TORONTO - 1. NASCAR bosses will find out if new rules for restrictor plate racing work at Talladega’s 2.6 mile oval.
The new package that worked very well at Daytona in February might not translate to central Alabama where temperatures are expected to hit more than 40C Sunday afternoon.
Many drivers are concerned that a smaller air intake designed to break-up two-car tandem racing might also prevent racing in packs and that could mean a return to single file competition — the worst alternative for the big track.
One expert — Dodge racing engineer Howard Comstock — thinks that a combination of heat and a 500 mile race will force drivers to be in conservative mode for most of the event with all of the most exciting action on the final two laps.
2. It will be interesting to see if new crew chief Mike Ford will be able to give Aric Almirola the kind of push to turn the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford into a contender.
Sunday will be Ford’s first day on the job since being fired at the end of last season by Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
3. More than a year ago Trevor Bayne burst onto the Sprint Cup scene in a dramatic win in the 2011 Daytona 500 driving the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford.
Since then illness and bad luck have plagued the 21-year-old in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series. Sunday would be a perfect platform fro Bayne to show his one big victory was not a fluke.
4. By midway of the race every driver will have picked a partner to dance with over the final laps. We get to see which drivers are pals and which drivers are not.
5. Greg Biffle holds a slim five-point lead on top of the Sprint Cup championship in the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
It will be fun to watch of he can get a win at Talladega and put some space between himself and the rest of the Top 10 teams.
At Daytona Biffle played defence while his teammate Matt Kenseth won the race. It is doubtful that if he will do the same thing again on Sunday if the pair are at the front after 497 miles.
6. This is only the 10th race on the 36-race Sprint Cup calendar but already there are a few very famous names on the cusp of being declared out-of-contention already.
Talladega will be a chance for some to shake off the early season doldrums.
One of those drivers is four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet who will start of the pole.
Gordon currently is way back in 17th place and desperately needs a win or at the very least a top five finish at Talladega to be considered a threat to make the Chase for the Championship come September.
Another driver in need of a boost on Sunday is Gordon’s Hendrick teammate Kasey Kahne in the No. 5 Chevrolet. Much was expected of Kahne when he signed with the team back in 2010.
Sunday would be a good day for him to start delivering on all that promise.
7. In restrictor plate racing there is always the opportunity for a driver who normally doesn’t get a chance to race in the top 10 to get that chance. Look for someone like Dave Blaney or a Regan Smith to try to steal a win.
8. It has been almost four full Sprint Cup seasons since Dale Earnhardt Jr. last visited victory lane in the No. 88 Hendrick Chevrolet.
There will be nearly 100,000 Junior fans hoping that he can pull it off at Talladega’s high banked oval.
Once upon a time Earnhardt owned Talladega. Between 2001 and 2004 Earnhardt won five of seven races at the big track.
Certainly NASCAR bosses would break out the good champagne should stock car racing’s most popular driver break his losing skein on Sunday.
And the way he has been driving this season — he is second in points behind Biffle — Earnhardt could do it this week.