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Top-5: Underdogs Who Could Shine at Talladega

David Ragan celebrates after scoring his 2nd career win in the 2013 Aaron's 499 at Talladega.
David Ragan celebrates after scoring his 2nd career win in the 2013 Aaron's 499 at Talladega.

Well I have been a way for a while, but did you think I would stay away for too long!!  This weekend is one of my favorites of the year!  I love the side-by-side, bumper-to-bumper, action at Talladega.  The racing is awesome, but let's not forget that this is also one of the few weekends on a schedule where the competition is some what even across the board!  This weekend will host 2 battles, the first of which involves Chasers trying to survive, the second highlights underdogs trying to dethrone the stars of the series!  This post is similar to one I did in the spring, but I always want fans to pay attention to some of the underdogs who may just step into victory lane come Sunday!  Here I am going to highlight the top-5 underdogs who could win the 500.  Also, to clarify, my meaning of underdog is someone who is under-looked and is not expected to win the race.  Well, let's get to it!!

1. Paul Menard:  Spring Finish:  3rd.

Menard may not be an underdog to some, but I still place him in this category considering how little the media covers him, and how little fans appreciate him.  Menard is a solid driver in the series who made his first career Chase appearance this season, but in the overall scheme of things, Menard finding victory lane this weekend would be totally unexpected.  I put the #27 team at the top of the list, because I believe he is the underdog with the best chance to win.  He has experience at 'Dega and has shown success over the years.  Menard is usually a very solid restrictor plate racer, but usually ends up getting caught up in someone else's mess.  Earlier this spring Menard finished 3rd proving that if he can manage to survive he can run near the front.  Menard has solid equipment and a solid supporting cast to help push him to the promise land this weekend at Talladega.

2. Ryan Blaney:  Spring Finish: 4th

Flyin Ryan Blaney has I like to call him, will have a chance to redeem himself this weekend at Talladega!  Many fans were disappointed as the part-time rookie played the safe side earlier this year by refusing to pull out of line and make a move.  Blaney who ran top-5 most of the day in the spring showed the patience, but now needs to prove he has the spunk to make a move for a win.  Blaney has shown time and time again that he can find speed in the lower funded Wood Brothers Ford, and this weekend could send him to the top of the list of future young stars.  Blaney rolls off 9th for Sunday's race, which means you should expect the young gun to stick around up front and get some much needed experience.  Blaney may not be an underdog in the grand scheme of things, but honestly it would be a great surprise to see the famous #21 roll back in to victory lane after 500 miles.

3. David Ragan:  Spring Finish:  38th

Don't let his starting position fool you.  Ragan will take the green flag in 22nd, but this guy knows how to get it done.  Of his 2 career wins, both involve a restrictor plate.  Ragan shocked the field in 2013 as he and teammate at the time David Gilliland finished 1-2 in the Aaron's 499.  Ragan manages to find his way up front during each race and Daytona and Talladega which gives him a chance to shine.  This is one of the strongest cars Ragan has ever piloted at 'Dega, and having Michael Waltrip and Clint Bowyer to help push only boosts his chance.  Ragan makes this list due to experience and past performance.  Ragan would indeed be a surprise winner considering the situation at MWR and the inconsistencies in Ragan's career.

4. Trevor Bayne:  Spring Finish: 41st

The 2011 Daytona 500 winner is sitting pretty headed into Talladega.  With his second highest starting position of the season Bayne may be looking at his best chance to win his second Cup race this weekend.  Bayne who will line up on the outside of the third row (6th) needs to do one thing to drastically help his chances to find glory, and that is to avoid trouble.  Bayne undoubtedly has talent when it comes to restrictor plate racing, but time and time again he manages to tear up his equipment before the checkard flag falls.  Bayne has once again shown speed this weekend in his #6 Advocare Ford, but he needs to prove he wasn't a fluke, and there is no better time than the present.  Bayne's talent puts him on this list, and trust me if he wins this weekend it would indeed be an underdog story, especially considering the struggles of Roush-Fenway Racing.

5. David Gilliland:  Spring Finish:  20th

Talk about an underdog, Gilliland is clearly one if there ever was one.  Gilliland has plenty of experience in the Cup Series, and would cause a catastrophic implosion in the Cup garage if he could take the checkard flag!  With that being said, he has a shot.  Gilliland who rolls off P38, will enter familiar ground Sunday.  He is use to being the little engine that could, which is just how he likes it.  Front Row Motorsports seems to have at least one car floating around the top-10 at the end of 500 miles, and who is to say that car couldn't be the #38.  Gilliland knows how to save his equipment and make it through the big one if needed, after all 6 of his 8 career top-10's are at restrictor plate tracks.  Look for the veteran driver to at least emerge near the front of the pack before all is said and done.  With 2 other Front Row Motorsports cars in the field, Gilliland is the clear cut leader, so if a Front Row Ford manages to win, odds are it will be Riverside, California native David Gilliland.

Well as always thanks for reading!!!  Hope everyone enjoys the race this weekend, it should be a spectacle!! Let me know who you think will take the checkard flag!!! Also, give me a follow on Instagram: NASCAR OPINION & Twitter: nascar_opinion!! Have a great rest of your day!! 


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