Welcome To The Talladega Jungle
by Matt Mercer, Special To NASCAR news, fantasy racing advice and statistics On Pit Row
I'm the former blogger of The Catfish Show NASCAR Blog and a contributor to On Pit Row. Follow me on Twitter: @mattmercerSeptember 29, 2008 8:22 pm UTC No Comments
Predicting Talladega is like buying a lottery ticket. Sometimes you win a buck, sometimes you win a little more – but most often you end up wasting money. Case in point the last 3 races at the track in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Back in 2005 Dale Jarrett came out of nowhere to steal the race, and Brian Vickers’ last lap “pass” that sent Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. spinning ruined a lot of days. Then we have the battle last season, in which Jeff Gordon made one of the gutsiest passes I’ve seen at a plate race to snag the win from Johnson with Tony Stewart right on his tail.
There is always a sort of feeling heading into the October Talladega race that you don’t feel in the spring. I’ve felt it for years, and the additions of the Chase have only heightened the anticipation, majesty, and… fear.
2007 – Jeff Gordon
2006 – Brian Vickers
2005 – Dale Jarrett
2004 – Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2007 – Jimmie Johnson – 2nd
2006 – Jimmie Johnson – 24th
2005 – Tony Stewart – 2nd
2004 – Kurt Busch – 5th
As has been the trend in the Chase, Johnson’s 2006 run has been the aberration in how to win the championship. In this case as you can see, throw out that year and the champ will finish in the top 5 at Talladega. This year, that seems to show that some combination of Johnson, Carl Edwards, or Greg Biffle battling for the win. Some smart money would also be on Gordon, Dale Jr., or Kevin Harvick, as the Chevy track record is particularly strong.
Talladega is good for a few surprises in the top 10. In recent years, drivers such as Tony Raines, Jeff Green, and Brendan Gaughan all recorded surprisingly good finishes here. One driver to look for is Mike Wallace in a fourth RCR car. Wallace is widely considered one of the best plate racers, and this car could be really good, or really bad. That’s half the fun of sleepers! For those that have taken a chance on my heavy sleepers, first of all, I apologize. This week I’m going to step out on that limb with David Gilliland. He has run well at plate races, and good be racing for a job next year, given that Paul Menard is headed to the Yates team.
In case you didn’t guess by the title of the column, the Talladega theme song is “Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses. Reportedly the long-awaited album Chinese Democracy will be out November 25. Maybe we can get that free Dr Pepper after all.
Photo credit: Icon Sports Media