“Matt has shown he’s the guy to beat here,” Jarrett said. “I was explaining again too—we were talking about when I won that race in 2005—Matt Kenseth was leading the race when we took the white flag. But I was actually trying to push Tony Stewart to win because I didn’t feel like I had the car that day to really get out front. As we pushed by Matt, then Tony made a lane change that I wasn’t capable of making and it opened up for me. Matt’s always in front here; he’s such a smooth driver. He reminds me so much of a good friend of ours, David Pearson—it’s unbelievable. He also has that bulldog style of a Cale Yarborough about him when he needs to have that. He is going to be the man to beat.
Jarrett’s dark horse pick is Kyle Busch.
“When you think about this, don’t count Kyle Busch out anywhere this year,” Jarrett explained. “I did an event with Kyle in Charlotte, but even before the season started he was my pick to win the championship. I think that this type of racing here is something that he’s had to adjust to also. We know that he can go flat out and he’s as good a race driver talent-wise as anybody that’s ever been through this sport. That might make some people made to think that Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt and obviously racing against Jimmie Johnson, five-time champion, but talent-wise there’s just nobody that’s any better than Kyle Busch. But here you have to do more than just have that talent. You have to be able to think your way through things and accept when things don’t go your way or you get in the wrong lane and you lose 15 or 20 spots. But Kyle Busch is somebody that I look at that could take advantage of this and I really believe that missing the Chase last year was probably a blessing in disguise for him and that race team. I think they all matured a lot. They could have hung their heads when they made the wrong decision at Richmond last year, cost them being a part of the Chase. But they decided to race hard and become a better race team and a better race driver. I think that’s going to benefit them. He’s somebody to watch.”
Jarrett believes predicting results at Talladega is a difficult task. He pointed to David Ragan, a surprise winner at Talladega in this year’s spring race, as a perfect example. Few predicted Greg Biffle to win at Michigan earlier this season.
“Greg Biffle—anywhere that he ever races—you can’t ever count him out,” Jarrett said. “You look at who won the race in the spring; that tells you anybody can win. David Ragan came out of nowhere basically to do the job and get it done. If you’ve got a car that’s still rolling pretty good and you can get the right push and get yourself in the right lane just as I did, just as David Ragan did, and many others have done here, you can make it happen at the end of the race.”