Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sprint Cup Driver Ratings: Talladega Superspeedway An Enigma

by Micah Roberts
Las Vegas Review-Journal

No one can dominate Talladega Superspeedway over a number of races like some drivers do at certain tracks around the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit. The nasty beast of a 2.66-mile, 33-degree-banked track always seems to be the one in the battle that eventually conquers.

We’ve seen our fair share of drivers over recent years have success in spurts at Talladega, but nothing ever really sustained. The combination of three-wide — and sometimes four-wide — racing at 200 mph for 188 laps makes it hard enough to just finish the race let alone think about winning. In just about every instance, “The Big One” occurs where 10 to 15 cars get involved in what would be a minor accident at any other track but turns out to resemble dominoes falling in line at Talladega.

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A few drivers have been able to run the gauntlet and succeed by winning, while some have done the near impossible by accumulating amazing streaks.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won five times at Talladega and at one point, from 2001-03, won four in a row. He won again in 2004, but that would be his last victory. After that, the Talladega law of averages caught up with him and he paid the price by going eight straight races without a top-five finish. It wasn’t until this race last season that Earnhardt was able to tip the scales in his favor again just by cracking the top-five with a second-place finish.

Jeff Gordon has won six times over his great career at Talladega. His team at Hendrick Motorsports went on a restrictor plate tear at Daytona and Talladega from 2004-07. During that time, Gordon won four of his six Talladega races, with his teammates winning two others. Following Gordon’s sweep of the 2007 season, he too has had to pay the fee for having success and hasn‘t finished better than 19th in any of the four races there since.

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