Saturday, May 2, 2015

Talladega Practice Notes: Don't put too much into practices in plate races

Denny Hamlin won his first career plate race last season at Talladega
LAS VEGAS -- There were only two practices run at Talladega prior to Sunday’s Geico 500, and it may have been one too many – teams don’t really get anything out of practice sessions at this track.

Seven drivers, including Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer, didn’t even participate in the second session Friday, believing nothing else could be gained by driving around the 2.66-mile course they didn’t already discover from the first one, or from the package they ran during Daytona Speedweeks in February.

When compiling the components that go into a driver rating, practices and start position are usually big factors. But at Talladega, the practice speeds aren’t indicative of how the cars will run on race day, but more about who they were hooked up with in the draft. So when you see Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Michael Waltrip and Chris Buescher go 1-2-3 in the first session, it should not be weighed as heavily as it would be at Richmond or Charlotte.

An effective handicapping approach to Sunday’s race is to look at some recent history at Talladega and a little bit of Daytona as well. While the new rules package has affected every team immensely on 1.5-mile tracks, little has changed in the restrictor-plate package from the previous two seasons.

There have been a wide variety of winners between the past nine plate races, ranging from longshots like David Ragan and Jamie McMurray at Talladega in 2013 to Penske Racing at the two most recent plate races with Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. But here’s a strong trend to consider: Hamlin has averaged a sixth-place finish in his past five plate races, including winning this race last year at Talladega.

History is very relevant here, and with up to 38 drivers having a legitimate shot at winning, it’s really the only concrete piece of pre-race data on which to base your wagers. So when you look at the drivers ranked below in order of their rating, understand these practice and qualifying speeds from Friday and Saturday mean very little to the equation.

Read More Here.....Final Driver Ratings

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