Camping World 500 Preview
October 21, 2015
By Micah Roberts
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You couldn't ask for a better track for an elimination race of the Chase than Talladega's super badass 2.66-mile layout. We can throw out all the 1.5-mile certainty nonsense where the same group of drivers consistently finish in the top-five because this beast of a track makes everyone almost equal. The edge is gone for the elite teams.
Talladega is a more about drivers getting lucky mixed in with a little of their own skill. Everyone's goal is to just stay out of trouble long enough to avoid the big one and some have a penchant for being better at it than others, but it still is really just a crap shoot.
Four drivers will have their heads on the Chase chopping block and will be eliminated from Championship contention will eight drivers will advance to the Eliminator Round, where after three more sets of races, only four will be left standing the Championship Race at Homestead.
So far, only Joey Logano has qualified by virtue of winning in this Contender Round. In fact, he's won both races so far which puts the 11 other contenders in a tough spot.
Some, like Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards are positioned better than others while others like Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth are outside looking in as the bottom four. Still, none of those 11 drivers are safe as the Talladega beast looms and doesn't care where anyone sits in points.
We're going to see a lot of drivers currently sitting in the top-eight in points play it safe early on while those outside looking in are going to need to spice things up a bit to keep their season alive. The four drivers outside looking right now are all compelling stories.
Kyle Busch is six points out of eighth-place, and while we've never seen him perfrom well in the Chase, I think everyone was on board with him faring well this season after winning four races during a five-race stretch that ended in July. He hasn't won since, and he may be feeling the pressure a little at Talladega where he does have a win, but his average finish position is 22.3.
Ryan Newman is eight points out of eighth-place as he looks to advance just like last season. Just like last year, he hasn't won a race on the season, but he's been playing it smart and using the rules wisely. Newman has never won at Talladega, but has finished seventh and fifth in the his last two starts there. A similar performance Sunday could see him advance to the next round.
We've never seen Dale Earnhardt Jr. win a Champiosnhip -- his Daddy won seven times, but with Talladega being the turn race into the next round, we could see him get there just because of his past dominance at Talladega and winning two of the three restrictor-plate races on the season. His won at Talladega in May -- his sixth win there -- and then won at Daytona in July. It's his only two wins on the season. He should be consisdered the favorite to win on Sunday. He's 21-points out of eighth-place and likely needs a win to advance or a crazy amount of help.
Matt Kenseth is 25-points out of eighth-place and has to still be fuming due to an over-zealous Joey Logano wrecking him late at Kansas while he was leading. Sure, you always go for the win, but with Logano having things sewn up to advance to the next round, you'd think he'd be a little less aggressive. Logano was racing like he had to win to advance. This will hurt him down the road in the next round and some of the veterans will look to teach him some respect.
Anyways, Kenseth wasn't a good plate racer early in his career, but has been outstanding over the past six seasons. He grabbed a win at Talladega in 2012 and then was runner-up in this race last fall. With the stakes so high, and Kenseth being close to Earnhardt Jr.'s equal in this race, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Kenseth and Earnhardt Jr. bumping and banging down the stertch for the win.
I'll stick with that scenario this week just because I hope it happens. Brad Keselowski, who won this race last season, will be right there as well. He's a three-time winner at Talladega, which includes his first career Cup win in 2009 while driving for a part-time team.
As always with the plate races, stay away from match-ups unless getting +115 or higher, and it usually doesn't matter who the driver is. Odds to win is still a crap shoot, but you you can mix in six drivers at all different stages on the odds board and find yourself getting lucky and showinga profit.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (8/1)
2) #20 Matt Kenseth (10/1)
3) #2 Brad Keselowski (10/1)
4) #48 Jimmie Johnson (10/1)
5) #24 Jeff Gordon (12/1)
Eliminator Round Clinch Scenarios – Talladega Superspeedway
Eleven drivers looking to fill seven spots. Scenarios for each driver listed below.
Denny Hamlin: 14th and no laps led; 15th and at least one lap led; 16th and most laps led
Kurt Busch: 8th and no laps led; 9th and at least one lap led; 10th and most laps led
Carl Edwards: 7th and no laps led; 8th and at least one lap led; 9th and most laps led
Kevin Harvick: 3rd and no laps led; 4th with a lap led
Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski: 2nd or better; 3rd and at least one lap led; 4th and most laps led
Martin Truex Jr.: 2nd and no laps led; 3rd and the most laps led
Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth only control their own destiny with a win.