NASCAR Chase 2012: Top Contenders to Drive off with Victory at Talladega

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2012

RICHMOND, VA - SEPTEMBER 08:  (Top L-R) Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet (bottom L-R) Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M/Owens & Minor Ford, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Quaker State Chevrolet, Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Best Buy Ford, pose after qualifying for the Chase for the Cup after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 8, 2012 in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

It's NASCAR's biggest, baddest track.

It's crushed more dreams than it's allowed to come true, and simply emerging from the race relatively unscathed is a major accomplishment in itself.

It's the big equalizer.

Talladega Superspeedway brings with it a big-pack-drafting style of racing that some enjoy and others detest. Drivers have to perfectly time their charge to the front of the pack so that they don't wind up stuck further back than they were before, because let's be honest: A ton of drivers will try and make that charge at the same time.

And that results in chaos, mayhem and big wrecks, like the one that derailed the title hopes of Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick last year.

For all of the issues that come with racing at Talladega, someone is going to win, either gaining much-needed points in the standings or keeping pace with the rest of the field.

Let's take a look at five drivers who have the best shot of taking home the checkered flag.


Greg Biffle: 11th place, 2,091 points, 72 behind leader

Biffle has never won at Talladega, but he's run well on restrictor-plate tracks all year. Both of his past two races at Talladega have ended with a top-10 finish, including a fifth-place finish in the Aaron's 499 this past May.

Having teammates Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth along for the ride as drafting partners certainly doesn't hurt his chances either.


Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 7th place, 2,103 points, 39 behind leader

This is Junior's best track, with five career victories and two second-place finishes on his resume. He finished ninth in the Aaron's 499 in May. Granted, he hasn't won here since 2004, but he knows how to race at Talladega as well as anyone in the field.

He'll pair up with Jimmie Johnson to draft, and that could give Junior the edge he needs to make it six career wins at Talladega.


Kevin Harvick: 9th place, 2.096 points, 46 behind leader

Like Earnhardt Jr., Harvick has found past success at the Speedway. He's taken one checkered flag, with three second-place finishes and a third-place finish mixed in as well.

Harvick finished 25th in the Aaron's 499 in May, falling 10 laps shy of the full 194 on the day.


Brad Keselowski: 1st place, 2,142 points

The current leader in the Chase, Keselowski has four top-10 finishes and two victories at Talladega, including a win at this year's Aaron's 499.


Jimmie Johnson: 2nd place, 2,137 points, 5 points behind leader

Johnson has nine top-10 finishes at Talladega, including two checkered flags and a second-place finish over the course of his career.

With Dale Earnhardt Jr. as a drafting partner, Johnson has as good a shot as anyone to overtake Keselowski for the lead.