The first four races of NASCAR’s playoffs have seen only Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr win, but that should change on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway where all 40 drivers have a legitimate chance of winning. It’s restrictor-plate racing and it’s the second race in the Round of 12.
The first Talladega race in May saw Ricky Stenhouse Jr. win the first race of his career and the next plate race at Daytona in July he won as well. Roush Fenway cars have been very good in plate races the past few years, but Stenhouse has taken control as the elite plate racer. If he can win again, he’ll get himself an automatic berth into the next round of eight.
What makes this race on the mammoth 2.66-mile high banked layout so special is because of the randomness. It’s a wild card race for the top drivers and their championship dreams can be shattered quickly. If Busch or Truex get caught up in wreck here, their championship dreams are crushed. And it’s so possible. No driver is safe here.
The drivers I’ll be rooting for this week are Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski. The first win of Keselowski’s career came at Talladega in 2008 as a part-time driver for an underfunded team. He’s won four times at Talladega, the last coming in the spring of 2016. Hamlin won at Talladega in 2014 and has been one of the best plate racers the past four seasons.
The sentimental side of me wants Dale Earnhardt Jr. to finally win in his last season. He’s won six times at Talladega, the last coming in 2015. Come on Junior. You got six races left, and this is your best chance to make it happen.