Given their winning history, it’s unlikely that both Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth could sit at the top of NASCAR point standings race after race and not grab a checkered flag in the process. But both have done exactly that—Gordon is in first and Kenseth is second.
Two real winning leaders so far in 2014 are Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick, as both have two wins and are virtually certain to have a chance for the championship. When evaluating wins with points, Gordon and Kenseth are in eight and ninth place, respectively, not leading at all.
The new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point system is a simple elimination plan that reverberates throughout the season. It can change driver and team strategy because it includes 16 contender positions that shrink to four over a 10-race purge scheme.
That No. 16 is potent, as only twice in NASCAR history has more than 16 different drivers won an NSCS race. It’s basically win and you’re in.
Logano and Harvick are solidly in with two wins each and 17 races to go before the Chase begins.
Jeff Gordon has been circling Victory Lane all season, so it seems like only a matter of time before he and the No. 24 team find confetti showers. The same scenario exists for Kenseth, who had a stellar winning record in 2013.
Gordon and Kenseth are in great point position to start adding a win or wins before the cutoff, as they have almost twice the number of races completed to collect checkered flags.
The next event is the Aaron’s 499 at the popular 2.66-mile tri-oval restrictor-plate track at Talladega Superspeedway. Many NSCS drivers will defy the 33-degree banking speed and frequent big crashes to contend for the win on May 4.
Logano was once known as sliced bread and may have added multigrain to his resume while he worked his way up to Sprint Cup. Already in 2014, he has his two wins and good results.
Logano commented on the difficulty of Talladega.
“You might have a really fast car,” Logano said, “but if you get stuck in the wrong lane or make one wrong move, you can drop back outside of the top 20. And if someone else makes a mistake, you can get swept up in it.”
Gordon was concerned about knock-out qualifying at Talladega.
“Qualifying has the potential to be one of the most exciting sessions of the season,” Gordon said. “It’s going to be a learning experience on where to position to get the best draft with the most speed. That plan may completely change when the session starts.”
Kenseth joined Gordon on the significance of qualifying at Talladega.
“I think that qualifying this weekend will be crazy, unorganized and chaotic,” Kenseth said. “Everybody is going to have different plans and want to be the guy catching the pack. I’m sure our plan will change. Try to figure out how to get that one good lap.”
Earnhardt is a good student of NASCAR history and shared his thoughts on the super speedway.
“Talladega is a special track to the sport with history,” Earnhardt said. “The track eventually turned into one of the most impressive and unique, concerning speed. The style of racing is unique. It’s amazing what it has been able to deliver year after year.”
Busch shared questions he wants answered from his seat time this weekend.
“You just feel out your car and see what it’s doing,” Busch said. “Is it into the racetrack? Is it on top of the racetrack? Are you sliding around too much? The heat this weekend will be something we’re going to have to look for with engine, tire temperatures.”
Like Gordon and Harvick on qualifying, Harvick expects big challenges.
“The timing of when you make your runs is going to be a little bit different,” Harvick said. “There are going to be some interesting moments, I would say, as we go through qualifying, but I think it’s going to be exciting compared to what we’re used to.”
It seems that fans watching the race at Talladega in the stands or in front of a TV will be waiting for the almost inevitable “Big One” to happen on race day. But before the potential for crashes begin, it seems drivers will create big excitement during qualifying as well.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.