How can you control what cannot be controlled? What happens when your fate is in someone else's hands? What happens when you try to shoot for a gap, and take out your competition?
That's something every driver deals with when restrictor plates are put on the engines. A driver's luck, a driver's victory, for a majority of the race are not in their hands, not until the lap that matters. It's a race to the finish that could cause chaos, or achieve greatness. That is what NASCAR must deal with this weekend, at the biggest track on the circuit, the biggest banking, and the biggest risk.
This is a gamble. This is...Talladega.
Even with a different rules package from just a year ago, the gamble is still the same, and it's one that every driver can attest to. One doesn't win at this track, one survives it.
Every writer in the pool is hoping to just survive this week, because they all know what can happen at this track. So, their gambles are locked in for this weekend's action. Here's who they have chosen for the Aaron's 499:
Misan Akuya: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
How awesome would that be?
Rob Blount: Tony Stewart
No place like Dega for somebody to break out a slump. Anybody can win here. Maybe we'll see Smoke rise on Sunday.
James Broomhead: Jimmie Johnson
Billy Fellin: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Put drivers names in a hat and throw them up in the air. Might as well at this place. But, I'll take the 88.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
Kara Martin: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
It's Dega baby!!
Ryan O'Hara: Matt Kenseth
Dustin Parks: Kevin Harvick
I cannot lie, this place absolutely scares me to death. I was at this track in 2010, ironically on my birthday, and the guy that won the race was Harvick, after three green-white-checkered attempts, 200 laps (longest ever race for the track), and the record 88 lead changes. May as well earn a third victory, because the number 3 and Talladega certainly get along very well.
Patti Rodisch: Jeff Gordon
Aaron Rosser: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Sal Sigala Jr: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
I'm in a bad luck streak so I'm picking early this week (his pick was in on Tuesday, earliest of anyone).
Rob Tiongson: Jeff Gordon
Gotta go with the points leader here. He's got himself six wins at this facility and might make it lucky seven on Sunday at Talladega!
Standings after Richmond:
Kara Martin (340) Kyle Busch finished 3rd - 2
Ryan O'Hara (338) Kevin Harvick finished 11th - 3
Dustin Parks (313) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 7th - 1
Michael Hirshbein (310) Kyle Busch finished 3rd- 1
Rob Tiongson (305) Jeff Gordon finished 2nd - 1
Patti Rodisch (298) Kyle Busch finished 3rd - 1
Rob Blount (298) Kevin Harvick finished 11th - 1
Sal Sigala Jr (288) Jimmie Johnson finished 32nd - 2
Billy Fellin (273) Kyle Busch finished 3rd - 0
Aaron Rosser (272) Kevin Harvick finished 11th - 1
Misan Akuya (243) Kevin Harvick finished 11th - 0
James Broomhead (221) Kyle Busch finished 3rd - 1
Final Remarks: The risk at this track goes through the roof, it's like walking on a bed of nails barefoot, and the nails are drawing blood with every step. One wrong move, everyone gets hurt, but one right move and it's a win that everyone remembers. Moves like Earnhardt going from 18th to first in just three laps, or Jeff Gordon working his way through the field to lead just one lap to victory, or Brad Keselowski making a split from the field to break the draft.
What will it take to win on Sunday when the flag waves shortly after 1 p.m. ET? Not even the FOX crew has that answer.
Summary of Picks:
Dale Earnhardt Jr-5