By KEVIN HARRIS
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
The Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks are not the only races people should be excited about this weekend.
On Sunday, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be making its first of two trips to Talladega Superspeedway, which has had a history of producing some thrilling races.
So if you are experiencing your annual Oaks-Derby hangover on Sunday, you might want to tune into the latest edition of Talladega chaos, while you recuperate.
Here are some ‘Dega picks:
SUNDAY’S AARON’S 499
At Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway
1. DALE EARNHARDT JR.: From time to time during Junior’s long winless streak, several NASCAR prognosticators have went out on a limb and said this is the week that Junior will finally get into Victory Lane. Well, it is my turn to make this bold prediction. I think Junior is going to win for two reasons. One, Earnhardt has been running well all year. If you want proof, just look at his name that is listed second in the Sprint Cup standings.
2. MATT KENSETH: Led by Kenseth, Roush Fenway Racing definitely had the most horsepower and the fastest cars in the Daytona 500. Expect Kenseth to lead the Roush charges at Talladega.
3. GREG BIFFLE: Like at Daytona, Biffle should hook up with Kenseth, his teammate, and be a key factor on Sunday. Plus despite his 18th-place finish at Richmond last weekend, Biffle has not cooled off from his hot start to the season.
4. KEVIN HARVICK: Despite placing 32nd in the Talladega fall race last year, Richard Childress Racing’s No. 1 driver finished fifth in this race a year ago and placed first and second in both 2010 races. RCR has always been strong at Talladega, and Harvick has a good chance of continuing that prowess this weekend.
5. CLINT BOWYER: In the last four Talladega races, Bowyer has finished in the top 10 in each one. That includes two victories and a second-place finish, which happened in last year’s spring race. Even though Bowyer was steering RCR cars in those four races, I still expect him to be tough to beat on Sunday.
SUNDAY’S DARK HORSE
• KURT BUSCH: He has Hendrick power underneath the hood and a solid track record at Talladega with 13 career top-10 finishes and six top-fives. If Busch’s Phoenix Racing pit crew can put together at least mediocre pit stops, Busch has a sound shot at winning. And no, I have not changed my hostile feelings toward the former Roush and Penske driver.
DRIVER MOST LIKELY TO STRUGGLE
• JUAN MONTOYA: Montoya has only one top-10 finish this season, and he is already whining and blaming his crew chief and the rest of his team for his on-track problems. Gee, is it me or does this sound like a broken record? When is Montoya’s car owner, Chip Ganassi, going to cut the umbilical cord with Montoya and realize the former Indy 500 champion is the problem with the No. 42 team?
• Last week, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. owner Bruton Smith announced that he has ordered the top groove of Bristol Motor Speedway to be grinded out of the track. Therefore, Bristol will return to being a one-groove race track when all three of NASCAR’s national touring series return to the oval in August.
Smith decided to make this alteration to the half-mile oval after thousands of Bristol fans demanded that the charismatic owner return Thunder Valley to the way it used to be, where a driver had to bump another driver out of the way to pass him.
The only request to those fans who are happy that Bristol will return to being a one-groove track is this — don’t come crying to me when Bristol has its first race with 15 to 20 caution flags with the new configuration and you were at the track for at least four hours. That’s what you can expect because it was a common sight to have between 15-20 cautions when the old Bristol existed.
• The past few weeks, I have heard hundreds and hundreds of race fans complain about the races being too boring because of the lack of cautions. These fans say there are not enough drivers taking chances and beating and banging with each other, which would cause more accidents and have more double-file restarts.
I found these complaints pretty baffling after the Kansas race when Martin Truex Jr. made two aggressive dive-bomb attempts to pass eventual winner Denny Hamlin in the final five laps.
I guess I’m in the minority in NASCAR Nation because I’m a fan that actually watches the races to witness the actual racing. I don’t watch the races to see dangerous wrecks and cars catching on fire. I actually like to see pit crews perform green-flag pit stops.
But most of the NASCAR faithful anymore want to see those frightening accidents and restart after restart after restart, which in my opinion disrupts the flow of a race.
If that is the way people like their NASCAR races, fine. I’m sure these people like to watch demolition derbies, school bus Figure-8 races and professional wrestling, too.
Contact Kevin Harris at email@example.com.