NASCAR Headed Back to Talladega: What Should We Expect in Dale Junior Nation?
Every time I think about Talladega I get chills down my spine and goosebumps on my arm. It's a track that nearly everybody in NASCAR Nation can agree has some of the most exciting racing on the circuit.
Talladega never disappoints.
As everyone knows, Talladega Superspeedway is home to Dale Junior Nation, and one thing we do expect is the crowd to look like a sea of green and blue.
But what else should we expect as NASCAR heads to the Alabama track?
Chevy has dominated Talladega more than any other manufacturer in NASCAR. Over the last eight races at the super speedway, Chevy has been to Victory Lane five times, while the last time another manufacturer won at Talladega before Busch and Stewart in 2008 was Dale Jarrett in a Ford in 2005.
Expect to see another Chevy in Victory Lane again this week.
As we saw in both races in 2008, Toyota was the king with all the horsepower and giddy up in their cars, but I don't expect to see the same thing again this year.
The Chevys have closed the gap a lot, and Toyota does not stand alone atop of the horsepower chain anymore.
Which Team Should We Look to for a Win?
Talladega is also a track where Hendrick Motorsports has dominated over the last five years. HMS drivers have a combined 14 wins at the super speedway (Jeff Gordon (6), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (5), Mark Martin (2), and Jimmie Johnson (1)).
If I'm picking drivers for a fantasy league or for BR's Creature vs Creature pics, I wouldn't bet against an HMS driver.
Their track record is far too strong at Talladega.
Drivers To Look Out For
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior has struggled so much this year, and after leading 63 laps at Phoenix, Earnhardt later smashed into the wall after losing control of a very loose race car, resulting in a 31st place finish.
There is no better track for Earnhardt to rebound and give his season and team a jolt than Talladega. Four of Earnhardt's five Talladega wins came back-to-back between the 2001 and 2003 seasons.
Expect to see Earnhardt with a top five, if not a win.
Gordin is another driver who is very dangerous at Talladega and is Earnhardt's teammate at HMS. Gordon leads all active drivers with most laps led and most wins at the 2.5-mile race track.
Expect Gordon to lead a lot of laps, finish in the top five, and be in contention for the win at the end.
Stewart is a guy who is always one of the top dogs when it comes to restrictor plate racing, and Talladega is no exception.
Don't let Stewart's one career win at Talladega fool you. Over the last five races at Talladega, Stewart has had one of the most dominant cars, until he would get passed late and be hung out to dry. Stewart has also gotten caught up in other people's wrecks, which has kept him out of Victory Lane.
As we all know, one driver that Stewart always seems to draft with at these tracks is Earnhardt, Jr. Stewart has finished second a total of three times at restrictor plate tracks while he was pushing Earnhardt to Victory Lane.
Don't be surprised to see the same thing happen again, only this time, the order could be flip-flopped. Maybe its time for Earnhardt to be looking at the back of Stewart's car as he crosses the finish line.
Oh, and of course, how could we forget...Stewart did win the last race at Talladega in October of 2008.
The Dark Horses
Harvick has made a habit of creating breath-taking finishes at restrictor plate tracks (i.e. the 2007 Daytona 500).
At the beginning of the race, it's very common to see Harvick at the back of the pack, however, as it gets down to the last 10 laps, it's become common to see him bringing a roaring pack behind him as he crosses the start-finish line.
I would not be at all surprised to see Harvick come home with a good finish this weekend.
You can never leave Hamlin out of the mix when it comes to Daytona and Talladega. You have to remember, he did win his very first restrictor plate race as a rookie in the 2006 Budweiser Shootout.
McMurray is a guy that just has a thing for sneaking through the race without being much of a threat, then BAM!...He's in Victory Lane!
That's what happened at the Pepsi 400 in 2007 at Daytona. He edged Kyle Busch at the line to win his second career race in NASCAR's elite division.
The Driver Most Likely To Cause "The Big One"
What?! Why isn't Earnhardt, Jr., on this list?! Because he doesn't make a habit of it. Busch, however, is one driver who does.
Yes, the guy has talent and he's a phenom, but he is also one of the most reckless drivers in the sport of NASCAR. Those are the kind of drivers who will make a move in the middle of the race that should be made only in the last five laps.
There are too many incidents in which Busch has wrecked people purposely or made a dumb move that puts him in the garage along with innocent bystanders just trying to keep their car out of trouble.
You can make predictions, guesses, and think you may know what will happen at Talladega this Sunday...But the truth is, you can't script NASCAR, and you sure as hell can't script NASCAR at Talladega Superspeedway.
Ladies and Gentleman, sit back and enjoy the ride!
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