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Track Talk: GEICO 500 at Talladega

All things considered, blue skies, high banked racing, life doesn't get better at Talladega.

All things considered, blue skies, high banked racing, life doesn’t get better at Talladega.

Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR while predicting the winner of the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race!

This weekend, our panelists Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Ashley Hull, Christina Bowman, Cody ShoppeKathleen CassidyJose Acero Jr, Katie CoppleKayla Sturm, and Stephen Conley mull over the return of Matt Kenseth and the possibility for Kyle Busch to win four straight races.

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Question 1
Reunited and it feels so good.

Reunited and it feels so good.

Matt Kenseth will return to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup competition starting in the May Kansas race, as reported by SB Nation’s Jordan Bianchi. Splitting the ride with Trevor Bayne, is this a surprising move or a decision meant to improve the No. 6 team?

Acero: Say what? That is what you call a walk off news note! Didn’t see that coming and caught everyone by surprise, at least i want to think that! I see this move both by Roush and Kenseth as a way to improve the 6 team! Can’t wait to see Kenseth back on track. Maybe Tony Stewart decides to come back. One can dream, right?

Bowman: To be honest, I did not see this one coming! The collaboration with Matt Kenseth doesn’t surprise me as he maintained such a great relationship with Roush, however, the quick pace at which he is transitioning back into Cup racing does. Let us all hope that it is based on a strategy move to improve the 6 teams’ performance, rather than health issues plaguing Bayne.

Cassidy:  The announcement shocked me. I did not see Roush Fenway Racing having Matt Kenseth back in their line up. I think there is a deeper reason for this change part-way through the season. Time will tell.

Conley: It’s a surprising development, but one that needs to be done. Kenseth is a proven leader, and that team doesn’t have that one driver to stand at the top and lead the way on and off the track.

What Kenseth will bring is not just talent on the track, but the ability to give feedback that will benefit the team in the long run. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the No. 6 in contention this weekend, and even at Kansas when Kenseth returns to the car.

Copple: Honestly, I was shocked by this announcement. I’m not surprised Kenseth is back, even on a part time basis, but I’m surprised he is back this quickly.

Also, what is this saying for Trevor Bayne? This is a young driver with a ton of talent but he just can’t find himself with a good, consistent team. His recent health issues are also concerning and are more than likely playing a part in the decision to put Kenseth in the No. 6.

Regardless, if this return for Kenseth is what he was looking for, then more power to him. I don’t think he really got the farewell he wanted or deserved. This return, no matter how long it lasts, could be just what he needs.

Hobbs: It is shocking, but awesome at the same time. Like many fans of the sport, I feel that Matt Kenseth did not get the ending he deserved, and I am very glad he will be back behind the wheel. To me, this truly seems like a move to improve Roush Fenway Racing. However, they tried that with Mark Martin before, and it did not seem to produce the necessary results. Now, we get to see Matt Kenseth shake things up – hopefully!

Hull: I must say, I was very shocked and surprised when I saw the news. I am also worried about Trevor Bayne, given his health issues. I really hope that Trevor is okay. That said, it will be great seeing Matt Kenseth grace us with our presence again. He was cut a raw deal over at JGR, so this will be good for him to go back to his old stomping grounds.

Lucas: Good golly, miss molly! I’ve always felt that Kenseth would somehow find his way back to Roush Fenway. Of course I never would’ve expected it to happen this way! Now, let’s dive a little deeper as to why he’s splitting the ride with Trevor Bayne. Bayne is talented, don’t get me wrong. But, as of late, he’s been stuck in a rut careerwise.

Jack Roush has always been the greatest “tough love” owner in NASCAR. If you can remember back to 2010, Roush did a similar move, taking Ricky Stenhouse Jr out of his Xfinity ride to basically coach him. After sitting out for a few races, Stenhouse turned his season around, stopped crunching sheet metal, and went on to win the Xfinity championship the following season in 2011. Maybe this is the angle Roush is going for, rather than a money situation.

Shoppe:  I certainly did not see this move coming but now that the news is out it makes total sense! The No. 6 side of the Roush Fenway organization is in desperate need of a change. Nothing against Trevor Bayne. Bayne is a Daytona 500 champ as well as a great driver but let’s be honest, he hasn’t shown it lately.

Bringing Matt Kenseth back to the RFR fold will be a huge help for them to evaluate the #6 team and better diagnose what is the issue with this car while the No. 17 team seems to have much more speed each week. Can’t wait to see Matt Kenseth back in a car!

Sturm: It’s definitely a surprising move, there’s no denying that. Bayne hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire with his performance, although he was hyped up after his Daytona 500 win in 2011. I think it’s partly to improve the performance of the No. 6 team but I have also seen some people speculating that it could possibly be due to Trevor’s health conditions with multiple sclerosis. However, I believe it was a good move as I feel like Matt is finally back home where he belongs.

Question 2
Might it be another Rowdy Sunday for NASCAR fans at Talladega?

Might it be another Rowdy Sunday for NASCAR fans at Talladega?

Kyle Busch has been on a tear to start this season, scoring his straight win of 2018 at Richmond.  Can Rowdy keep the good times rolling at Talladega?

Acero: Talladega will be a wild card race where I personally think that the Rowdy streak ends. He’s en fuego BUT not making it número four. I maybe wrong and eat crow. Surprise winner!

Bowman: Talladega is such an unpredictable monster. No hot streak or amount of momentum can guarantee a solid finish at this track. Anything is possible, but I would say the odds are against Rowdy here.

Cassidy: Talladega is all about luck. The 18 team will need to stay clean, have speed, as well as make the right moves at the right time to end up in victory lane again this weekend! However, being from Vegas, nothing surprises me with Kyle Busch anymore.

Conley:  I don’t see any reason why Kyle couldn’t go on a tear that would rival the best streaks in the sports history. That team is as good as it gets right now, but Talladega is a bad place to go when you’re hoping to keep a streak going. If he wins at Talladega, I’d fully expect this to be a record breaking streak that goes on.

Copple: To put it bluntly, no. Talladega is a beast. It’s so unpredictable that anyone can take their car to Victory Lane. Busch and Havick are going to be the drivers to beat this season, but Talladega could throw a wrench in any drivers run for the Chase.

Hobbs: While Talladega does have a lot of luck involved, there is also a lot of skill involved. He does have a victory in the Geico 500, albeit a decade ago, but he knows how to get around. You can truly pick anyone to win this race, especially Rowdy.

Hull:  Although Kyle Busch has been on a tear, Talladega is a crapshoot. Anyone can win here.  Besides, the last 3 finishes for Busch haven’t been all that impressive. Aside from the 3rd place finish last May, he has had some bad luck here. So given the unpredictability that Talladega brings, we will have to wait and see.

Lucas: The good times probably will come to an end for Candyman Kyle this weekend. In short, Talladega is wild and unpredictable. Expect the unexpected and prove me wrong, Rowdy. If you can make it four in a row, I might just have to get down on my knees and bow to you.

Shoppe:  Hot streak or not Talladega is a track that doesn’t care. Busch may very well be the one to beat in Dega like he has been so much lately but the unpredictable racing there can easily take him or anyone out. I doubt Kyle will win 4 in a row this weekend but it won’t take away from the roll the #18 team is on.

Sturm: I suppose he could, but I don’t think he will. I believe we’ll see a different winner this weekend at Dega. I’m expecting a first-timer, a winless streak being broken, or an underdog to take the checkers.

At the world’s fastest superspeedway, the team brought it for Talladega! Before it’s winning time at this 2.66-mile beast, let’s review last weekend’s action at Richmond!
It was a good evening at Richmond for yours truly and a stats machine.

It was a good evening at Richmond for yours truly and a stats machine.

However, it's the ladies of TPF who are 1-2 heading into Talladega.

However, it’s the ladies of TPF who are 1-2 heading into Talladega.

Friends, let’s drop the hammer and see who we’re picking for Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega!
Can one of these eight emerge victorious at Talladega?

Can one of these eight emerge victorious at Talladega?

Tiongson: If you’ve followed the trends with my picks, I tend to go outside the box. Based on how Daytona went, if things go well, perhaps our very own Matt DiBenedetto gets the win at Talladega!

Acero: Chase Elliott, it is time!

Hull: I am going to go on a limb and say that Chase Elliott finally wins his first race this weekend!

Sturm: I just have this gut feeling about Chase Elliott. He scored his 8th second place finish this past weekend at Richmond, and we all know it took his dad the same amount of runner-up finishes before winning his first race. Plus with it being a restrictor plate track, anything can happen. If Chase can avoid the Big One, he’ll come out victorious.

Bowman: I’m going with my Michigan boy Brad Keselowski to take home his first points win of 2018!

Lucas: Easily one of the best plate racers in NASCAR history, Brad Keselowski takes the cake again at Talladega.

Cassidy:  Bad Brad Keselowski makes it happen.

Conley: His job is on the line and he ran third at Talladega in the fall. Trevor Bayne to the front.

Copple: I would have better luck pulling a drivers name out of a hat then trying to guess the winner this weekend.

*Asks random coworker to pick a driver*

Coworker, who knows little about the sport, picked “the kid in Gordon’s car” so I’m going to go with William Byron.

Hobbs: Man, this is a hard one because luck cannot be taken into account since you could have it one moment and lose it the next. Let’s go for a wild card, a new winner this year – Jamie McMurray for the win!

Shoppe:  Aric Almirola will pull of another Dega upset!

TPF Stats: No one has a string of fantastic numbers like we’d see at other tracks, because anyone can win at Talladega. But, given his luck as of late, Kyle Busch remains on top of the podium as he goes for 4 in a row in the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway!

That wraps this week’s preview, race fans!  Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races in 2018.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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