For the season, I've recommended 12 separate bets at restrictor-plate tracks. And I'm actually pretty good at this.

You see, superspeedway races like the one this Sunday at Talladega are ridiculously difficult to predict because the cars have restrictor plates on their carburetors, which keep them in packs even when they're traveling 190 miles per hour.

A giant wreck is always a heartbeat away, and inevitably carries out your selection or selections in its carnage.

So imagine how tough this Sunday's race will be to call, considering it'll be the first time the Car of Tomorrow has ever raced on a high-banked track, let alone a superspeedway.

The drivers have very little idea how the COT will react to the draft, and the bump-drafting, that have become king at Talladega. Therefore I don't, either. However, we can look at past results, figure out who we think might be near the front and thus out of the reach of the Big One, and make our picks based on that information. Just don't be surprised when at least half the field is on the sidelines by the time the checkers wave on Sunday.

Last Week: It was a halting, rain-shortened event in Kansas, and I maintain that if the cars had been allowed to race to the end, my pick Jimmie Johnson (+600) would've won. As it was, we had to settle for J.J. taking his head-to-head match-up over Matt Kenseth (-135). For the week, that made us winners: we won 0.24 units on 1.5 units wagered (a 16% return); on the season, we're up to a net positive 9.54 units on 43.5 units wagered (a 21.9% return). and for the season you're still at 31.95 units on 116 units wagered (a 27.5% return).

Take Jeff Gordon (+500), 1/6th unit. Gordon won the final Talladega race in the "old car" in April, but considering how good he and the rest of Hendrick have been in the COT, there's little reason to suspect that excellence can't carry over. Gordon has won five times at this track, three of which have come since 2004. He's excellent at the draft, and will have the very best of equipment. He also has three potential drafting partners.

Take Kurt Busch (+900), 1/6th unit. Busch has never won a plate-track race, but he's gone six straight events at Talladega finishing eighth or better,including third-place finishes in each of the last two races here. He also finished third in June at Daytona, and looked like he had the car to beat at this February's Daytona 500, but was wrecked by my next pick while racing for the lead. I'm not sure he has what it takes to win, but I do think he can stay near enough the front to stay out of the Big One.

Take Tony Stewart (+500), 1/6th unit. Yes, Smoke was the guy who wrecked Busch at the 500 in February, and he also ran into the back of his teammate, Denny Hamlin, while Hamlin was leading the June Daytona event. One hopes he's learned his lesson. If Stewart's going to have any chance at his third points title, he's got to keep his nose clean on Sunday. That means keeping up with the leaders, away from the riffraff, and exhibiting patience. Granted, patience isn't Stewart's strong suit. But if his car's good, he could very well turn in his first career Talladega victory.

by Michael Cash - - Email Us

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