Sprint Cup scouting report
After five weeks of jockeying for position, any driver in the Chase for the Championship can see his title chances dented by one bad moment — and not of his own doing. That's the way things always are at Talladega, the fastest and longest track in NASCAR, and a place so unpredictable that poring through statistics and history trying to find a pattern is tricky. Still, a couple of thoughts are relevant. Tony Stewart finally conquered the Alabama superspeedway with a win in 2008, but has finished out of the top 15 in five races since. Stewart/Haas teammate Ryan Newman has fared little better — four straight finishes out of the top 20 including a couple of wicked crashes — yet the team is strong at restrictor-plate tracks. If those two can hook up they might both change the trend and, at least for Stewart, charge back up the standings. Also, if NASCAR needs a shocking winner, a restrictor-plate track is the place to go. Brad Keselowski pulled off such a victory here in 2009 for Phoenix Racing and parlayed that into a ride with Penske and a spot in this year's Chase, where he's now a favorite at this track.