Fan Vs. Fan Victory Pool: Picks for the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500
Imagine putting the fate of your future into someone's hands, taking away all say and all control of what happens. That person can decide when to move, when to hold back, and just as easily will cut ties with you like cutting a rope.
All elements are out of your hands, and it's a matter of survival.
That is how these days racing with restrictor plates can be described. So many elements are out of the hands of the men at the wheel that all they can do is hold on and hope they make the right decision at the right time, knowing if they don't it could mean chaos.
That is particularly true at a monster 2.66-mile speedway, banked 33 degrees in the corners, and has seen more calamity than what the replacement NFL referees provided for three weeks.
Welcome to the biggest track on the NASCAR schedule...welcome to Talladega.
Shorter spoilers, changed cooling systems, moved grille openings and so many more differences this week that it has earned the nickname of being the "wild card" race in the Chase. Now, 12 drivers battling for a championship along with 31 others will tempt fate at a track that is good in one corner, but just half a lap later could mean half a lap behind, and losing ground.
This weighed heavily on the writers as their picks are in, but they are more of a hope for victory or just a finish. Here's who these 12 warriors decided would win the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500:
Misan Akuya: Jamie McMurray
What a tough season for Jamie McMurray and all of EGR. After making some big (and questionable) changes after the whole organization had a dismal 2011 not much has improved with McMurray sitting 20th in points, Montoya 21st and no top fives between them.
McMurray has shown he is one of the best plate racers with two wins at Daytona and one at Talladega. I think this team can salvage something Sunday.
James Broomhead: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Picking a man for FanvsFan for Talladega is like damage limitation. You have to pick someone you think will do well, but who you won’t necessarily miss not being able to pick further down the events of the Chase. And all the while you’re aware you’re picking for the most unpredictable race of the Chase, if not the season.
Kelly Crandall: Clint Bowyer
Any pick this weekend could be the right pick, and I certainly had a lot I wanted to choose. But Bowyer is the two-time defending winner and needs this race to save his Chase.
Billy Fellin: Clint Bowyer
He's won the last two fall races here and finished 6th in the spring. I think that he'll win a third fall race as he's been solid in the 15 car.
Michael Hirshbein: Kurt Busch
Christopher Leone: Kurt Busch
Throwing darts for the rest of the year at whoever would be the best story.
Kara Martin: Kyle Busch
I'm going non-chaser!
Side Note: Kara is recovering from surgery on her leg following a fall. She had broken bones and some bad swelling, but is now on the road to recovery and healing nicely. We all wish her well.
Ryan O'Hara: Jeff Burton
No idea. Just throwing it out there.
Dustin Parks: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
This was the only race I had on my list that was taken. The way his season has gone, and considering this is Earnhardt country, how can I not?
Five wins here, including a streak of four in a row from 2001-2003, and the fact he's running a car designed by a fan, it's time for "Driver 88" to get back to victory lane in his yard.
Patti Rodisch: Jeff Burton
It hasn't been a great last couple years for Jeff Burton. Crew chief swaps, bad luck and ill handling race cars have relegated this once Chase and championship contender to an "also-ran". We have seen flashes of what Burton can do this season and Talladega represents another opportunity for him and his team to find victory lane this season.
Burton has run solid this season in plate races and always seems to find a way to be there when it counts. With the focus on the Chase drivers this is a prime opportunity for a non chaser to steal the spotlight; Burton will pick up his first win in 2012 on Sunday.
Sal Sigala Jr: Kasey Kahne
Rob Tiongson: Kevin Harvick
He won't be ass grabbing his way to Victory Lane at Talladega.
Standings following Dover:
James Broomhead (2129) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (3)
Dustin Parks (2129) Kyle Busch finished 7th (2)
Rob Tiongson (2128) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (4)
Sal Sigala Jr. (2128) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (3)
Kelly Crandall (2127) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (4)
Ryan O'Hara (2120) Jeff Gordon finished 2nd (2)
Christopher Leone (2117) Tony Stewart finished 20th (3)
Misan Akuya (2114) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (1)
Billy Fellin (2110) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (5)
Michael Hirshbein (2099) Jimmie Johnson finished 4th (1)
Kara Martin (2092) Matt Kenseth finished 35th (3)
Patti Rodisch (2089) Matt Kenseth finished 35th (2)
Final Thoughts: Any driver could win Sunday's race. It's not about how one runs during the first 187 laps, but all about who makes the right move and wins it on the last one. Remember, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski each won a race at this track by leading one lap, but it was the lap that mattered the most.
It could come down to who makes that last-lap pass in order to win. It could be pulling away to victory, it could be a photo finish. Everything can, and will, happen.
Watch ESPN beginning at 1 p.m. ET for all the chaos that is guaranteed to happen.
Summary of Picks:
Dale Earnhardt Jr-2