a seven-race streak at the track of single-digit finishes, though he has never actually won at the track.
Kara Martin: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Going to take a leap of faith and go with Junior in this one!
Dustin Parks: Kevin Harvick
I have to play the odds this week and for good reason. Harvick is the winner of two of the last three plate races. Actually, you can call him the winner of three of the last four including the Bud Shootout. But, he's also not going to be playing defense.
Here's why, Johnson and Hamlin will be trying to stay close to each other, probably near the back. If the "big one" happens, they'll be close to each other so the points don't change much between them. Harvick, on the contrary, will look to go to the front and avoid the wreck entirely.
Harvick has the most to gain from Talladega, and I'm looking for a complete sweep. The No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet is my pick this week.
Rob Tiongson: Kevin Harvick
After nearly winning at one of his not so great tracks in Martinsville, and after getting RCR's "best pit crew" from the 33 team, you have to believe now is the time for a Happy Harvick win on Halloween 2010 at Talladega.
He beat out a pumpkin-colored car in the form of Jamie McMurray's car (next best pick), who'll try to spook him once more for the win near the end of the 500-miler, but at the end of this race, look for the No. 29 Chevrolet to sweep 'Dega and making this Chase even more exciting and as close as it gets.
Alan Wade: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Am I crazy? Sure, who would actually pick this guy?
He does still have his plate track mojo, and I just have this crazy feeling that Junior will at least pull off a top-five.
STANDINGS FOLLOWING MARTINSVILLE:
Rob Tiongson (5,994) Denny Hamlin WON (3)
Misan Ayuka (5,936) Denny Hamlin WON (4)
Dustin Parks (5,911) Jeff Gordon finished 20th (5)
Christopher Leone (5,906) Jeff Gordon finished 20th (5)
Kara Martin (5,876) Kevin Harvick finished third (3)
James Broomhead (5,856) Jimmie Johnson finished fifth (4)
Alan Wade (5,844) Denny Hamlin WON (3)
Billy Fellin (5,725) Denny Hamlin WON (5)
Kyle Brandt (5,552) NO PICK SENT (2)
When that green flag drops Sunday at 1 p.m. on ESPN, everyone will be holding on for all they have for 188 laps. Self-admitted, this track scares this writer to death, but much like the drivers, one must put fear aside for the competition.
As an added bonus, I will also be provided the live blog for Sunday's action.
It seems very appropriate that the race is occurring on Halloween, because for most of the race, the fear is present for an accident. There won't be many tricks to be pulled, otherwise the treat in the end will be sour-tasting rather than sweet.
There will be no ghosts and goblins, no vampires nor witches. But, expect devilish activity at "Hallow-Dega" on Sunday afternoon, for one man will taste the sweet treats of victory.
Summary of Picks:
Dale Earnhardt Jr-2
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