Five drivers to watch at Talladega

Getty Images

Although Talladega Superspeedway can be unpredictable, here are five drivers you should not keep an eye off of this weekend.

Brad Keselowski

With Dale Earnhardt Jr. absent, Keselowski has taken the mantle of top restrictor-plate racer in the Sprint Cup Series. His five plate wins since 2009 are the most of any driver, and he’s won the last two plate races. And who can forget his clutch victory in the 2014 Talladega Chase race when he was 19 points below the cut line? He’s only seven points back this time around.

 Austin Dillon

His advancement out of the Round of 16 was a surprise to some. But an advance out of the Round of 12 wouldn’t be. He’s still looking for his first Sprint Cup win, but Dillon’s been a solid competitor on plate tracks. Not only is he one of two Chasers with top-10 finishes in all 3 plate races this season, his career average finish on plate tracks (14.46) is second all-time only to Dale Earnhardt.

 Kyle Busch

The other Chaser with top 10s in all three plate races this season? That would be Busch, who’s posted finishes of third, second, and second in those events. Additionally, his 4.8 average finish in the Chase is the best among the 12 remaining drivers. But we all remember what happened to him at Talladega in 2014 when he seemingly was set to advance to the next round and didn’t after getting collected in a crash. Nothing is a given.

Matt Kenseth

Not far behind Busch on Chase performance is his teammate Kenseth, who’s posted an average finish of 5.4 during the playoffs. He’s a past winner at Talladega (2012 Chase race), but he hasn’t finished better than 14th in a plate race since the start of the 2015 season. Like Busch, Kenseth stands a good chance of making the Championship at Miami – if he can survive this weekend.

 Martin Truex Jr.

Truex comes to Talladega with a 13-point cushion, but gremlins have hurt him so far in the Round of 12 (clutch problems at Charlotte, fuel system issues at Kansas). He can ill afford to have another setback. He’s one of five Chase drivers who have never won a plate race in the Sprint Cup Series.