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2005 Aarons 499 at Talladega Superspeedway

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Restrictor Plate Racing:

This week the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers return to a superspeedway. The massive 2.6 mile tri-oval in Alabama is the other track (besides Daytona) that forces drivers to race with the horsepower-limiting restrictor plates. Cars will race in big packs all day long and it is impossible to pass without a friend to push you past. Those inevitable big drafting packs means that any small mistakea by any one driver can cause the big multi-car wreck that often characterizes racing at Talladega.

The Track:

Talladega Superspeedway is the longest track on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup circuit measuring 2.66 miles. A steep 33 degrees of banking in the corners and 18 degrees in the front tri-oval make handling a secondary consideration. Talladega is big, fast, and all about horsepower and drafting.

The Big Picture:

This is race number 9 of the 36 race season.

Jimmie Johnson has such a huge point lead that he could drive one lap and park it on Sunday and still would be guaranteed to leave Talladega with the points lead.

The current points top ten are: 1. Jimmie Johnson 1,260. 2. Kurt Busch 1,087. 3. Greg Biffle 1,052. 4. Jeff Gordon 1,027. 5. Elliott Sadler 1,009. 6. Mark Martin 997. 7. Ryan Newman 994. 8. Carl Edwards 979. 9. Sterling Marlin 968. 10. Rusty Wallace 960.

Storylines:

This week we will hear a lot about "The Big One" and see lots of video clips of Elliott Sadler's violent-looking flip. What can NASCAR do to fix the potential for a scary crash?

The other obvious story for the week is the Dale Earnhardt Inc. team. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip have had a bad start to 2005, but are starting to improve. Since they have dominated the restrictor plate races lately will this be the week that they break back into the winner's circle?

Media Coverage:

TV: Fox Saturday, May 1, 12:30PM Eastern.

Radio: MRN and XM Satellite

Actual Race: 1:20PM Eastern

Last Year:

Ricky Rudd sat on the pole for this race in 2004 but got caught up in the shuffle and finished 17th.

The big story was the controversial finish. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in the act of passing Jeff Gordon as they were coming off of turn four with just three laps to go when the yellow came out. NASCAR ruled that Junior hadn't gotten his nose in front before the yellow flew and the standings were frozen. The race finished under yellow and Jeff Gordon was awarded the win.

Predictions:

I'm in a rut lately but it is hard to find a track that Jeff Gordon doesn't excel at. He won this race in 2004 plus he won the most recent restrictor plate race, the 2005 Daytona 500. I've got to go with Jeff Gordon as my top pick and I'll go with Michael Waltrip as my backup.

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