NASCAR at Talladega: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and 10 Drivers Likely to Be in the Mix

Melissa Bauer-Herzog@mbauerherzogCorrespondent IApril 14, 2011

NASCAR at Talladega: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and 10 Drivers Likely to Be in the Mix

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    TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 31:  A general view of cars racing during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AMP Energy Juice 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 31, 2010 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Talladega, the track where luck counts more than anything else.

    Probably known mostly for its wrecks, Talladega is the place to watch if you want to see "The Big One."

    But who has had the most luck there and what do I think they'll do this weekend? Come with me as I try to figure out who will avoid the wrecks and still have a running car at the end of the race that just may make it to the finish line.

    And in honor of Ricky Bobby and Talladega Nights: "If you're not first, you're last."

No. 1: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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    FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 09:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ja
    Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Junior is a five-time winner here in the Cup series, but hasn't won at the track since October of 2004. The driver finished 13th here last April and is currently on a hot streak we haven't seen him on for a while.

    Expect him to be competing for the lead this weekend and maybe even lead some laps.

No. 2: Jeff Gordon

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    FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 09:  Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont Chevrolet, walks on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/
    Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    Gordon is a six-time winner here, but like Junior, he hasn't won since 2007. He finished eighth here in October and already has a win this year, so expect him to be close to the front if he can escape all the wrecks.

No. 3: Kevin Harvick

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    FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 08:  Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Jared C. T
    Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

    Harvick's only win here came in April, but he followed that up with a second, proving that he's figured out Talladega, at least for the time being.

    However, before last year, he had also grabbed a pole in 2005, so he's no stranger to going fast at Talladega.

    I see a top-10 in his future this weekend.

No. 4: Kyle Busch

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    FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 09:  Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, stands on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Chris
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Little Busch has a win over the track and finished ninth last April. 

    If he can stay in the front during the race, he'll be a contender come the mad rush to the finish at the end of the race.

No. 5: Clint Bowyer

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    MARTINSVILLE, VA - APRIL 03:  Clint Bowyer (R) leans against the #33 BB&T Chevrolet as crew chief Shane Wilson (L) looks on while on the grid during pre-race activities for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on A
    Jason Smith/Getty Images

    Like his teammate, Boywer was on fire here last year with a win in October and a seventh in April.

    Bowyer hasn't had the greatest year, but I think he can pull out a solid run here.

No. 6: Jamie Mcmurray

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    FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 09:  Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Jerry Mark
    Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    JMac had a breakout year last year, basically setting the world on fire when he was hot and winning or placing in some of the biggest races of the year.

    Do I think he can repeat that feat this year? No. Do I think he can have a solid run? Yes.

No. 7: Tony Stewart

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    FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 08:  Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Ronal
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Smoke had a bit of bad luck here last year with a 16th and 31st, respectively, but he also won here in 2008.

    If there's a dark horse in the race, I bet it will be Smoke.

No. 8: Carl Edwards

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    FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 09:  Carl Edwards (R), driver of the #99 Scotts Ford, signs his autograph for fans prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Get
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Edwards has never won at this track, but he is consistent, especially this year.

    If he can keep himself out of trouble, I think he'll have a nice run.

No. 9: Kurt Busch

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    FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 09:  Kurt Busch, driver of the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, stands on the track prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Ima
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Big Busch finished eighth here in April, but he has no wins at this track.

    Busch wants his points lead back (he sits fifth now), so expect him to stay safe and work his way to the front so he can avoid "The Big One."

No. 10: Brian Vickers

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    FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 09:  Brian Vickers, driver of the #83 Red Bull Toyota, stands on the grid prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Vickers really isn't having a good year, but I am still expecting big things from him at some point this year.

    He won this race a bit controversially in 2006, and I think he can pull off a "miracle win" like that again this year.

No. 11: Juan Pablo Montoya

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    FORT WORTH, TX - APRIL 09:  Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9, 2011 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Jerry Ma
    Jerry Markland/Getty Images

    Montoya had a pair of thirds here last year and won the Pole last October. He sits No. 8 in points with four top-10s and seems to have the equipment that allows him to be a competitor.

    He is good at avoiding major damage in wrecks and seems to just appear up front at the end.

    Watch for him on Sunday.

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