Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview: Aaron's 499

by Eric McClung on May 2, 2013 @ 12:50:00 PDT

 


The frantic nature of restrictor plate racing is limited to a total of four races on the schedule. Daytona International Speedway holds the season opener and the Independence Day weekend race each year. Talladega Superspeedway, the site of this week's event, hosts a spring race and a fall competition during the Chase. The racing style is very similar across both tracks, but the action at 'Dega is more aggressive and prone to wrecking.

Practice sessions: Friday, May 3, at 1 p.m. EDT, 2:30 p.m. EDT
Qualifying:
Saturday, May 4, at 11:10 a.m. EDT
Race:
Sunday, May 5 at 12 p.m. EDT
Location:
Talladega, Ala.
Shape:
Tri-oval
Length:
2.66 miles
Laps:
188
Turns 1-2:
33 degrees
Turn 3:
32.4 degrees
Turn 4:
32.5 degrees
Front stretch:
16.5 degrees
Back stretch:
2 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

NASCAR driver Tony Stewart
Stewart: forgotten and forgettable?

Earnhardt has led laps in every Talladega race since 2006 and in 24 of his 26 career starts at the site. He is one of only two active drivers to win more than two Talladega races, but he hasn't done it since winning five times in a span of seven starts from 2001 to 2004.

Earnhardt was the runner-up in the Daytona 500 and has scored six finishes inside the top 15 at 'Dega since moving to Hendrick in 2008.

Clint Bowyer | No. 15 5-hour Energy Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

A final-lap crash in last October's Talladega race ruined a streak of five straight finishes of seventh or better at the site for Bowyer. That run is highlighted by a pair of wins in the two previous Chase races. Bowyer is coming off his third top-five in the last four races of this season, which includes runner-up performances at Martinsville Speedway and last week at Richmond International Raceway.

Brad Keselowski | No. 2 Miller Lite Ford | Penske Championship Racing

Keselowski is a two-time winner at Talladega and has finished seventh or better in three straight as the only driver with an active streak of three straight top-10s at the site. He's also the defending champ of this race and started the 2013 season with a fourth-place finish at Daytona. Last week at Richmond, Keselowski battled back from tire problems to get inside the top 10, only to drop laps due to a power issue.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 M&M's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Last year, Busch overcame a short streak of bad luck at Talladega by finishing as the runner-up last spring and third in the fall. Misfortune at both Kansas and Richmond this season put an end to five consecutive top-fives, which included a pair of victories. Rowdy leads all drivers with an average starting position of 5.7 this season but rarely qualifies well at 'Dega.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Safety Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Biffle was a wrecking machine at Talladega for a few years but turned the corner back in 2009. In the eight races since, the Biff has finished seventh or better five times with an average running position of sixth and 10th last year. A broken shock crushed any chance for Biffle to show what he really had at RIR, but he had been solid each week until then.

Matt Kenseth | No. 20 Husky Tools/Home Depot Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

The aforementioned Busch and Kenseth, now teammates, were the only drivers to record a top-five in each Talladega race last year. Kenseth won the fall race with 33 laps led but actually performed better in the spring. He led all drivers with an average running position of third and 73 laps led. He had the best car in the Daytona 500 but lost an engine late in the race. Thanks to two straight poles, Kenseth has led 45 percent of the last two races.

Jeff Burton | No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Burton struggled on a lot of tracks last year but still found success in restrictor plate races. Following a runner-up performance there in the fall of 2011, Burton finished 10th in each Talladega race of 2012. Burton is coming off a fifth-place run at RIR, his best result of the season and first top-five outside a plate track since 2011.

David Ragan | No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford | Front Row Motorsports

In five years as a Roush driver, Ragan sprinkled in some nice finishes on restrictor plate races. Last year's move to Front Row was quite a step down, but he still finished seventh and fourth, respectively, at Talladega. Unfortunately, Ragan has crashed in three straight Daytona races. He's a risky option but among the more interesting bottom-tier options to target.

Temper your expectations

Joey Logano | No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford | Penske Championship Racing

Logano had established himself a solid performer at Talladega with four top-10s in his first five starts but has fallen outside the top 20 in each of the last three. The result from last spring came as a result of a crash, but Logano failed to impress in the other two races as well. He has scored three top-fives in his last five races of 2013 but is far from a safe bet to add another this week.

Tony Stewart | No. 14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Currently 22nd in points, Stewart has been an afterthought practically all season long. During the 10 years he spent at JGR, Stewart won a single 'Dega race and finished as the runner-up six times. However, Smoke has managed only a single top-10 at the site since becoming an owner-driver in 2009.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts.

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