Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 (2 p.m. ET/NBC/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the Talladega Superspeedway is the final wildcard race of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. While it’s one that will likely still be won by a playoff eligible driver, there are some that could throw a big wrench into things this weekend.
Team Penske has won the last four playoff races at Talladega and won this past spring with Joey Logano. They’ve won five of the last six races overall on the high speed 2.66-mile restrictor plate track. Ford has won 8 of the last 10 points paying plate races too.
But, there are some wildcard driver to still watch.
Here are the top five.
Chris Buescher 81 Races (Last Win Aug. 1, 2016 at Pocono)
JTG Daugherty Racing has been superb on plate tracks this season. They’ve had both drivers finish in the top 10 in both races at Daytona and have even had stout cars at Talladega too. Buescher, has two top five finishes in three plate starts in 2018 and finishes 11th in the other. In his last seven restrictor plate appearances in general, he has six top 11 finishes in them.
Aric Almirola 149 Races (Last Win July 7, 2014 at Daytona)
While he’s a playoff eligible driver still, Almirola still hasn’t won a race in over four years. While that should have ended last Sunday in Dover, the winless streak remains intact.
Almirola, was nine laps away from earning his first Cup Series victory since July 6, 2014 at Daytona. Unfortunately, his teammate Clint Bowyer crashed hard in Turn 4 bringing out a late race yellow and in turn costing Almirola his second career Cup win. But, what better track than Talladega to make up for that.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is at his best on plate tracks. Over his last six plate races, Almirola has four top seven finishes. He was a 1/2 lap away from winning the season opening Daytona 500. He finished seventh in the spring race at Talladega. In fact, he has four straight top eight finishes on the high banked 2.66-mile Alabama superspeedway overall including a fifth place run in this same playoff race a year ago.
His last two Xfinity Series wins came on restrictor plate tracks. One in 2016 at Daytona and the other in the spring of 2017 in Talladega.
Moral of the story here, Almirola who’s shown to have speed in his car as of late, has been among the top plate racers over the last few
AJ Allmendinger 152 Races (Last Win Aug. 10, 2014 at Watkins Glen)
Most people assume that he’s just a road racing ace. But, what if I told you that Allmendinger is at his best lately on plate tracks. He finished 10th in the Daytona 500 and third in the July race at Daytona too. In his last eight points paying restrictor plate starts, Allmendinger has five top 10 finishes.
David Ragan 200 Races (Last Win May 5, 2013 at Talladega)
He’s got two career Cup wins, both came on plate tracks. His last win is 200 races ago at this very track. Plus, Ragan finished sixth in the spring race at Talladega and 10th in last year’s fall and spring races. He has four top 10 finishes in his last six plate races, three of which occurring on this track.
Paul Menard 262 Races (Last Win July 31, 2011 at Indianapolis)
He finished sixth in the Daytona 500 and has four top 10’s and five top 12 finishes in his last seven points paying plate races. By the way, he has a Ford car aligned with Penske. Need I say more?