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Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500

By Eric McClung

The Chase event at Talladega Superspeedway is the fourth and final restrictor plate race on the schedule. The only other plate track, Daytona International Speedway, holds the season opener and Independence Day race. 'Dega is the more intense of the two and is the lone wild card race in the postseason. The remaining six races are spent at four 1.5-mile tracks and a pair of flat tracks.

Practice sessions: Friday, Oct. 5 at 1:30 pm EDT, 3:00 pm EDT
Qualifying:
Saturday, Oct. 6 at 11:15 am EDT
Race:
Sunday, Oct. 7 at 1:00 pm EDT
Location:
Talladega, Ala.
Shape: Tri-oval
Length: 2.66 miles
Laps: 188
Turns 1-2: 33 degrees
Turn 3: 32.4 degrees
Turn 4: 32.5 degrees
Frontstretch: 16.5 degrees
Backstretch: 2 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Brad Keselowski | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

In addition to winning two of the last three Chase races Keselowski has finished inside the top 10 in 12 of the last 13 events of the season. Keselowski won the May race at Talladega, his second career win at the site, after finishing fourth in the 'Dega Chase last year. The Blue Deuce heads into this race week as the car to beat on the track and in the standings.

Clint Bowyer | No. 15 5-Hour Energy benefiting Avon Foundation for Women Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Since 2010 Bowyer has won a pair of races at Talladega and has not finished worse than seventh in all five starts. Bowyer has been just as sharp lately with four straight top-10s sparked by his second win of the season. The move to MWR has been an instant success for Bowyer and has him lurking in the championship hunt.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Even though Earnhardt hasn't won at Talladega since 2004 he continues to run well at the site. Since loop data was introduced the following year Earnhardt's average running position of 14.8 is the best among all drivers. Back in May he finished ninth, giving him five finishes of 13th or better at 'Dega.

Martin Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

From 2005-09 Truex suffered eight DNFs in 10 'Dega races. In the next four starts he finished inside the top 15 with a pair of top-10 finishes. Back in May, however, Truex crashed out in his only DNF of the season. He continues to post consistent results with nine finishes of 11th or better over his the last 11 races.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 M&M's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

The runner-up performance in May was only the third top-10 for Busch at Talladega since winning in the spring of 2008. Many of the finishes in between were disappointments but Busch posted a solid average running position more often than not. Last week, Rowdy dominated at Dover Raceway but couldn't make it on fuel and settled for seventh. Despite not making the Chase, Busch has now finished seventh or better in five of the last eight races.

Joey Logano | No. 20 The Home Depot Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Very quietly Logano has notched a top-10 in all three Chase races thus far. Even though Logano crashed at 'Dega in May he's one of only four drivers to record a top-10 finish in both Daytona races this season. In seven career starts at Talladega, Logano owns a pair of top-fives and four top-10s.

Jeff Burton | No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Last year Burton only totaled two top-five finishes, one coming in the Chase at Talladega. This year Burton owns just two top-fives, both coming at Daytona, and three top-10s, including one at Talladega. The last two seasons have been large disappointments for Burton but plate races continue to be his lone stronghold.

Michael Waltrip | No. 55 Charlie Loudermilk Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

In the last three restrictor plate races Waltrip has a top-10 finish at both Daytona and 'Dega. Back in May he finished 19th due to a late wreck after leading 21 laps and posting an impressive average running position of 11th.

Temper your expectations

Jeff Gordon | No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

After wrecking in the first Chase event Gordon has finished third and second, respectively, the last two weeks. Over the last six races of the season, Gordon has an incredible five podium finishes. However, in the past 19 restrictor plate races Gordon owns just four top-10 finishes despite some excellent qualifying efforts.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Even though he's the 2008 Daytona 500 champion Newman is no fan of plate racing. Prior to a fifth-place result in the July race at DIS, Newman had finished 20th or worse in 13 straight restrictor plate races.



 


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