Aaron’s 499 Picks – Race Analysis

Race: Aaron’s 499
Date: Sunday May 6, 2012
Track: Talladega Superspeedway
Time: 12 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com

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From the short track of Richmond, Virginia to the super speedway of Talladega, Alabama, we are in for a treat this weekend! We are headed to one of the fastest tracks on the circuit. Kyle Busch swept his fourth spring race at Richmond in a row. He’s hoping to carry that momentum into this much different track this weekend. My pick, Denny Hamlin, came in a respectable 4th, but no one had anything for Busch at the end of the race.

Talladega is extremely large when compared to Richmond. In fact, Talladega is more than 3.5 times bigger than Richmond. At 2.66 miles, it gives us some of the fastest speeds, thereby requiring those restrictor plates to keep these cars on the tracks and the drivers safe. This track has a 4300 foot frontstretch and a 4000 foot backstretch. There is 33 degree banking in the turns, 16.5 degrees on the frontstretch and 2 degrees on the backstretch.

While track position played a large role at Richmond, look for it to do the same at Talladega, but not for the same reasons. At Talladega, it’s important to stay with the main pack. If they get away from a driver, it is virtually impossible to get a lap back at this track. Drivers just get so far ahead. On the other hand, it’s much easier to make repairs or come in for a green flag pit without the fear of going a lap down because there’s a lot more ground to cover than at the mile track of Richmond. It can be a double-edged sword with the respect to track position. While there’s a need to stay up front to not get too far behind, it is often a good idea to cruise in the back or middle of the pack to avoid the wrecks that happen here.

Short tracks are good for many wrecks, but these super speedways are good for awesome wrecks. We’ve seen cars barrel roll, fly upside down, and even lose their entire body leaving only a roll cage exposed. Because of the high speeds at this track, there is a lot more damage that can happen. If you wreck at Talladega, you can essentially count yourself out of the running, which is another difference between here and the short tracks. Because of the speeds and the magnitude of the crashes, cars are destroyed here. At short tracks, drivers can often beat and bang and still end up in victory lane.

When we talk potential winners, we have to take note of the obvious strong super speedway drivers. Perhaps the strongest super speedway driver out there right now is Tony Stewart. Out of all of the drivers, he’s got a great record and a good shot this weekend. Let us not forget about Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson who both have wins here and have the potential to do very well this weekend. Unfortunately for those guys, I am giving the win to Jr. nation this weekend. Dale Jr. has been superb and has really clicked with his team this year. I really feel like this track is going to get him back into victory lane. If he can stay out of the wrecks and find good drafting buddies, Jr. should get his first win in quite a while. Here’s the complete rundown of my picks this weekend:

My Pick to Win: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Middle of the Road Pick: Brad Keselowski
Dark Horse Pick: Aric Almirola

Keselowski needs to prove a point this weekend and start putting together some consistent runs. This is a good place to start. Aric Almirola is driving for Petty and if anyone can run at Talladega, give it to Richard Petty.

Ultimately, the most important thing about this track is to stay out of the wrecks. They are going to be inevitable and detrimental to anyone involved. If the drivers can keep their fenders clean and all 4 tires on the track, then they can expect a solid finish. Stay tuned as we head to one of the most exciting and unpredictable races of the season at Talladega!

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