AMP Energy 500 fantasy NASCAR preview

by C.J. Radune on October 2, 2008 @ 14:03:53 PDT

 


Talladega Superspeedway is the other restrictor plate track on the Sprint Cup schedule. How effectively the drivers use the draft is a key to winning. Handling is not as important at Talladega as at Daytona International Speedway, and tire strategy can come into play with decisions to take two tires. Cars race in large packs, creating lanes of cars three and four wide. It is important for cars to be able to run several different lines, as it is hard to tell which lane is going to move the fastest. The best way to pass is to get in the fastest lane and use the draft to get a run. Turn 2 is the most likely place for the "Big One."

Being the only restrictor-plate race in the Chase causes some teams to think of this race as a wild card. Often at Talladega, like Daytona, crashes involving numerous cars can occur midpack and ruin anyone's race. It will be important to stay out of trouble throughout the race and, as always, the safest place is at the front.

Location: Talladega, Ala.
Length: 2.66 miles
Shape: Tri-oval
Banking: Turns 1 and 2: 33 degrees; Turn 3: 32.4 degrees; Turn 4: 32.5 degrees; tri-oval: 16.5 degrees; back straight: 3 degrees

Table: Do not bench

Leading the pack

Jamie McMurray | No. 26 BernzOmatic Fat Boy Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

McMurray put together two fifth-place finishes in his last five Talladega Superspeedway starts. That minor success at Talladega certainly hasn't translated to strong Daytona International Speedway finishes this year, though. While Talladega is a different animal than Daytona, in the three Superspeedway races this season McMurray's average finish is only 25th. Roush Fenway Racing has certainly improved their Superspeedway performance, but it remains to be seen if McMurray can take advantage of that. He has been on the upswing with three top-10 finishes in the last 10 starts, so he will be one to watch in the AMP Energy 500.

Brian Vickers | No. 83 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing

Vickers' average superspeedway finish so far this season is 9.3. His worst restrictor-plate finish this season was 12th-place in the Daytona 500. It is no secret that Toyota has a horsepower advantage, and that pays dividends when the throttle is fully open for the entire lap. Vickers also happens to be the winner of the 2006 UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega. For almost any fantasy roster, Vickers is a solid pick at Talladega. He is a past winner at the track and his Superspeedway program has been respectable in each of the associated 2008 races thus far. Assuming Vickers doesn't get caught in the "Big One" we should expect him to finish in the top-15 if not the top-10.

Kurt Busch | No. 18 Pedigree Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Busch wasn't able to match his strong Daytona finishes at Talladega in the Aaron's 499 earlier in the season. His two Daytona efforts this year have both resulted in top-five finishes while the Talladega outing found him caught in an accident and a finish spot of 39th. Regardless of the car, Busch has always been a fairly strong driver on restrictor-plate tracks. His Talladega results have been impressive. He racked up seven straight top-10 finishes, with three top-fives thrown in, before the 39th-place finish earlier this year. Busch is usually a good choice on a superspeedway and that is especially true at Talladega.

Ryan Newman | No. 12 Samsung HDTV/Alltel Dodge | Penske Racing

Newman has a win and another top-10 finish in three superspeedway starts this season. He also finished in the top 10 in his past three starts at Talladega. Even though he is enduring a difficult second half of the season, he still makes for strong competition on a superspeedway. He is currently 15th in points and hasn't bagged a top-10 finish in the last 10 races. He may be due for a good result this weekend. His average finish in his last five Talladega starts is 13.6, and that is not a number fantasy owners should ignore. There is the potential that Newman could add to his six 2008 top-10 finishes this weekend.

Elliott Sadler | No. 19 McDonald's Dodge | Gillett Evernham Motorsports

It has been six Talladega starts since Sadler found his way into the top 10. He endured a rough trip to Daytona in July, but started the year off with a top-10 finish in the Daytona 500. Sadler has always been a good racer at restrictor-plate tracks but just hasn't put together the finishes to prove it. Dodge has been a major factor at the superspeedways in 2008 and that is good news for Sadler who is looking to end the season in good form. Look for Sadler to be among the top runners Sunday, and maybe he can work out another top-10 superspeedway finish.

Drivers to keep an eye on

David Ragan | No. 6 AAA Travel Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Ragan added a top-10 finish to his 2008 totals last weekend in the Camping World RV 400 after four straight races outside the top 10. He regained the 13th "best of the rest" spot in points and could be on a new streak. He has been fairly consistent this season and, while superspeedway races can be a toss up, Ragan has two top-five finishes on them in three tries this year. The lone result that wasn't a top-five, the Daytona 500, was due to an accident. Ragan could be a dark horse in this weekend's AMP Energy 500.

Juan Pablo Montoya | No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge | Chip Ganassi Racing

Montoya finished second in his last trip to Talladega in the Aaron's 499. He led one lap but ended up pushing eventual winner Kyle Busch to the finish. Montoya has definitely improved his skills on superspeedways, even though they were never bad to begin with. His two 2008 Daytona outings have been races to forget with both finishes worse than 30th. This would be a good weekend for Montoya and team to give Chip Ganassi Racing's NASCAR outfit something to smile about. He has the package to do it, if he can make the right calls, he could be there at the end.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet | Dale Earnhardt Inc.

It is usually a safe bet to include a Dale Earnhardt Inc. driver in any fantasy lineup at Talladega. Truex, aside from part-timer Mark Martin, has been the leader this season in the DEI machinery. Both Martin and teammate Paul Menard will not be at DEI next year, so Truex really is looking like the team leader. While he hasn't really stretched his legs at either track in the three attempts so far this season, he has done it in the past. He has one top-five and two top-10 finishes in six career Talladega starts and should be able to manage a top-10 in the AMP Energy 500.

Scott Riggs | No. 66 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet | Haas CNC Racing

Riggs only made two of the three superspeedway starts this season, the Daytona 500 and the Aaron's 499. Neither result was a top-10, but they were both in the top 20, which is relatively successful for an under funded team that is changing ownership at the end of the season. Riggs has Hendrick Motorsports engine power under the hood and can hang in there with the top guns of NASCAR Sprint Cup when running in the superspeedway packs. He hasn't been able to chalk up a top-10 finish yet this season, but could work his way into a comfortable top-15 finish in the AMP Energy 500 as he continues to try and impress future employers as it looks like he will not be at Stewart Haas Racing in 2009.

Michael McDowell | No. 00 Champion Mortgage Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

McDowell was one driver a lot of people thought would make a big splash in NASCAR Sprint Cup. His best finish in 20 career Cup starts is 20th in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400. He will have the strong Toyota engine in his car, and while he has yet to show it in Cup, he can run with the big dogs. If things go his way, he could be in store for a great finish at Talladega. Avoiding the "Big One" and having a bit of luck could provide McDowell with his first taste of the top 15 in Cup.

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About C.J. Radune

Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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