Race: Good Sam Club 500
Date: Sunday October 23, 2011
Track: Talladega Superspeedway
Time: 2pm ET
by V. Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper
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Jimmie Johnson had a weekend he’d probably like to forget on Saturday night at Charlotte. Much to his chagrin, Johnson fell victim to the issue many drivers had that night. Loose race cars were the talk of the race. Unfortunately for Johnson, his car got loose under another driver. He chased it up the track, but couldn’t avoid an extremely hard hit. Luckily, he was okay but the same couldn’t be said for the #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet.
This weekend, we are headed to the one and only Talladega superspeedway. This track is going to prove to be another wrench in the Chase if you ask me. While we may see the typical drivers run strong, there’s no telling who’s going to actually see the checkered flag. Much as most don’t expect Johnson to have a DNF, Talladega tends to create the type of environment where this unpredictability is inevitable. The track lends itself to high speeds and a lot of drafting between partners. The name of this game is who’s going to be your friend when you need him? Ironically, we tend to see a lot of teammates not work together.
More often than not, we see drivers work with their past drafting partners from years ago and different style cars. For example, you may see Jr. and Stewart hook up. The thing about drafting is that the style has changed so much recently. When you used to see lines of 10-15 cars hooked up with the old style cars, you now see those pairs of drivers taking off from the rest of the field. Now, some of these guys have tried to run together, but with the exception of a few drivers, it seems like no one has really found their best partner quite yet. It will be interesting to see who runs with who this weekend simply because it’s the end of the season. Drivers are racing for the championship, others are racing for the win, and still others are racing for their rides.
Another interesting side not is that Michael Waltrip, who hasn’t run a full season this year, will be trying to make the field this weekend. Quite frankly, I’m excited to see him run and hope he makes it. If he makes the field, you better believe new hire, Clint Bowyer (for the 2012 season) will be trying to run with Waltrip for some brownie points with his new team.
Regardless, this weekend will prove to be another great race. Talladega is always exciting. Looking at the winners, Johnson is the defending champ from the Spring race, this being his only win for the season thus far. Who I really think Johnson will be chasing, though, besides the wall of course, is Kevin Harvick. Harvick is coming on strong and trying to gain back the points lead. He is extremely close to getting to the top, but he needs to win this weekend to pull ahead from the rest of the guys. Other drivers to watch include Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, and Kyle Busch.
Here are your current top 12 in the standings after a wild night at Charlotte:
1. Carl Edwards
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Matt Kenseth
4. Kyle Busch
5. Tony Stewart
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Kurt Busch
8. Jimmie Johnson
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
10. Ryan Newman
11. Jeff Gordon
12. Denny Hamlin
Unfortunately for those guys from 8th on back, their chances for the Cup are slipping away quickly. The DNF for both Gordon and Johnson drastically decreased their chances while the other drivers have managed to have consistently decent finishes despite difficult days at the track, whether it be bad cars, bad pit stops, etc.
This weekend will prove ultimately who can still hang in there. From 1st to 4th, there’s only an 18 point difference. That being said, all it takes is one DNF to completely wipe out a driver’s season. At this point, there’s quite a race going on between the top drivers.
Virgina’s PIck to Win the Good Sam Club 500: Kevin Harvick.