Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 Picks

Race: Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500
Date: Sunday October 7, 2012
Track: Talladega Superspeedway
Time: 1 pm ET
By Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper,

For a while there, I thought Jimmie Johnson was going to take the win Sunday at Dover. It turns out Brad Keselowski drove his way to the front and stayed there despite a charging Jeff Gordon. Gordon made a good run at him, but there just wasn’t enough time to catch and pass Keselowski. I need to throw out some special kudos to Mark Martin driving for MWR too. He did an awesome job and could’ve potentially won the race given a few more laps. His car was fast, and he was clearly charging to the front passing everyone in a hurry.

Martin is going to need to hold up that momentum. We are going to Talladega this weekend! This track is nothing short of awesome. With the speed, the drafting, and the unpredictability, it’s really anyone’s race. There are always a few strong drivers here, but so much comes down to who can stay out of the wrecks, especially the “big one”.

Talladega is a superspeedway. It is one of only 2 on the circuit and it is fast. This restrictor-plate track is a 2.66 mile tri-oval. It has 33 degree banking in the turns, 16.5 degrees on the frontstretch, and 2 degrees on the backstretch. The frontstretch is a whopping 4300 feet while the backstretch is just a hair shorter at 4000 feet. These guys can flat-out go at this track. Reaching speeds exceeding 200 mph on multiple parts of the track is the norm here.

The key to Talladega is simply to stay out of trouble. The biggest issue is getting involved in any sort of accident or altercation that will take away from the integrity of aerodynamics on a driver’s car. Keeping the car clean is the most important aspect of this race. Aside from that, tires are semi-important, but not nearly as important as what we saw last weekend at Dover. Here at Talladega, guys need to stay clean and stay in the draft. Getting out of the draft is the number one way to destroy your chances of winning here. If you get out of the draft and get passed, getting that lap back is extremely hard.

When it comes to picking the winner here, it’s almost like blindly throwing chips onto the table. The secret is knowing the drivers strengths and their current running history. It’s going to be hard to bet against Brad Keselowski this weekend, for example. He’s coming off a win at Dover and is also the winner from the Spring race here. Aside from the Spring win, he has an additional win from April of 2009. Historically, he’s strong here. Some other names to throw in the pot are Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. Johnson and Stewart are both competing for the championship, so it is inevitable that they will be driving as hard as they can. They have a combined 3 wins here. Here’s the rundown of your potential winners for Talladega this weekend:

My Pick to Win: Brad Keselowski
Middle of the Road Pick: Jamie McMurray
Dark Horse Pick: Marcos Ambrose

Jamie McMurray has a win here and performs very well at the bigger tracks. Marcos Ambrose is a bit of stretch, but the more he runs, the better he gets. Ambrose needs more seat time at these types of tracks and I believe that he will only get better and better.

Let’s take a look at your current top 12 after Dover:

1. Brad Keselowski
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Clint Bowyer
5. Tony Stewart
6. Kasey Kahne
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8. Martin Truex Jr.
9. Kevin Harvick
10. Jeff Gordon
11. Greg Biffle
12. Matt Kenseth

Gordon moved up into the top 10 after Dover, but he’s got a long road ahead of him. Keselowski is only 5 points ahead of Johnson. I think that Talladega is going to throw a wrench in this game for someone though. This track is so unpredictable. Theoretically, it’s not far-fetched to think that half of the Chase contenders could be wiped out with 1 wreck. Stay tuned to see if it happens!