Trackside Duo: October 19, 2013

Photo- Getty Images
Photo- Getty Images

Talladega has arrived. This is the race everyone anticipated, as it will most likely have a significant impact on the Chase standings. One mistake could take a driver out of the running for the Sprint Cup, and that same mistake may put another driver in. Anything can and will happen in this race; seeing which drivers survive and which ones fall will be most intriguing to watch on Sunday.

With it being impossible to have anything but Talladega on their minds, the Trackside Duo takes on many ‘Dega-related questions this week. They know something is bound to happen and give their best predictions at what that may be in this week’s edition of the Trackside Duo.

1) Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are still neck and neck in the standings after Charlotte. It looked as if Johnson would take the championship lead last week, but some bad luck fell his way. How do you see the top two in the standings looking after Talladega?

Alanis: It all depends on if Johnson and Kenseth can avoid the on-track mayhem. Typically, Johnson hangs at the back for most of the restrictor-plate races, staying out of trouble so that he can be there for the run to the finish, so I predict that he makes it to the end on Sunday. But as we all know, anything can happen at Talladega, and how the championship standings will look after the race on Sunday isn’t something that can easily be predicted. If I had to take a guess, though, I’d say that if Johnson’s usual strategy works out, he’ll leave Talladega with the lead.

Jason: Anything can happen on Sunday. Talladega will shake up the standings, but will it affect Johnson or Kenseth is the question. Each typically performs well at restrictor plate tracks. They have combined to win four of the last seven Talladega and Daytona events. No one is immune to trouble, however. If Johnson can keep his nose clean until the finish, he will be up front. Kenseth hasn’t shown his typical restrictor plate performance this season, so I’m a little worried about the No. 20 team. Look for Johnson to survive and take over the points lead after Talladega.

2) Brad Keselowski showed last week that non-Chasers can still get the job done in the final ten races, and Talladega offers another chance for someone outside the top 13 to get to victory lane. Which non-Chaser could you see in victory lane this weekend?

Alanis: Coming off his win last weekend, Keselowski has the momentum and the stats to win at Talladega this weekend. Talladega is an equalizer, so there are numerous non-Chase drivers who can make it to victory lane on Sunday, but Keselowski definitely has an advantage going into the race.

Jason: With Talladega being such a wild card race, anyone can win. Picking one non-Chaser is tough since every one of them has an equal shot. Keselowski can easily win two straight, but I have my money on Jamie McMurray. McMurray is one of the best restrictor plate drivers today and he always seems to get up front at Daytona and Talladega. Look for the No. 1 team to potentially upset the Chase field on Sunday.

3) Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch are three current Chase drivers who are switching teams next season. In a year from now, do you see any of these drivers making the Chase? If so, do see one that could be in the same position that Matt Kenseth is in right now?

Alanis: Being at Stewart-Haas Racing, Harvick and Busch are certainly in a good position for the upcoming season and I expect both of them to qualify for the Chase and be contenders. Newman, on the other hand, will have to get used to his new Richard Childress Racing team next year. Whether the move will be a positive one for him is still up in the air, but he has the potential to have a successful year at RCR.

Jason: Each will need to prove themselves with their new teams before the Chase comes into mind. They will all be in position to make the playoffs, but adjusting to their new teams quickly will be the key. I see Harvick as a Chase lock next season. Busch and Newman on the other hand, aren’t sure bets. Busch’s team is basically brand new so getting in a groove will a difficult task. Newman could easily do it, but it will depend on if he can perform consistently enough through the first 26 races. Harvick is most likely to repeat Kenseth’s success. Kenseth strayed away from the team where he began his career and Harvick is doing the same. This new beginning for Harvick may lead him to great things in 2014.

4) Talladega is always the wild-card race of the Chase. Every year, it proves to shake up the standings in some way. What impact do you see Talladega having on this season’s standings?

Alanis: Talladega has the potential to jumble the standings, but with Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson’s performance in the Chase, it doesn’t seem like anything can deter them from being the final two in the title fight. I expect Kenseth and Johnson to be cautious on Sunday, and so as long as they don’t get caught up in a mess, I see them leaving Talladega with their substantial points lead still intact.

Jason: It’s hard to say that Talladega will take out either Kenseth or Johnson. If they get caught up in a wreck, then something is bound change. I see a third driver emerging in the title hunt after Sunday. Whether it be Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, or Kyle Busch, someone will have a good day and capitalize on small mistakes by the top two. The championship race will heat up after Talladega with it becoming a sprint to the finish.

5) How do your final standings look after Charlotte?

Alanis:

Original predictions:

1.) Matt Kenseth

2.) Jimmie Johnson

3.) Carl Edwards

4.) Kevin Harvick

5.) Kyle Busch

6.) Kasey Kahne

7.) Clint Bowyer

8.) Joey Logano

9.) Jeff Gordon

10.) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

11.) Kurt Busch

12.) Greg Biffle

13.) Ryan Newman

Predictions following Charlotte:

1.) Matt Kenseth

2.) Jimmie Johnson

3.) Kevin Harvick

4.) Kyle Busch

5.) Greg Biffle

6.) Jeff Gordon

7.) Clint Bowyer

8.) Kurt Busch

9.) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

10.) Carl Edwards

11.) Joey Logano

12.) Kasey Kahne

13.) Ryan Newman

Jason:

Original Predictions:

1.) Jimmie Johnson

2.) Kyle Busch

3.) Kasey Kahne

4.) Matt Kenseth

5.) Carl Edwards

6.) Joey Logano

7.) Clint Bowyer

8.) Kevin Harvick

9.) Ryan Newman

10.) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

11.) Kurt Busch

12.) Jeff Gordon

13.) Greg Biffle

Predictions following Charlotte:

1.) Jimmie Johnson

2.) Matt Kenseth

3.) Kevin Harvick

4.) Kyle Busch

5.) Jeff Gordon

6.) Dale Earnhardt Jr.

7.) Greg Biffle

8.) Clint Bowyer

9.) Carl Edwards

10.) Joey Logano

11.) Kurt Busch

12.) Kasey Kahne

13.) Ryan Newman

Follow Alanis on twitter @alanisnking and follow Jason @NASCARJason

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