Restrictor plate racing often gives us surprise winners. Trevor Bayne and David Ragan did it most recently in winning the two races at Daytona in 2011. Both drivers earned their first career wins in those races and to this date, those are still their only Sprint Cup wins.
In 2009, Brad Keselowski gave us a sleeper win in earning his first career win and the only win for the James Finch’s Sprint Cup Series program. It was an underdog team that ended up in victory lane at the end of the day.
This weekend, all the attention is going to be on the Chase drivers and who can escape Talladega still in the points hunt. Many will point to restrictor plate racing being such a wild card and trying to survive the “big one.”
These five drivers might be able to fly under the radar and come out with a win.
Burton has been running decently as of late and has a solid chance of earning his first win of the season this weekend. Since this race in the 2008 season, Burton has finished in the top 10 in five of eight Talladega races. He’s also led at least one lap here in every race since April of 2008.
Would you believe that out of all 44 drivers entered for this weekend’s race, Burton has the top driver rating of 90.7? He’s raced at ‘Dega 37 times and has an average finish of 18.2. He’s also run just over half of his laps in the top 15, which is remarkable.
RCR always has a good plate program and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Burton’s No. 31 on top of the scoring pylon after the checkered flag.
David Ragan could easily steal a win at Talladega and surprise people. He’s good on restrictor plate tracks and scored his one and only career win at one. In 11 career races at Talladega, Ragan ranks fourth in driver rating out of the entire series with a 87.0 rating. He has an average finish of 17.1 and has run 53.3 percent of his laps in the top 15.
Ragan’s team also always has good plate programs. Front Row Motorsports always seems to have a car in the top 10 and battling for top-5′s near the end of the race in Daytona and Talladega. Look at the good runs teammate David Gilliland has had with these cars at plate tracks.
Ragan is good with restrictor plates and with Front Row Motorsports always supplying good plate equipment, Ragan could come out victorious.
This has been a season to forget for McMurray. He sits deep in the points and has not been a factor for a win all season. One thing he does know is how to run well in restrictor plate races. He’s won at Daytona twice and Talladega once. He nearly won a few years ago for a second time, but was narrowly beat by Kevin Harvick at the stripe.
McMurray has 20 career starts at Talladega and knows his way around. What better place to turn his season around than ‘Dega. EGR always has good plate cars, but bad luck usually strikes. If Juan Pablo Montoya and McMurray can work together all race, then they will be a factor. Just hope they don’t lose their drafting partner early in an incident.
Regan Smith should have won this race a few years ago but he was disqualified for going below the out of bounds line in the tri-oval on the last lap. I think he will try to get redemption in his final race with Furniture Row Racing this weekend.
FRR is going forward with Kurt Busch starting next weekend in Charlotte. Smith doesn’t have any plans yet for 2013, so he knows this could be his last audition for a good ride. He’s usually strong on restrictor plate tracks and has extra motivation to run well this weekend.
If Smith could get a good drafting partner, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him steal a win away from the Chase guys on Sunday.
It seems to be a far long shot to see Dave Blaney win a race this season, but Talladega would be the place he could do it. He has run great at all the restrictor plate races this season and Tommy Baldwin Racing usually bring a good plate program.
Don’t forget, Blaney was in the driver’s seat to win the Daytona 500 back in February if they couldn’t get the track repaired at the end of the race, so he’s not a fluke to be up front on restrictor plate races. And the other drivers know it, including Tony Stewart, who has been known to draft with Blaney on numerous occasions.
I can see Blaney getting help near the end of the race and getting pushed to a victory. He usually runs up front all race in Talladega and is around in the end. If he can avoid the “big one” and get help from another driver searching for a drafting partner at the end, Blaney could win.
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