Dale Earnhardt Jr. Back Home in 'Bama
There are some things that just go well together, a perfect pairing: peanut butter and jelly, chips and dip, spaghetti and meatballs, and pickles and ice cream. Well, maybe that last one is just for me.
In NASCAR, there are plenty of perfect pairings, like a successful driver and crew chief or a winning team and driver. Then there's also something else: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Talladega.
Some might say that it's inherited and in his genes; after all, his father was one of the best restrictor plate racers in the business. Earnhardt Sr. had 34 total wins at Daytona International Speedway and 10 career wins in Talladega, Ala.
Some even said he could see the air.
You don't go to Daytona or Talladega and not think about an Earnhardt playing a role in the outcome. You'll always need to look in your rear view mirror, because you never know when they might pop up, that is of course if you're not looking at their rear bumper.
This weekend Talladega will host the fourth race in the 2008 Chase for the Championship and Earnhardt Jr. will be looking for his sixth win in "Sweet Home Alabama."
If he does get to victory lane, it will be his first restrictor plate win since October 2004.
But more importantly, he needs this race to help propel him back into championship form and into the title hunt.
It couldn't come at a better time or a better place for Little E. "He's very smart as far as anticipating things happening. He watches the cars and he knows where the momentum is going just because of the other drivers' reactions," said crew chief Tony Eury Jr.
"He has a very good way of carrying that momentum once he gets it. If he gets a draft and he gets to do a 'slingshot,' he'll carry that for several laps because he knows what to do with it."
"It's a pleasure to watch him race because he's probably one of the best out there."
After his father's death in 2001, Earnhardt Jr. picked up where his old man left off. He won four straight races from October 2001 to April 2003. He and teammate Michael Waltrip were untouchable.
Then in April 2004, a non-DEI car found victory lane when now-teammate Jeff Gordon was ruled ahead of Earnhardt Jr. at the caution.
Jr. Nation didn't agree.
On the return trip that year, Earnhardt Jr. went to victory lane and vaulted to the point lead. It only lasted a day, as his post-race slip of the tongue cost him 25 championship points.
Fast forward to October 2006 and Earnhardt Jr.'s second shot at the championship. Dominating the day and leading with half a lap left, it looked as if Earnhardt Jr. would once again vault up the standings.
Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers didn't like the sound of that.
When Johnson pulled out to pass Earnhardt Jr., Vickers tapped Johnson just enough to send them both spinning through the grass.
Vickers won and Earnhardt Jr. lost another shot at the championship.
Will this weekend be "third time's a charm?" He'll need to avoid a four-letter word and the no. 83 car to start.
Once again Earnhardt Jr. is in the Chase for the Championship and once again needs to dig himself out of a points hole.
The time to go is now, and if Earnhardt Jr. needs anymore motivation than the thousands of fans screaming in the stands, he'll have an extra 73,000 on his special AMP Energy designed race car.
Plus, the race is called the AMP Energy 500.
For the past few months AMP has run a promotion leading up to this race. If you bought an AMP Energy drink and entered the code on the bottom of the can on-line, your name would be placed on the car.
It's called the "Ride With Dale Jr." event.
Now with so much on the line, at one of the most exciting tracks and races of the year-buckle up because it's going to be one hell of a ride!
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