Due to its unpredictability and knack for producing multi-car wrecks, odds are no track in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup will play a bigger role in deciding the outcome of the championship as Talladega Superspeedway.
Just ask Clint Bowyer.
"This is a big weekend for our sport, our Chase and everybody involved in it," Bowyer said Friday at Talladega. "This is one of the tracks that can separate somebody and possibly win you a championship."
Bowyer described 'Dega as a "game-changer" – that one race in the Chase where anything can happen and can easily scramble the standings. It's really no different than a 3-year-old overturning a checkers board in the middle of the game.
"I think this track is the reason why everybody in the Chase is still in it," Bowyer said. "This is the only track that all of us can get wiped out or maybe all of us but one or two. ... This is a dangerous wild card race for the Chase and you've just got to go out there and be as careful as you can and also be aggressive as you can and try to get yourself in the situation to win this thing."
If a championship contender can get through Talladega relatively unscathed and leave with a respectable finish, then the path to winning the title is far easier. But a poor result on Sunday and that path becomes littered with obstacles.
"It seems like each and every week these first few, it's just been a point or two here, a point or two there," Bowyer said. "This is one that can swing 20, 30 points and take you out of the running or push you into it."
And for those drivers who find themselves far back in the standings three weeks into the Chase, Talladega also provides them with an opportunity to climb back up the point ladder and become a contender – assuming they can avoid the trouble which lurks on every lap.
"It doesn't matter if you lead all the laps and run up front all day long," Bowyer said. "If you're not there when that checkered flag falls, nobody knows who led the most laps in most of these races anyways. Nobody even cares. They all care about who won and, more importantly, where this Chase bunch finished, because that's what it's all about right now.
"So that being said, it is fun to be able to be in my situation. I've got to make up some ground and this is the one track where I can make up a lot of ground on those guys. You've got to use it as an opportunity."
And unlike Daytona – the only other plate track on the schedule – Talladega offers drivers the chance to be more aggressive due to the wider racing surface. This, in turn, makes races there more unpredictable and more prone to producing moments that make fans take notice. All of which are seen as a positive by Bowyer.
"This is a good thing for our sport, it's a good thing for our Chase and this is a good thing to have in this Chase race," he said. "A lot of drivers and teams hate this part of it, but at the end of the day as a fan, this is what we all want to see."
Considering he's won this race for the last two years, if anyone would know the secret to dealing with the always-chaotic and ever-changing nature of restrictor-plate racing, it would be Bowyer, who finds himself 25 points behind championship leader Brad Keselowski.
"I love racing here," Bowyer said. "It's so much fun. That's such a thrill to be able to go around there and know that the storm is brewing and all hell is fixing to break loose and you're fixing to be a part of it. It's a pretty neat situation to be in."