Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Preview

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is gearing up to make its first of multiple trips to one of the most action filled race tracks in the sport. Talladega Superspeedway – the longest track on the NASCAR circuit is known for madness thanks in part to a rare layout which includes 33 degrees of banking in the corners.

After an incredible Daytona 500, NASCAR’s Generation Six has shown that it is capable of running great races, but under the right circumstances. The Daytona 500 started out with pack racing, but then the cars were single-file until the rain came. However, once the cars got back going in the evening hours, there was never a dull moment as the racing was extremely intense.

Talladega hopes to replicate the second portion of the Great American Race, creating enthusiasm after having the pair of races at the speedway that were below standards for the standards which have been set by fans.

This weekend, 47 cars will be competing for 43 spots at a track where making the race might be extremely difficult. With the new qualifying format in place for the first time at a restrictor plate in the Sprint Cup Series, drivers might race in packs. However, the Nationwide Series set a standard for group qualifying when the season opened at Daytona. Those drivers went onto the track in a single-file line with their teammates and/or members of the same manufacturer. Although it was chaotic at first, it went rather smoothly and created much interest in group qualifying. This is a key reason as to why FOX has moved Cup Series qualifying from Fox Sports 1 to FOX.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. enters the Aaron’s 499 as a favorite to win the race after winning his first restrictor plate race since Talladega back in 2004 – the same season which he won his first career Daytona 500. If history repeats itself this weekend, it would be Earnhardt Jr.’s ninth career victory on a superspeedway in NASCAR’s top-tier division. However, since he is seemingly locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, it is likely that he will use the strategy of hanging out towards the back of the pack until late in the event.

Last year’s winner of the Aaron’s 499, David Ragan, enters this race weekend with hopes of repeating his monumental victory. Ragan and his Front Row Motorsports team showed that just about anyone can win at Talladega if they are near the front at the conclusion of the race. With the level of competition nearing a climax, teams like Front Row Motorsports might just pull into victory lane once again on Sunday afternoon.

“Our team is focus on a ‘Double Down’ of our own – repeating last year’s win at Talladega – this time with KFC on board,” Ragan said. “We’re excited about again contending for a Talladega win.”

After an extremely strong start to the race season, Jeff Gordon is bound to compete for a win at Talladega. Even though Gordon is historically one of the sport’s best drivers at the restrictor plate tracks, he has had some unfortunate luck at NASCAR’s largest oval. Since 2008, Gordon has just three top-10 finishes in 12 races at Talladega along with only 42 laps led. However, there is something different about Gordon this year that might help him enter victory lane for the first time this year at a track which he has scored seven victories at.

Along with Gordon, there are several notable drivers which have yet to win this year including – Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and other top competitors. This might be their chance to give themselves a greater chance at earning a spot in NASCAR’s version of the playoffs.

Here are some notables:

-          Terry Labonte is making his second start of the year in the No. 32 car for Go Fas Racing.

-          Eric McClure will be making his second attempt of the season in the No. 35 car for Front Row Motorsports. McClure finished 23rd in the second Budweiser Duel at Daytona – missing the Daytona 500.

-          Joe Nemechek moves over to the No. 87 Toyota as Michael Waltrip will be racing his No. 66 car this weekend.

-          J.J. Yeley moves back to the No. 44 Chevrolet now that his Xxxtreme Motorsport team has obtained the points from the No. 30 car which was formerly Swan Racing.

-          Josh Wise will be sponsored by Doge Coin this weekend via fans donating money to sponsor him through Reddit.

-          Brian Scott is entered in a fourth Richard Childress Racing car this weekend in the No. 33. When not a RCR entry, the No. 33 car is run by Joe Falk.

-          Trevor Bayne is back in the No. 21 Ford this weekend, attempting to make his fourth start of the year.

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Joseph Wolkin

Joseph Wolkin (@JosephNASCAR) is a sophomore at the Queensborough Community College as an English major. He’s a native of Whitestone, NY, just outside of New York City, and has been attempting to find roots of motorsports within his area since 2004. He started out as just a fan, but over the course of his high school career, he ended up falling in love with writing.

Joseph has been covering NASCAR since 2011 for several different websites. Recently, he was named as one of two lead NASCAR columnists for Rant Sports after working for the site for over one year. Working with Rant Sports for approximately 14 months, Joseph has covered New York City area sports teams such as the New York Giants, New York Mets, New York Rangers, New York Islanders and more.

Through his passion is for NASCAR, Joseph has adapted to changing times and realizes that he has numerous opportunities in the journalism work. As one of the top young sports writers, his goal is to become one of the top motorsports writers of this new digital media era. However, he also believes that it’s important to stick to the traditional routers of print publications after seeing his high school newspaper dissolve due to a lack of funding.

Currently, besides his duties with Speedway Digest, Joseph is a columnist with Fronstretch.com, Motorsport.com and has a weekly article in NASCAR Pole Position's digital version - ROAR! Weekly Race Preview Magazine. 

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