Breakdown: Nothing predictable about Talladega

Unlike last week’s race at Martinsville, there’s nothing predictable about what’s going to happen this Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

The last time the circuit was there, Kevin Harvick won, Denny Hamlin finished in the top five, and Jimmie Johnson wrecked.

Each Thursday during the Chase, Yahoo! Sports breaks down the 12-driver field. Here is a look at how the field stacks up heading into race No. 7 of the Chase, Sunday’s AMP Energy Juice 500:

1. Jimmie Johnson
5998 pts.
Johnson

Don’t be surprised to see Johnson log a bunch of laps at the back of the pack, hoping to avoid the “Big One” at Talladega. He got caught in a wreck in the spring.
Last week’s result: 5th

2010 STATS
WinsTop 5sPoles
6 15 3
CAREER
AT TALLADEGA
Avg. finish:17.8
Last time:31st
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Phoenix (4.9)
Worst: Talladega (17.8)
Total avg.: 11.4
2. Denny Hamlin
5992 pts. (-6)
Hamlin

Hamlin’s never considered much of a restrictor-plate racer, but he’s better than you think. Past results indicate he’ll finish either in the top five or way, way down.
Last week’s result: 1st

2010 STATS
WinsTop 5sPoles
7 13 2
CAREER
AT TALLADEGA
Avg. finish:19.3
Last time:4th
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Texas (9.6)
Worst: Talladega (19.3)
Total avg.: 12.8
3. Kevin Harvick
5936 pts. (-62)
Harvick

Harvick’s title hopes rest on this race. He’s done everything he needed to do to stay with Johnson and Hamlin. Now he has to get it done at the track where he’s better than them.
Last week’s result: 3rd

2010 STATS
WinsTop 5sPoles
3 14 2
CAREER
AT TALLADEGA
Avg. finish:15.5
Last time:1st
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Homestead-Miami (8.4)
Worst: Talladega (15.5)
Total avg.: 13.0
5826 pts. (-172)
Kyle Busch

Look for Kyle Busch to be aggressive from the drop of the green flag. He’s won at Talladega before, he wants to win again badly, and figures the safest place to be is in the lead.
Last week’s result: 4th

2010 STATS
WinsTop 5sPoles
3 10 2
CAREER
AT TALLADEGA
Avg. finish:23.2
Last time:9th
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Phoenix (13.9)
Worst: Homestead-Miami (25.2)
Total avg.: 19.3
5795 pts. (-203)
Gordon

Since sweeping Talladega in 2007, Gordon has finishes of 19th, 38th, 37th, 20th and 22nd there. In fact, since 2004, Gordon’s only top-10 finishes are three wins.
Last week’s result: 20th

2010 STATS
WinsTop 5sPoles
0 11 0
CAREER
AT TALLADEGA
Avg. finish:16.7
Last time:22nd
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Homestead-Miami (9.5)
Worst: Talladega (16.7)
Total avg.: 13.1
5785 pts. (-213)
Edwards

Somewhat surprisingly, Edwards actually has one more top-10 finishes this season than Hamlin. The difference – seven of Hamlin’s are wins, while Edwards has none.
Last week’s result: 8th

2010 STATS
WinsTop 5sPoles
0 7 2
CAREER
AT TALLADEGA
Avg. finish:22.5
Last time:11th
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Homestead-Miami (6.5)
Worst: Talladega (22.5)
Total avg.: 14.8
5726 pts. (-236)
Stewart

Would anyone be surprised if Stewart wound up in victory lane on Sunday? Well, maybe, considering he hasn’t finished inside the top 15 since his win at Talladega in 2008.
Last week’s result: 24th

2010 STATS
WinsTop 5sPoles
2 9 2
CAREER
AT TALLADEGA
Avg. finish:14.8
Last time:16th
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Phoenix (11.7)
Worst: Talladega (14.8)
Total avg.: 13.2
5752 pts. (-246)
Burton

It would be a surprise to see Burton in victory lane, though maybe it shouldn’t be. He did, after all, lead the most laps there in April.
Last week’s result: 9th

2010 STATS
WinsTop 5sPoles
0 6 0
CAREER
AT TALLADEGA
Avg. finish:18.4
Last time:32nd
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Phoenix (11.4)
Worst: Talladega (18.4)
Total avg.: 14.9
5721 pts. (-277)
Kurt Busch

Of the 12 Chase drivers, only one had Talladega as his best remaining track, and that’s Kurt Busch. It’s not so much that he’s good there, but he doesn’t get caught in the Big One that often.
Last week’s result: 16th

2010 STATS
WinsTop 5sPoles
2 9 2
CAREER
AT TALLADEGA
Avg. finish:11.8
Last time:8th
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Talladega (12.8)
Worst: Homestead-Miami (19.6)
Total avg.: 16.1
5705 pts. (-293)
Kenseth

Don’t look now, but Kenseth has cracked the top 10 in the standings. That’s what being not really bad will get you.
Last week’s result: 15th

2010 STATS
WinsTop 5sPoles
0 5 0
CAREER
AT TALLADEGA
Avg. finish:18.7
Last time:28th
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Texas (9.9)
Worst: Homestead-Miami (19.8)
Total avg.: 16.7
5682 pts. (-316)
Biffle

It’s been feast or famine in the Chase for Biffle, who’s finished first, fifth and the rest between 17th and 41st.
Last week’s result: 33rd

2010 STATS
WinsTop 5sPoles
2 7 0
CAREER
AT TALLADEGA
Avg. finish:22.0
Last time:17th
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Homestead-Miami (13.5)
Worst: Talladega (22.0)
Total avg.: 17.8
5592 pts. (-406)
Bowyer

It’s been a lesson in momentum. Prior to his win at New Hampshire, Bowyer had three-straight top 10s. After the 150-point penalty, he has just one finish better than 15th.
Last week’s result: 38th

2010 STATS
WinsTop 5sPoles
1 6 0
CAREER
AT TALLADEGA
Avg. finish:21.4
Last time:7th
REMAINING TRACKS
Best: Phoenix (14.9)
Worst: Talladega (21.4)
Total avg.: 17.0