If you think there is no way to heighten the drama around a Talladega Superspeedway race then checkout the storylines around this weekend’s Aaron’s 499.
Saturday marks the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ first knock-out qualifying session on a restrictor plate track. The entire field running in drafting packs to post quick lap times on the 2.66-mile Alabama superspeedway is sure to create a mix of apprehension and excitement for the fans, drivers and teams.
Fox will broadcast the inaugural session live at 1 p.m. ET.
Sunday also brings extra drama and intensity this year. When the green flag drops many drivers feel a win could lead to a berth in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine driver Brian Vickers has an extra incentive this weekend. Aaron’s sponsors the race and MWR co-owner Michael Waltrip returns to action driving the No. 66 BlueDEF Toyota. Vickers first career victory came at Talladega on Oct. 8, 2006.
BRIAN VICKERS ON TALLADEGA: “Sure it’s a special place. I won my first Sprint Cup race there in 2006 and like everyone I love the show. It’s as mentally challenging of a race as we have. With the new qualifying and all that is at stake on Sunday I’m sure the Aaron’s 499 will be a weekend to remember.”
TALLADEGA QUALIFYING: “I have no idea what to expect. It’s going to be a lot of fun and it’s going to be way more entertaining. Nothing was more painful than the old way of qualifying at a superspeedway. I’m looking forward to Saturday and who knows how it is going to come out. I think the speed of the car and engine will matter less and chance will matter more. That’s fine. Restrictor plate racing to a certain extent is that way. I’m kind of good with it, because where you start isn’t critical to success in the race. Getting that timing, being in the right place at the right time and having the right car in front of you on the right lap is going to mean more than anything else. I think it is going to be a nail-bitter on who is going to win the pole until the very end.”
TAKING MORE CHANCES WITH “WIN AND YOU ARE IN” CHASE FORMAT: “I think people take a lot of undue risks at superspeedways already so I don’t know how much more that can increase. I think when the final laps start to click off it’s going to be same old Talladega but even bigger and better.”
WINNING THE AARON’S 499: “I don’t know who would be more excited in victory lane. Any victory is special in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series but to win a race sponsored by Aaron’s - a company that has been so good to me - would be a career highlight.”
ON MICHAEL WALTRIP DRIVING THE NO. 66 BLUEDEF TOYOTA: “That’s great for me and (MWR teammate) Clint (Bowyer). Michael has a ton of experience and is another set of eyes and ears that can help us dial our cars in. He’s a huge asset. There are few drivers as good as Michael on a superspeedway. He’s as much a threat to win this race as any of us.”