The most competitive Chase yet is coming to NASCAR’s most competitive track.
Since the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format was introduced in 2004, we have the closest margin ever between first and second place with four races remaining in the season; only six points separate Jimmie Johnson from Denny Hamlin. And … third place Kevin Harvick is only 62 back of Johnson.
Talladega Superspeedway, site of Sunday’s AMP Energy Juice 500, is a perfect match for such a situation.
The unpredictable 2.66-mile tri-oval had the most competitive race in NASCAR history this past April, with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series records established for lead changes (88) and leaders (29).
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series also races at ‘Dega this weekend, with Saturday’s Mountain Dew 250. The NASCAR Nationwide Series has its final open week of the year.
The GRAND-AM Road Racing season, meanwhile, is complete, with the Rolex Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge looking to the 2011 season-opening races at Daytona International Speedway Jan. 28-30.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
Harvick Returning RCR To Restrictor-Plate DominanceComing off of his first top-five finish at Martinsville and closing to within 62 points of the Chase lead, Kevin Harvick attempts to win his third consecutive restrictor-plate race this week.
At Talladega in April, he completed a slingshot pass on Jamie McMurray to win by .011 seconds, the eighth-closest finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup history. Harvick went on to win a second-straight plate race at Daytona in July.
Harvick’s April win provided car owner Richard Childress with his first Talladega triumph since 2000. Harvick is going for the first Talladega season sweep in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since Jeff Gordon in 2007.
Chase Spoiler Could Be McMurray – AgainJamie McMurray will attempt to play Chase spoiler for the second time in this Chase, in the process trying to repeat as Amp Energy Juice 500 race winner.
It could happen. McMurray has come up big in his three previous 2010 wins – capturing the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the Bank of America 500(at Charlotte).
Is Dale Jr. Back?After leading 90 laps at Martinsville – the most he’s led in a race since Richmond in September of 2008 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. returns to Talladega with a chance to tie Gordon for second on the NASCAR Sprint Cup win list at the track with six, behind his father’s record 10 victories.
Despite his obvious struggles this season, Dale Jr. has looked just fine in this year’s three previous restrictor-plate events, with finishing second and fourth, respectively, at Daytona and 13th at Talladega).
1 - Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser / Jimmy John's Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 118.8 2015 Rundown · Three wins, 22 top fives, 27 top 10s, · Led 2248 laps · Average Finish of 8.9 Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook: · One win, six top fives, 12 top 10s · Average finish of 7.571, series-best · Average Running Position of 10.030, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 102.5, fourth-best · 2072 Laps in the Top 15 (77.6), fourth-most · 435 Quality Passes, seventh-most
2 - Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 92.5 2015 Rundown · One win, five top fives, 20 top 10s, · Led 256 laps · Average Finish of 13.9 Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook: · One win, seven top fives, 12 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 10.563, seventh-best · Average Running Position of 11.465, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 100.7, fifth-best · 1998 Laps in the Top 15 (74.8), seventh-most · 467 Quality Passes, fifth-most
3 - Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Crispy Toyota) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 107 2015 Rundown · Four wins, 11 top fives, 15 top 10s, · Led 695 laps · Average Finish of 11.2 Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook: · One top five, three top 10s · Average finish of 23.1, 25th-best · Average Running Position of 16.056, 13th-best · Driver Rating of 91.5, ninth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.019, eighth-fastest · 1696 Laps in the Top 15 (63.5), 10th-most · 422 Quality Passes, eighth-most
4 - Martin Truex, Jr (No. 78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 100 2015 Rundown · One win, eight top fives, 22 top 10s, · Led 564 laps · Average Finish of 12.2 Homestead-Miami Speedway Outlook: · Three top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 10, second-best · Average Running Position of 9.037, second-best · Driver Rating of 106.6, third-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.357, series-fastest · 1981 Laps in the Top 15 (82.4), second-most · 563 Quality Passes, series-most