Well, we roll on to Alabama today in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. Everyone knows the history, the wrecks, and the success at Talladega so I will save my speech this week and roll on to last week’s recap and a quick craps shoot as to who will win this thing.
I picked Kyle Busch early on last week, and with Kyle showing so much speed throughout the practice sessions and qualifying the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in the eighth starting spot, I was looking pretty good for a win. Busch battled a loose racing condition through the first quarter of the 400-lap race, but still managed to pull into the top five. With each pit stop, the M&Ms crew was able to make improvements and Kyle would take the lead just past the half way point. Busch remained in the top 10 until lap 325 when the No. 14 of Tony Stewart got loose, collecting Jimmie Johnson and eventually Kyle Busch in the process. The M&Ms crew would repair damage to the front end of the car, but it was not enough to put the No. 18 back in the top 10. Kyle brought his damaged racecar home in 24th.
As for my Dark Horse last week, I chose another Joe Gibbs racing car, but Matt Kenseth would not have been a Dark Horse last week because of the season he has been having so far this season. It was the No. 11 car, driven last week by Brian Vickers as Denny Hamlin was not cleared by doctors to make his comeback last week from the compression fracture injury in his spine. Again, going into Saturday Night’s race, the No. 11 FedEx Delivery Manager Toyota looked like a solid Dark Horse. The JGR Toyota was fast in all practice sessions, and would start the race on the outside of the front row. Though he ran in the top 10 for the majority of the first half of the race, but when trying to make the car faster around the midway point, the car did not respond to adjustments. Vickers struggled back in traffic, being shown outside the top 20 in the latter half of the race. An incident with 80 laps to go involving Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin would finish off Vickers chances of winning last week, and my hopes of bringing home a solid Dark Horse finish. Vickers finished in 35th.
Well, it’s more of a craps shoot this week as far as who will win the race later this afternoon….but I have a couple cars in mind who have history on their side today at the world’s fastest racetrack.
In April of 2009, Brad Kesolowski pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR history to earn his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. He pushed Carl Edwards towards the front from fifth with just two laps to go. Coming out of turn four with the checkered flag waiving, Kesolowski and Edwards were one and two. When Edwards came to the bottom of the tri-oval, in an effort to block the Finch Racing Chevy, driven by Kesolowski, the Michigan-Native stood his ground and eventually put Edwards into the outside catch fence. It was one of the more spectacular finishes in Talladega history, and even more meaningful because it was the start of Kesolowski’s breakout in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. Since his first win in his first start at Talladega in April of 2009, Kesolowski has finished outside the top 10 just twice in 7 races, and is also the defending race-winner. He was fastest in Happy Hour on Friday and will start the Blue Deuce in the 11th starting spot. Kesolowski has earned the respect of fellow drivers through his solid finishes on the restrictor-plate tracks, and he will have help when he breaks out of line in the final laps this afternoon.
Dark Horse Pick
She’s not really a Dark Horse because of her success at Speedweeks at Daytona in February, but Danica Patrick is a massive underdog yet again this week. She became the first female to claim a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pole, the first female to lead a green-flag lap in NASCAR history, and the first female to lead the Daytona 500 all at the other restrictor-plate track in Florida earlier this season. If there are any tracks Danica is comfortable on, it’s the restrictor-plate tracks because of her career in the Indy Racing League. She’s used to the flat out pack-style drafting and is comfortable in the car on these types of tracks. My only fear this week with the No. 10 team is if she will have help on the final laps of today’s Aaron’s 499. We saw her make a move in the late stages of February’s Daytona 500, but no driver would come to her rescue when she stepped out of line. It’s a long shot for Danica today, but the restrictor-plate tracks are the best shot she has of visiting Victory Lane this season.
That’s all for this Sunday edition of Matty’s picks, so until we head to Darlington…You Stay Classy NASCAR NATION!