Talladega Story Lines
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on May 4, 2014 | 7:04 A.M. EST
David Ragan led a 1-2 finish for Front Row Motorsports last year at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
TALLADEGA, Ala. - Today is special for some NASCAR drivers.
It is a day of hope.
Most weekends they know their chances of winning are slim but when the series comes to Talladega Superspeedway - where it is today - or Daytona International Speedway, their chances of a good finish or even a win increase.
They all think that maybe today is the day they’re David Ragan.
A year ago, Ragan entered this race 30th in the points and had finished no better than 20th in the first nine races of the season. He left Talladega a winner, leading teammate David Gilliland to a 1-2 finish.
With NASCAR’s new way of making the Chase, a win today could get an underdog team a spot in the Chase.
Ragan says he expects such a team to make the Chase this season.
“I think you look at AJ Allmendinger, Casey Mears – they’ve been running a lot better this year – even look at the Petty cars, Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola,’’ Ragan said. “Look at our team, you look at Tommy Baldwin’s guys, Reed Sorenson had a shot to win the Daytona 500 this year. Yes, there will be one, maybe two cars, that will benefit from the new changes and will make the Chase. Absolutely.’’
Maybe Ragan can repeat. He’s scored four consecutive top-10 finishes at Talladega. If you want to look at history, he enters this weekend 31st in the points with no finish better than 27th.
Maybe today will be his day. Or maybe it will be the day for some other underdog.
That’s just among the story lines for today’s race.
The points leader has more restrictor-plate wins (12) than any other active Cup driver. However, Gordon’s last plate win came in 2007 - 25 races ago.
Gordon has been strong all season, finishing no worse than 13th. He’s placed second in two of the last three races. He also finished fourth in the season-opening Daytona 500. He knows how to run these races. Will he return to Victory Lane today?
This doesn’t seem to be place Kasey Kahne would want to be with the way his season has gone so far.
Kahne has finished no better than eighth this season and has not scored a top-10 finish in the past five races.
“I feel like what we have is OK, it’s just a matter of looking at things the right way,’’ Kahne said. “The cars are a little bit different and we just haven’t been able to put it all together yet.’’
Making his plight more challenging is that he’ll start 42nd after his qualifying time was disallowed because his car did not meet minimum weight. Considering that he’s winless in 41 career races on a restrictor-plate track and has only three top-10 finishes in last 14 starts at Talladega, the question is if he can change his luck today.
The Big One
When, where and who will it collect? Almost as sure as the sun comes up is the likelihood of a multi-car crash at Talladega. It’s just a matter who avoids it and who gets collected. It struck in Saturday’s Nationwide race and lurks today.
The transition to stock cars has been challenging but Patrick has had some of her best moments in restrictor-plate races.
Could today be a good day for her?
“I don’t think you really quite know until you get going, but I think we’re going to be fine,’’ she said.
Last year, the pack aligned single file and few cars moved out of line to make a move for the lead. The key is having enough cars to build momentum to make a move. The question is if the same thing will happen today or if the finish will be as wild as it has been in other years.
Motor Racing Network – "The Voice of NASCAR" – will have live coverage of Sunday's Aaron's 499 from Talladega Superspeedway at noon (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.
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