We have six races left in the 2022 Nascar Cup Series season. Six races to crown a champion. Six is another big number for a few reasons this weekend. This is the sixth and final super speedway style race of the year. This is the NASCAR Playoffs and this is Talladega.
The first race of the round of 12 crashed to a finish at Texas Motor Speedway last week. A race full of blown tires and chaos which ultimately led to a Tyler Reddick win. Reddick’s win made him the 4 straight non-playoff driver to win a race in the playoffs. Now, we have the biggest question mark of the playoffs, Talladega Superspeedway. Opening in 1969, over the decades Talladega has created some of the most exciting and memorable moments in NASCAR history. Iconic finishes like Jimmie Johnson edging Clint Bowyer by .002 of a second. Ron Bouchard’s three-wide win. Spectacular crashes like Carl Edwards in 2009 or Chris Buescher in 2016. Dale Earnhardt’s comeback in 2000, or the record setting lead changes in one race in 2010. Talladega always has something for everyone. However, many know Talladega for the Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Hopefully we don’t need help from Tom Cruise this weekend for the fifth race of the Playoffs.
Speaking of crashes, the “Big One” will strike. The “Big One” in the past has wiped out up to half of the field. In the most recent super-speedway race at Daytona, the big one left less than 10 cars competing for the win. When the crash occurs it is almost guaranteed that playoff drivers will be involved.
So, who are the favorites for this race, who is in trouble of missing the Round of 8, and who may spoil the show, and who are the underdogs?
The last race at ‘Dega saw Ross Chastain take the win. That was also the last time the Melon Man took the checkered flag. Chastain has proved himself over his career that he is a great super speedway racer, but personally, I see his teammate being the favorite. Daniel Suarez has had a great playoffs so far grabbing stage points throughout the last 4 races Suarez has 4 straight Top 20 finishes. I think that Talladega will be Suarez’s track on Sunday and that he will win and advance to the Round of 8.
As for his teammate, Chastain will still have a target on his back from his actions in the regular season. Also, with Chastain’s aggressive driving style he could get wrapped up in the Big One. So, I think Chastain will not make it to the end of this race and after the ROVAL will be eliminated from the Round of 8.
My second and third picks in this one would be Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin. Both of these drivers have won 3+ races on super-speedways. Denny won this race just last year and Blaney has two wins on Talladega’s oval. I see the 12 and the 11 being major contenders for the win. Also if Blaney wins he would be the 20th winner of the season, breaking the NASCAR record for most winners in a season.
Now, who's the underdog? We started this article off talking about the number 6. The driver of the 6 car also has six wins at Talladega. Brad Keselowksi is the underdog pick of the weekend. I see him being a playoff spoiler this weekend, plus with RFK’s recent hot streak expect the 6 car to run up front. Also, expect Michael McDowell to continue a great season with another strong Top 5 finish at Talladega. Finally, Corey Lajoie always has speed at super-speedways, so don’t count him out.
The YellaWood 500 will be on October 2nd at 2PM EST on NBC. You can also listen to the race on MRN (Motor Racing Network). Tune into this week's episode of the INDY BOYS: Racing Podcast to hear their predictions for who will win. New episodes come out every Thursday at 7PM EST.
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