There is no way to predict what can happen at Talladega. So how did the writers make their choices?
There is no question that in NASCAR, there is always an aspect of fear each time drivers get behind the wheel. Most of the time, they are in control of their own race, and make sure that those things out of their control are something that no one could prevent.
But what happens when 90 percent of what happens at a track is out of the driver's control? What happens when most of the race is in the control of hoping you have help to either win, or just advance position?
That is what happens this week, because NASCAR is at the biggest track on the circuit.
Over two and a half miles in length, the steep 33 degrees of banking, and a restrictor plate all equal one place. As the saying goes, this isn't just a race...this is Talladega.
It's all about trusting the driver in the mirror, and hoping you or someone else doesn't make a mistake. So many factors go into a race like this that trying to predict the outcome is like trying to predict the winner of the NCAA tournament before the bracket is even set.
It literally is picking a name out of a hat, and hoping for the best.
The writers this week know this, and each are just trying to make sure the driver they choose doesn't get in trouble, or have an issue that costs them dearly. It is truly a crap shoot, but each one has submitted their picks, and there's no turning back now.
Here's who each has chosen to survive, or win, the Aaron's 499:
Misan Akuya: Jamie McMurray
How nice is it to see McMurray have a good season? Last year he would have been very happy to be 12th in points. Right now he is
probably frustrated over the GWC at RIR that left him on old tires on
the outside going for the win.
But ended up 26th dropping from 10th in points to 12th. Nonetheless McMurray still has some momentum. He has a win at Talladega and has lead the most laps four times (including the fall race).
If all goes well look for McMurray to break his winless streak.
Rob Blount: Clint Bowyer
Really good on plate tracks, but it's such a lottery that I really don't know what to do.
James Broomhead: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Kelly Crandall: Matt Kenseth
There really can't be another choice, even though statistics mean nothing when it comes to plate tracks. Kenseth though had an average finish of 2.0 last year, including being the most previous winner at 'Dega - and he dominated the Daytona 500 before his engine let go.
And considering that he's still trying to get back at NASCAR for the penalties his team received, the 20 team heads to 'Dega with a chip on their shoulder that only Victory Lane can knock off.
Billy Fellin: Matt Kenseth
I don't know about you guys, but I'm taking a bunch of names in a hat, tossing them up in the air and throwing a dart and seeing which name it hits.
Not really, but that's about what plate racing has been like lately.
Whether with Roush or JGR, he's been practically unstoppable at plate tracks.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
Christopher Leone: Denny Hamlin
Since Hamlin has been cleared and will start the race, even when Brian Vickers takes over, it's still a win for Hamlin. No matter what, his return is a boost for the team.
Kara Martin: Brad Keselowski
Ryan O'Hara: Kurt Busch
Dustin Parks: Danica Patrick
I'm channeling my teammate Patti on this one, because ever since Daytona she has held the lead in this pool and her first pick was one that everyone questioned. Yet, she finished eighth and hasn't lost the lead since.
Why not, no one knows what to expect...might as well take a chance now.
Patti Rodisch: Jeff Gordon
Sal Sigala Jr: Jimmie Johnson
Rob Tiongson: Jimmie Johnson
When a racer's "worst finish" is a 22nd at Bristol and they've held a mammoth points lead after 9 races, that says championship driver and team right there.
Look for JJ and the No. 48 team to win their third Talladega race....it could be the five-time champ's day on "cinco de mayo!"
Standings following Richmond:
Patti Rodisch (350) Jimmie Johnson finished 12th (0)
Rob Tiongson (315) Kyle Busch finished 24th (1)
Billy Fellin (310) Kyle Busch finished 24th (1)
Rob Blount (302) Kyle Busch finished 24th (1)
Dustin Parks (295) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 10th (0)
Ryan O'Hara (288) Jimmie Johnson finished 12th (0)
Michael Hirshbein (278) Kyle Busch finished 24th (2)
Kara Martin (277) Kyle Busch finished 24th (0)
Sal Sigala Jr. (275) Kyle Busch finished 24th (0)
Kelly Crandall (259) Kyle Busch finished 24th (0)
Christopher Leone (241) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 10th (0)
James Broomhead (238) Kyle Busch finished 24th (0)
Misan Akuya (228) Ryan Newman finished 15th (0)
Final Thoughts: There are 13 writers in this year's pool, and for Talladega there were 11 different picks. It just goes to show how unpredictable this track is, and how crazy everyone believes this event will be.
It truly is NASCAR's version of the lottery, because in the end, everyone has a chance to win, but only one will have made it to the end to see the checkered flag.
Coverage on FOX kicks off at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Summary of Picks:
Dale Earnhardt Jr-1