Five NASCAR playoff drivers to watch at Talladega Superspeedway

Here are five NASCAR playoff drivers to watch as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway for the 1000Bulbs.com 500.

The NASCAR Cup Series is headed to Talladega Superspeedway for the second race in the second round of the NASCAR playoffs.

All of the five drivers from the last edition of who to watch finished inside the top-15 at Dover International Speedway.

Will we see a surprise winner at Talladega Superspeedway? Can Aric Almirola rebound from his disappointing finish at Dover? Will one of the drivers currently sitting outside the top-8 find victory lane?

Here are five drivers to keep any eye on this weekend to see how they perform at Talladega Superspeedway.

Joey Logano

In the last four races at Talladega Superspeedway, Logano has visited victory lane twice.

Logano is the only playoff driver with three top-5 finishes in the last four races at Talladega Superspeedway. During that stretch he’s led the most laps, 184, of all drivers.

At an unpredictable track like Talladega, the only predictable thing has been Logano’s strong performance. He will likely have another strong showing at the the 2.66-mile superspeedway.

Aric Almirola has four straight top-10 finishes at Talladega. (World Copyright: John Harrelson, NKP)

Aric Almirola

Almirola is the only driver to finish inside the top-10 in the last four races at Talladega Superspeedway. He also has the best average finish, 6.0, among all drivers in the last four races at the superspeedway.

Nearly winning last weekend at Dover, Almriola should be looking forward to a trip back to Talladega.

“It would’ve been nice to seal the deal at Dover last weekend and not have to worry about Talladega, but that didn’t work out, so now we have to go race,” said Almirola in his pre-race advance.

“It has been a good place for me, but it’s still the unknown. You can get caught up in a wreck that had nothing to do with you, or you could be the cause of the wreck. Things just happen when you’re running 200 miles per hour and an inch apart from each other for three hours. One mistake and it usually collects a lot of people. You just have to hope you’re in the right place at the right time. If we are, it could be a good day for us.”

Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will be contenders once again at Talladega. (World Copyright: Matthew Thackler, NKP)

Brad Keselowski

Much like his Team Penske teammate, Keselowski will be a force to reckon with at Talladega Superspeedway. Keselowski and Logano have combined to lead 333 laps in the last four races at Talladega. That’s 44% of the laps run.

In the last four races, Keselowski has a win, a seventh place finish and a pair of finishes outside the top-30. In three of those races He’s led 20 laps or more.

Keselowski is a prime example of a driver who could dominate a race but also end up on the wrecker before the race is over.

Kurt Busch looks for another win at a restrictor-plate track. (World Copyright: Rusty Jarrett, NKP)

Kurt Busch

In his last four races at Talladega Superspeedway, Busch has recorded two top-5 and three top-10 finishes. His average finish of 9.2 is second best among playoff drivers.

Busch has won at a restrictor-plate track before and knows the style of racing it takes to win.

“You’ve got to be able to know the draft, understand the draft, use the draft, block other guys, find holes, make holes,” said Busch in his pre-race report.

“It’s definitely a chess game because you’re always thinking three or four steps ahead. It’s tough to get caught up when you make a mistake. You’ve got to quickly get rid of that and put together a new plan. At the end of the race, everybody is saving their best for the end. Cars are just going everywhere. The plan you thought you had, you’ve got to make a new one. You’ve got to go on the fly.”

“There are certain guys you know to draft with. There are certain guys you know they’re going to be tough. The Roush cars are always there. The Penske cars have been tough the last five, six years at the restrictor-plate races. So, you just get a gauge as the race goes on who’s been up front all day. But you’ve got to keep track of the guys who have been hanging out in the back and they’re going to show up at the end.”

Alex Bowman led 26 laps at Talladega in April. (World Copyright: Nigel Kinrade, NKP)

Alex Bowman

Talladega Superspeedway might be Bowman’s only chance to advance to the next round of the playoffs. Currently sitting in the last spot in the Round of 12, a win would ensure his spot in the next round.

Bowman finished eighth at Talladega earlier this season and led 26 laps. He finished tenth at Daytona in July and 17th in the Daytona 500 after leading 13 laps.

Hendrick Motorsports have had better seasons but with their engines still under the hood, Bowman has a chance to surprise.

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattlovisa.

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