When the Nationwide Series races at Talladega Superspeedway, it's usually a wild affair.
Big wrecks and close finishes generally happen in a Nationwide event at this 2.66-mile racetrack.
The race here two years ago featured a track-record 56-lead changes, 11 cautions and two red flags for extensive cleanup efforts. Kyle Busch was involved in a 21-car accident late in the race, but he somehow bounced back to win it. The event was extended with two green-white-checkered finishes. Busch propelled to the lead on the final lap when Joey Logano bumped him to the front. He remained the leader when the race ended under caution for an accident.
Last year, Logano edged Busch to the finish line by just 0.034 seconds after Logano made a sling-shot pass on Busch for the lead as they approached the line. The race ended in a green-white-checkered finish after a vicious 10-car crash took place on the backstretch in the closing laps. Eric McClure slammed head on into the inside retaining wall at a high rate of speed, forcing NASCAR to halt the event briefly, as track safety personnel attended to McClure. He suffered a concussion during the wreck and missed the next five races.
There are three restrictor-plate races on the Nationwide schedule each season -- two at Daytona International Speedway and one at Talladega. These events feature tight packs of cars, which can be a recipe for disaster.
"I wish I could decide more when and where wrecks are going to happen, but it's always a surprise when they do, and they happen at really random times," said Brian Scott, who drives the No. 2 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. "It's so hard to miss them when they do, other than the fact that you're running in a pack all close together. I hope that everybody keeps their cool, and we make it to the end of the race before things get wild. And I hope we're in front of it."
When the series competed at Daytona on Feb. 23, a horrifying accident occurred on the frontstretch during the final lap, injuring dozens of spectators in the grandstands. Rookie Kyle Larson flipped around and sailed into the catchfence before coming back down on the track. Race fans were struck by flying debris from Larson's car and the fence. Track personnel worked throughout the night to repair the fence in time for the Daytona 500.
In wake of the Daytona incident, the crossover gate areas at Talladega have been reinforced as part of new safety measures. Daytona will also make the same changes to its fence in time for the July races there.
Logano will try to defend his race win at Talladega. He is making his first Nationwide start this season. It will also be the first time the Penske Racing driver gets behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang.
"It's been a long time coming for sure," said Logano, who won the most races in the series last year with nine. "I really enjoy running in the Nationwide Series, and to sit there and watch all of the races up to this point this season has been hard. I'm a racer, and I just want to be out there running as much as I can. So, I'm pretty excited to finally get a chance to get behind the wheel of the car and check out these Ford Mustangs."
Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Danica Patrick join Logano as those Sprint Cup regulars scheduled to compete in this race. Patrick will drive the No. 34 Chevrolet for Turner Scott Motorsports. She drove that car in the season- opener at Daytona, finishing 36th due to engine failure in the early going. Kyle Busch, winner of four races this season, is not competing at Talladega.
Forty-two teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Aaron's 312.
Series: NASCAR Nationwide. Date: Saturday, May 4. Race: Aaron's 312. Site: Talladega Superspeedway. Track: 2.66-mile oval. Start time: 3 p.m. ET. Laps: 117. Miles: 311.22. 2012 Winner: Joey Logano. Television: ESPN. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.