Race: Aaron’s 499
Date: Sunday April 26th, 2009
Track: Talladega Superspeedway
Time: 1 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom of Predictem.com
Talladega, one of the most celebrated tracks on the circuit, is sure to cause some doom for drivers this weekend. I have a feeling that there is going to be a ‘big one’ along with several other incidents this weekend. Tempers are getting shorter and shorter as the weeks march on, clearly seen by Jr.’s camp this past weekend with the frustration in pit stops and then again with an on-track incident involving Casey Mears.
We come to this particular super speedway twice a year. It boasts a 2.66 mile tri-oval with 16.5 degree banking on the frontstretch, minimal 2 degree banking on the backstretch, and 33 degree banking in the turns. Its 4300 foot frontstretch and comparable 4000 foot backstretch give some drivers speed and some drivers nightmares. It’s one of the tracks where anything is possible, especially because of drafting between teammates and friends.
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This is something that we’re seeing more and more of. Drafting is not only between teammates anymore, it’s between friends, which include longtime friends and friends during the race only. We’ll see the Busch brothers hook up and even see old time friends like Stewart and Jr. or Waltrip together, pushing each other to the front of the pack. The thing about the draft is that the more cars you get lined up together, the faster the line moves. That’s key at these big superspeedways. Guys like Jr., Stewart, and even Gordon know how to use the draft to their advantage.
What I love about Talladega is that there can be six lead changes in one lap. That’s how unpredictable these drafts are and also who can stay steady in line and not catch a quarter panel, wrecking the guy up front. What you really need to watch for here is tire wear. That’s one of the biggest problems you’ll see. Whatever Goodyear brings to the track is what the drivers depend on so much for long green flag runs that you can see in these races. Drivers should be able to go for some long green runs here, but depending on the tire wear, especially the right fronts, pit windows could be shorter or longer than usual. Along with tire wear, that draft is going to be the next big thing to look for. The draft will make or break and driver in terms of winning this race. If a driver uses it properly, he can easily propel himself to the front of the field. If a rookie or someone not quite as experienced gets out of sorts, you can see upwards of 10 guys involved in a wreck with some serious damage. Talladega has been known for its red flag cautions.
Needless to say, this is going to be a great race to watch on Sunday afternoon. Here’s a look at what your top 12 are shaping into because it’s sure to change after this weekend:
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Kurt Busch
4. Tony Stewart
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Clint Bowyer
7. Kyle Busch
8. Carl Edwards
9. David Reutimann
10. Kasey Kahne
11. Jeff Burton
12. Matt Kenseth
My hands-down pick for this weekend is Tony Stewart. He’s
been consistently better than most drivers this year so far. Being that
this is his first year as an owner-driver, that is nothing to sneeze at.
Waltrip’s been at it for a couple years with limited success (if any). It
doesn’t hurt that Stewart is the defending winner of this race either. Running
in a different car than last year can only hinder him so much seeing as
he’s already doing so well with his own equipment, setup, and team this
year. Stewart is hungry for that win, has the talent and potential to do
it, and has proven time and time again that Talladega is a track that he
knows well. I’m looking for the #14 in victory lane this weekend.