Saturday, October 30, 2010

Talladega To Have Major Say In Who Wins Sprint Cup Title

By Micah Roberts

The one wild card in NASCAR’s 10-race Chase for the Championship is finally upon us, where the fate of the eventual Sprint Cup Champion is in the hands, or banking, of monstrous Talladega Superspeedway. The 2.66-mile beast of a track doesn’t play to the favorites; it’s an equal opportunity track that punishes — and rewards — everyone to the same hostile degree.

For the Chasers who will strategize to stay out of trouble, good luck! Talladega will find them when they least expect it and there‘s nothing they can do to prevent it. Drivers are at the mercy of restrictor plates, high speeds and a wide track that allows for drivers to go four wide with regularity. Because the drivers are so bunched up at such high speeds, the chain reaction of collisions that occur can wipe out dozens of cars at a time. For points leader Jimmie Johnson, avoiding “the big one” will be his main strategy, with a hope of simply finishing the race.

While Johnson plays the caution game, all the contenders behind him will try to utilize this wild-card opportunity to their advantage and position themselves for the final three races — tracks at which Johnson does very well. Should Johnson have the same fate he had in the April 25 Talladega race, we could conceivably see two drivers pass him in points. Johnson finished 31st in April while the two drivers currently closest behind him did very well — Harvick won and Hamlin finished fourth. Johnson gained only 75 points with the poor finish while Harvick took 190 for winning and Hamlin 165.

A look at the Chasers with four races to go and outlook for Sunday’s race:

1. Jimmie Johnson, points leader: He’s been able to bob-and-weave pretty well and avoid the wrath of Talladega while the Chase pressure has been on the last four years. His strategy has been to lay back for almost the entire race and then make a move with about 10 laps to go. It worked to perfection last season when he avoided “the big one” and finished sixth. Johnson’s troubles have come in the spring when he‘s been racing for the win. The last two spring races have seen him finish 31st and 30th, while he’s eased into sixth and ninth-place finishes with the pressure on in the fall.

2. Denny Hamlin, six points behind: He’ll be looking to mix in similarities from last year's final five races, minus the 38th-place result from Talladega. He’s already won at Martinsville like he did in 2009 and if he can get by Talladega with a top-10 finish, he’ll be feeling pretty confident heading into a stretch run that saw him finish second, third and first in 2009’s final three starts. Those are numbers that Johnson may even have trouble keeping up with. Hamlin has said jokingly that he’s going to ride Johnson’s tail for the entire race today to ensure they have the same fate so he can get to those final three races close or ahead. It’s hard to see Hamlin taking that route, though, since he’s always been so competitive with the plates on. He’s led a lap in all nine of his Talladega starts and finished fourth in the spring. He’s got a big choice to make in how he approaches this race because he does have a car that could win. Does he play it cautious and stay close, or go for the home run with the high risk of falling further behind? Knowing Hamlin’s tendencies, he’ll be going for it all.    

3. Kevin Harvick, 62 points behind: Everyone’s talking about this being a wild card with so much uncertainty, but for Harvick, this is the one race of the Chase he’s been looking forward to. He expects to do well on the basis of winning the last two plate races of the season. After opening up with a seventh-place finish in the Daytona 500, Harvick went on to win at Talladega and then the July Daytona race. There may be only one other car on the track that is dialed in like Harvick’s and he’s not a Chaser. Harvick’s hopes are that Hamlin does tail Johnson and that they both experience trouble in the back together or both finish in the teens. Should Harvick win this race, he would pass them both in points if they finished 12th or worse.

4. Kyle Busch, 172 points behind: While he proclaimed himself out of the Chase weeks ago, he’s right back in the mix, especially if he’s able to win or get a top-five finish and Harvick’s ideal scenario unfolds. The only difference is that he needs Harvick to find trouble as well. Busch has always run well in plate races, but his hard-nosed driving style has found him with more tricks than treats at Talladega. He won the 2008 spring race, but it remains his only top-five finish on the track despite leading a lap in his last six starts there. He’ll need a few crazy circumstances to occur, but he couldn’t ask for a better track to have it all become a reality.  

Chasers who won’t win the title, but could win this Sunday:   

Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer will each compete for the win this week because they have the same engines as the two drivers who have won the three plate races this season. The ECR engine program supplies engines for all the Childress and Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing cars. Burton led the most laps in April’s race and will be using the same car he finished fourth with at Daytona in July. Bowyer is also using his Daytona car, which finished seventh.

Kurt Busch is easily the best plate racer to have never won a plate race. At Talladega, he has an amazing 12.8 average finish over his 19 starts that included four third-place finishes. At Daytona, he has eight top five finishes. This week he’ll be using his eighth-place Talladega chassis from April that led four separate times.

Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon have been very accomplished plate racers over their career, but their plate programs have stumbled a little this year. Stewart finally won at Talladega in 2008 after a succession of runner-ups while Gordon is a six-time winner with the last coming in 2007.       

Top drivers outside the Chase that can win Sunday:

Jamie McMurray has the disadvantage of not being able to race his winning Daytona 500 chassis because it’s on display at the Daytona USA Museum, but that didn’t stop him from nearly winning in another car the last time he visited Talladega. He got beat on the final turn of the last lap by Harvick, losing by a nose at the finish line. He’ll use that same car this week and is one of the lucky drivers to have the powerful ECR engines under his hood.

Juan Pablo Montoya also has the luxury of having the ECR engine which propelled him to third place behind his teammate in April. It took him a while to get used to drafting in stock cars, but he’s quite accomplished now and should be considered one of the favorites to win.     

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the master of Talladega from 2001-2004, having won five times with two other runner-up finishes. He’s still been good, but hasn’t won since. He should be a contender this week and will be using the same car that finished runner-up in the Daytona 500.

A nice long shot to look this week is David Ragan, the “other” driver at Roush-Fenway Racing. Talladega has been the site of his best combined racing performances with a 13.3 average finish in seven races. While it wasn’t his best career finish there, his sixth-place run in April may have been his best chance at winning.    

Final Talladega Driver Ratings Following All Practices and Qualifying

Micah Roberts Top 10 Driver Ratings
Amp Energy Juice 500
Talladega Superspeedway
Sunday, October 31, 2010 - 10:16 am (PDT)

Rating    Driver     Odds   Practice 1  Practice 2   Qualifying   April 25*

 1. Kevin Harvick 5/1             31st          DNP              14th           1st 
Won two of the three plates races this season; using same car that won in April.
 2. Jamie McMurray 8/1         3rd           DNP              12th           2nd 
Won this race in 2009 and Daytona 500 this year. Using runner-up chassis from April.
 3. Jeff Burton 20/1               22nd           2nd                5th           32nd 
Led the most laps in April race; using the same chassis that finished sixth at Daytona in July.
 4. Juan Pablo Montoya 18/1 36th         DNP               1st            3rd 
Career best of second-place in 2008; using same ECR engine as Harvick and McMurray.
 5. Denny Hamlin 25/1           1st             4th                17th           4th 
Has led a lap in all nine career starts; using chassis that has started last three at Talladega.
 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 10/1    10th           6th                 6th            13th 
Five wins with the last coming in 2004; using runner-up chassis from the Daytona 500.
 7. Clint Bowyer 20/1             16th          DNP               2nd            7th 
Using the powerful ECR engine inside his fourth-place Daytona 500 chassis this week.
 8. Kyle Busch 8/1                  2nd           15th               32nd           9th 
Won in spring of 2008, his only top five finish on track; has led a lap in last six starts.
 9. Kurt Busch 12/1                30th           3rd                 3rd             8th 
12.8 average finish in 19 starts, including third-place four times. Using same car from April.
10. Mark Martin 30/1              9th            1st                 30th            5th                    
Making 46th career start on track; two wins, the last coming in 1997. New chassis this week.
* Results from the Talladega Aaron’s 499.

Note: Talladega is one of two tracks that require teams to use restrictor plates accounting for four races on the 36 race schedule. This is an impound race with only two scheduled practices. Many teams chose not to run the final practice.

Odds courtesy of the Las Vegas Hilton Super Book.

Micah Roberts, a former Race and Sports Book Director, has been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1995. He currently writes for multiple publications covering all sports. He can be reached at

Montoya Captures Talladega Pole

Sporting News Wire Service
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Benefiting from an early qualifying draw, Juan Montoya sped around 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway in 51.863 seconds (184.640 mph) Saturday to win the pole for Sunday's Amp Energy Juice 500.
The pole was Montoya's second at Talladega, his third of the season and the fifth of his Cup career. Montoya was the sixth driver to make a qualifying attempt.
Clint Bowyer (184.498 mph) qualified second for the seventh race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Kurt Busch (184.388 mph) will start third, followed by Joe Nemechek (184.253 mph) andJeff Burton (184.161 mph).
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dave BlaneyRyan NewmanCasey Mears and Sam Hornish Jr. will take the green flag from positions six through 10, respectively.
Chase leader Jimmie Johnson starts 19th, with second-place Denny Hamlin 17th and third-placeKevin Harvick 14th. Harvick won this season's spring race at Talladega but hasn't finished better than 20th in the previous three fall races.
Landon CassillTravis Kvapil and Johnny Sauter failed to qualify for the 43-car field.


• Juan Montoya earned his fifth Cup Series pole in his 142nd start.
• Juan Montoya has never won from the pole.
• Chevrolet earns its 15th pole in 2010; Ford has six, Toyota has six and Dodge has three.
• Jeff Gordon is the last driver to win from the pole at Talladega (April '07).
• Three of the past six Talladega races were won from 22nd or lower; the other three were won from the top 10.
• There have been six different race winners in the past six races at Talladega.
• Jamie McMurray finished first and second in the past two Talladega races.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored top-15 finishes in the past three Talladega races.
• Jeff Burton finished 12th or better in four of the past five Talladega races.
• Kevin Harvick scored top-10 finishes in all three restrictor-plate races in 2010, the only driver to do so.
• Clint Bowyer (second) posted his career-best start in 20 restrictor-plate races.
• Kurt Busch (third) posted his career-best start in 40 restrictor-plate races.
• Joe Nemechek (fourth) was the fastest of the 11 go-or-go homers.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Talladega Final Practices: As Usual, Nothing Really Telling From Plate Practices

I rarely pay attention to practices from the restrictor plate races at Daytona and Talladega because they are misleading and very rarely help in any equation to determine who will do well in the actual race like they do at all the other tracks. The wide variation in practice speeds because of the draft is why the info is useless.

The main data I rely on is past history and how well each driver did in this seasons plate races. I like to look deeper into each race and see who ran well even if the results don't show it. Wrecks play a huge factor in so many of these races, so dismissing a driver because he finished 25th or worse in the other plate races doesn't always tell the whole story.  

The darlings of the plate race season appear to be everyone with Childress engines that includes Juan Pablo Montoya, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer. They are on a run of winning all three plate races this year and are in a zone like no other in the series. This is the same type of plate dominance over a short period of time like we saw from DEI, and then later Hendrick, over the last decade.

Saturday's qualifying will also be worthless information other than getting fantasy bonus points in league play. I'll have a final write-up on the race late Saturday afternoon.

Happy Hour for the AMP Energy Juice 500 at Talladega Superspeedway is over after 60 scheduled minutes, the top-5, slowest and notes:
#5-Martin 197.814
#31-Burton 197.794
#2-Busch 197.794
#11-Hamlin 197.647
#00-Reutimann 197.631
slowest: #38-Kvapil 179.699 & #66-Sauter 177.248. 37 drivers have been on track.
no speed: #56-Truex, Jr., #48-Johnson, #42-Montoya, #33-Bowyer, #29-Harvick, #24-Gordon, #19-Sadler, #12-Keselowski, #1-McMurray
notes: several drivers pleased with their runs during the first practice, skipped Happy Hour.

Friday's First practice for the AMP Energy Juice 500 at Talladega Superspeedway is over, after 45 schedule minutes, the top-5, slowest and notes:
#11-Hamlin 201.664
#18-Busch 201.109
#1-McMurray 197.684
#24-Gordon 197.663
#48-Johnson 196.338mph
slowest: #37-Kvapil 180.132 & #64-Cassill 179.743
no speed: #97-Fuller, #66-Sauter
notes: Drivers are practicing in the draft because this weekend's race an impound race and cars can't be worked on after qualifying Saturday morning.


Friday's Practice Speeds from Talladega

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Driver Chassis Selections For Talladega Amp Energy Juice 500

1. Jimmie Johnson: Coming off seventh DNF in 17 starts; 31st-place finish raised finishing average to 17.8; Won the 2006 spring race; Finished second in both races in 2007; 15.2 average finish in the six races with the COT; Led nine of his 201 career laps in the spring; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 618) in the AMP Energy Juice 500.
2. Denny Hamlin: Scored third top five in nine starts in April; Fourth-place finish came after leading 17 of his 192 career laps led; 18.3 average finish and 142 laps led (most among all drivers) in the six races with the COT; Will return in the same car that he posted a 25.8 average finish and 65 laps led with in the last four races at Talladega.
3. Kevin Harvick: Coming off first win in 19 starts; Victory was first top 10 in the last six races; 20.7 average finish in the six races with the COT; 14.9 average finish and three wins in 38 races on restrictor-plate tracks; Will be shooting for his third consecutive win in chassis No. 237 in the AMP Energy Juice 500; This is the same car he posted wins with in the Bud Shootout and Aaron's 499.
4. Kyle Busch: Coming off second top 10 in 11 starts in ninth; Other top 10 was a win in the 2008 spring race; 16.8 average finish and 101 laps led in the six races with the COT; 21.3 average finish in 23 starts on restrictor-plate tracks; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 260) that he finished 14th with in the Daytona 500 and ninth at Talladega in April.
5. Jeff Gordon: Leads all active drivers with six wins and laps led (821); 27.2 average finish since sweeping both events in 2007; Victory in this event 2007 was first with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 576) that he most recently finished third with at Daytona in July.
6. Carl Edwards: 22.0 average finish in the six races with the COT; Top-15 finishes in the last two events came after crashes in previous two events; Three top 10s in 12 starts came in the 2005 fall race through the 2006 fall race; 20.1 average finish in 24 starts on restrictor-plate tracks; Will pilot the same car (chassis No. 693) that he finished sixth with at Daytona in July.
7. Tony Stewart: Won this event in 2008 in last track start with Joe Gibbs Racing; Posted six second-place finishes in previous 18 starts with JGR; Finished 23rd, 35th and 16th, respectively, in three starts with Stewart-Haas; Only two of his 125 laps led with the COT have come with SHR; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 532) that he finished first with in the 2009 July race at Daytona.
8. Jeff Burton: 32nd-place finish in April ended streak of three consecutive top 10s; Five top 10s in 12 starts with Richard Childress Racing; 17.7 average finish in the six races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 312) that he drove to a fifth-place finish in the July Daytona race.
9. Kurt Busch: 12.8 average finish leads all drivers; 13.8 average finish and six top 10s in nine starts with Penske Racing; Eighth-place finish in the spring was 13th top 10 in 19 overall starts; 14.9 average finish in 39 starts on restrictor-plate tracks; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 632) that he raced with in April at Talladega.
10. Matt Kenseth: 27.0 average finish in the six races with the COT; Last of six top 10s came in the 2006 Fall race; Will return in the same car that he finished 28th with at Talladega in the spring.
11. Greg Biffle: Fourth-place finish in this event last year is best in 15 starts; Only other top 10 came in the 2009 spring race; 15.5 average finish and six laps led in the six races with the COT; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 689) that he finished 17th with in April at Talladega.
12. Clint Bowyer: Coming off third top 10 in nine starts; Has yet to lead a lap in last five events; Second-best average finish (13.8) among all drivers that have raced in the six events with the COT; 16.9 average finish in 19 starts on restrictor-plate tracks; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 294) that he finished fourth with in the Daytona 500.
13. Jamie McMurray: Defending race winner; Finished second in April in first track start with Earnhardt-Ganassi; Three time winner on restrictor-plate tracks, including a win in this year's Daytona 500; 21.8 average finish in the six races with the COT; 21.5 average finish in 32 starts on restrictor-plate tracks; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 1009) that he led 27 laps with in the spring at Talladega.
14. Mark Martin: Coming off 11th top five in 45 starts; 25.3 average finish in three starts with Hendrick Motorsports; Crashes took him out of both races in 2009; Posted two wins and 20 top 10s in previous 38 starts with Roush Racing; Will debut a new car (chassis No. 577) in the AMP Energy Juice 500.
15. Ryan Newman: Finished third in first track start with Stewart-Haas in the 2009 spring race; Finish was seventh top 10 in 17 starts; Posted fifth and sixth DNFs in the last two races after crashes took him out of contention; 21.7 average finish in six races with the COT.
16. Juan Pablo Montoya: Coming off second top five (third) in seven starts; Finish was first top 15 in a Chevrolet; 19.7 average finish in 15 restrictor-plate starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 902) that he won the pole with for the 2009 spring race and posted three top 10s in seven restrictor-plate starts.
17. Joey Logano: First two of three starts resulted in top-10 finishes; 36th-place finish in April raised his finishing average to 16.0; Has led at least one lap in every race; 22.7 average finish in seven starts on restrictor-plate tracks; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 212) that he finished 20th with in the Daytona 500.
18. David Reutimann: Has yet to post a top 10 in seven starts; Best finish came in the spring race in 14th; 24.2 average finish in the six races with the COT.
19. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Five-time winner; Second-place finish in the 2009 spring race is best finish in five starts with Hendrick Motorsports; 8.7 average finish in last three starts; 672 laps led in 21 starts; Will return in the same car (chassis No. 563) that he finished second with in the Daytona 500.

20. AJ Allmendinger: Has yet to finish inside the top 15 in four starts; Finished 19th in April in track debut in a Ford; 27.4 average finish in nine starts on restrictor-plate tracks.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dixon, Hagen and Anderson the Top Favorites for NHRA Las Vegas Nationals

The MGM Resort properties and South Point chain of properties, which includes the Palms, have posted their odds to win the NHRA Las Vegas Nationals scheduled for this weekend. We don't really get into the drag racing scene much, but when it's Vegas, it's a big deal. Not only are the stands filled daily like no other stop, but legal betting is also allowed unlike any other stop on tour. It's a fun-filled weekend that begins with a fan fest on Thursday at the Fremont Street experience.

Larry Dixon is a 9/5 favorite to win this weekend in Las Vegas 
Top Fuel Dragster
Larry Dixon 9/5
Tony Schumacher 4/1
Cory McClenathan 5/1
Doug Kalitta 8/1
Antron Brown 8/1
Brandon Bernstein 10/1
Morgan Lucas 15/1
Shawn Langdon 15/1
David Grubnic 22/1
Steve Torrence 25/1
Field (all others) 25/1

Funny Car
Matt Hagan 5/2
John Force 5/2
Cruz Pedregon 5/1
Robert Hight 7/1
Ashley Force Hood 7/1
Jack Beckman 10/1
Tim Wilkerson 10/1
Bob Tasca 12/1
Del Worsham 12/1
Ron Capps 15/1
Tony Pedregon 15/1
Jeff Arend 18/1

Pro Stock
Greg Anderson 7/2
Mike Edwards 4/1
Allen Johnson 5/1
Dave Connolly 5/1
Jason Line 7/1
Jeg Coughlin 7/1
Shane Gray 10/1
Greg Stanfield 10/1
Ron Krisher 12/1
Johnny Gray 15/1
Field (all others) 12/1

Driver Notes & Quotes: Talladega Amp Energy Juice 500

CARL EDWARDS ON RACING AT TALLADEGA: “I was a little nervous about Talladega while we were up there real close to the point lead, but now I’m really excited about it. I think in that race you could see a huge swing there. If we could go win the thing, or run top three and a couple of guys could be caught up in wrecks, the Chase could look a lot different. That’s Talladega and anything can happen. Man, I have a love-hate relationship with that place, but I am looking forward to it now and I hope that we can come out of there with a good finish.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 team will carry the Subway paint scheme this weekend. The crew will be unloading chassis RK-692 this weekend. This is the same Ford Fusion that Edwards raced at Daytona in July. He started that race 12th and finished sixth.

GREG BIFFLE ON TALLADEGA: “We started the season this year with a good run at Daytona and although Talladega is certainly different than Daytona despite them both being superspeedways, I am hoping that we can have that same sort of performance this weekend. We haven’t had a lot of luck at Talladega but last year we had two top-10’s there so it looks like we’re doing something right. If we can just get out of there with a top-10 finish I will be happy.”

BIFFLE CREW CHIEF GREG ERWIN ON TALLADEGA: “The superspeedway races are obviously unique races in that even if you have the best driver, the best pit crew and the fastest racecar, you can very easily get caught up in someone else’s accident and take the car home in pieces. Qualifying is not as important as it is at other tracks just because pit selection isn’t that crucial because the pit stalls are so big and no matter where you start you could have the lead one lap and be 20th the next lap. We had a couple of good finishes at Talladega last year so we’ll just go out there and do what we did then to try to get out of there with a top-10 finish.”

MATT KENSETH ON RACING AT TALLADEGA: “Everyone always talks about Talladega being the wild card race in the Chase, and I guess it really could be. Any of the races in the Chase can always end up being a wild card because you never know what’s going to happen as far as wrecks are concerned, but certainly Talladega always has the potential to be an accident waiting to happen. You never know where it’s going to occur, when it’s going to happen, or who it’s going to take out, so that’s one race that you’re never sure where everybody is going to end up finishing until the race is over.”

KENSETH CREW CHIEF JIMMY FENNIG ON RACING AT TALLADEGA: “It’s very difficult to have a plan for racing at Talladega because you never know when wrecks are going to happen. There can be incidents starting from the drop of the green flag so you just never know. A lot of teams opt to hang out in the back of the field to try to avoid wrecks, but that doesn’t always work out. We just plan to race the best we can at Talladega and hope to avoid whatever happens on the track. We’ve also worked hard on our drag numbers to keep the resistance levels down in order to have the best car we can for this weekend.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-690 (last run at Talladega, finished 28th)

DAVIS RAGAN ON TALLADEGA: “It’s kind of crazy going straight from the shortest track we race at to the longest track, but I really enjoy racing at Talladega. It’s not far from my home in Georgia, so a lot of my family comes to the race. I’m excited about our special UPS Logistics paint scheme for this weekend. I think the car looks really good and Talladega is a place we can run really well at. Talladega is such a wide, smooth track which creates tight packs and makes for some exciting racing.”

# Ragan has scored more points in the last 10 restrictor-plate races than any other driver.
# Ragan has visited Talladega Superspeedway seven times in his Sprint Cup Series career and in his seven starts has earned two top-five and three top-10 finishes, while also leading for a total of 22 laps.
# In the spring of 2009 Ragan earned his first Nationwide Series victory at Talladega.

RAGAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-691 - Last ran Daytona – finished 38th; Backup: RK-665 - Last ran Talladega in the fall of ’09 as the No. 26 – finished first.

BRAD KESELOWSKI'S APPROACH TO RUNNING AT TALLADEGA: “You really have to pay attention to how the race unfolds at Talladega. There are times when you need to be patient. There are times when you need to keep your head about you and race smart. But you are going to have to be aggressive at the end. Those are three elements of restrictor-plate racing that I work on throughout the race. I learned that from Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. He gets a lot of the credit for the kind of racer that I am on the plate tracks.”

KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 12 Penske Dodge Charger team will use chassis PRS-639 during Sunday’s AMP Energy Juice 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. This is a brand-new chassis to the No. 12 fleet.

DAVID REUTIMANN ON RACING AT TALLADEGA: “There’s not anything really difficult about driving Talladega. You have to have a good car and then you can hopefully get out there and get in the right line and get with the right guys and work with the right people to try to make your day go as good as you can. A lot of times you’re trying to get yourself in a position where you’re trying to let things shuffle out and see what happens. At Talladega you would like to be able to qualify up front, but you’re really not all that worried about it because you know that in a matter of a couple laps you could be up there leading the thing.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR. ON RESTRICTOR PLATE RACING: “Sunday I expect to see the typical Talladega race with the welcomed addition of my boss Michael Waltrip. We’ll see three-or-four-wide racing sometimes. Some drivers will lay back and wait for the end. There will be a wreck. It’s always an exciting race to run and for the fans, a great race to watch. The finishes over the last few years have been pretty wild and I think we’ll see more of the same. I just hope the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota will be one of the cars that can make it to the end. We had a good car and good speed so I hope we can get the luck we need. It’s one of those races where if you are there at the end, you have a shot to win it.”

JAMIE McMURRAY VS CHASERS: While not in the Chase, McMurray and the No. 1 team haven’t given up on being one of the most impressive race teams on the track. The team has been on a hot streak during the first six races of the Chase. Compared to the top-12 Chase drivers this is how McMurray and the No. 1 Team currently stack up:
# Average start of 11.6 – (Ranks 3rd)
# Average finish of 9th – (Ranks 4th)
# Ranks 4th for the most points gained in the chase with 866 points gained

McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #1009. Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion has elected to bring chassis #1009 to Talladega this weekend, the same chassis that led 27 laps and finished second in the Spring Talladega event.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis #902. The No. 42 Target team will bring chassis #902 to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. This chassis was used at the first Talladega and Daytona events this year as well as all four superspeedway events last season. Montoya captured the pole for the spring Talladega event last season and has started in the top-10 for four of the six events. He has three top-10 finishes with this chassis including third at the first 2010 Talladega event.

JIMMIE JOHNSON ON THIS YEARS CHASE BEING DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS HE WON: “Yeah, I think that every other championship has helped me be more confident in my abilities, what my team is capable of; and there are probably some other emotions that are wrapped up into it that all lead to the fact that I am much more relaxed fighting for this championship than any other championship in my life. So experience really helps out a lot and I have enjoyed these last five races more than I did the last year and the year before, and so on.

“I feel like I am in a really good place where some guys that are fighting for their first championship, there is so much on it. I have been there, so I know exactly what those feelings are like. I feel like it’s helpful for me to be this relaxed and to come in and not obsess over things during the week and to come into the track with a fresh mind and a ton of energy and go to work. So I really hope that the experience gives me an upper hand through the championship battle.”

JOHNSON ON STRATEGY AT TALLADEGA, LAY BACK OR RUN UP FRONT: “We’ve tried both approaches and the last three years we’ve made it through there (the big crash) without any big trouble. I can remember Bobby Labonte at the front of the pack racing Talladega one time and gets flipped over and ends up landing on Tony Stewart, who is trying to ride at the back to be smart for points. So there is no safe place. We see a lot of teams trying to be conservative and smart and get to the end of the race and go from there and the problem we have now is when everybody decides with 20 (laps) to go, that it’s time to race, you have to race. You need the best finish you can get and that’s where the crashes are. So I think we all feel better if we go 480 miles and then get crashed. It really sucks to crash at five miles into the race or something. I think that’s what we’ve done over the years is there’s no need to push the envelope now if something weird went on, we could miss that. But at the end you’ve got to pull (the belts) tight and drive through there and try to get the best finish you can.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Johnson will pilot brand new chassis No. 618 in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race. Back up chassis No. 482 was driven to a sixth-place result at Talladega last November.

- From Team Press Releases

Kyle Busch Talladega Preview: Volatile Track Could Get Erase Chase Deficit Quickly

KYLE BUSCH ON WHAT HE LIKES TO DO WITH 5 LAPS REMAINING AT TALLADEGA: “You just want to be leading and protect what you’ve got and try to keep the rest of the guys behind you. You know it’s going to be tough. You know it’s going to be crazy and guys are going to try to go three-wide, four-wide and everywhere trying to get a push-draft going and everything. If you were leading and you had a teammate behind you or something like that, obviously that would make it pretty good.”

BUSCH ON WHO HIS FAVORITE DRAFT PARTNER IS AT TALLADEGA: “I don’t know. I’ve drafted well with a lot of people over the past, but I would say (Juan Pablo) Montoya helped me win the race that I won at Talladega a couple of years ago. Jimmie (Johnson) is always pretty good to draft with. My brother (Kurt Busch), as well, but many more than that. It just all depends on which other cars end up working well with your car.”

BUSCH ON THE KEY TO WINNING AT TALLADEGA: “The key there is to somehow stay out of trouble with our M&M’s Camry. You pretty much stay around the bottom, since there is a lot of grip
there, and you can pretty much run wide open every single lap. Everyone can run up on top of each other. When you get single-file at the bottom, sometimes it’s hard to get a lane on the outside with enough good cars to get something going. It can be frustrating at times because of that. It also seems to still put on a good race each time we go there. If you can be a contender and stay in line on the bottom, you can make it a pretty easy and safe race. Normally, guys are not content doing that, so that’s when it starts to get crazy.”

BUSCH ON ANY ADVANTAGE HE MAY HAVE BY WINNING AT TALLADEGA IN THE PAST: “It doesn’t matter at all. It’s such a crapshoot there in the last 20, 30 or 40 laps that you never really know who is going to win, what’s going to happen, and where the wreck is going to come from.”

BUSCH ON SPORTING THE HALLOWEEN THEMED CAR AND SOME OF HIS COSTUMES GROWING UP: “Actually, one year I went as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I think that was my favorite costume as a kid. I was Michelangelo and I even had the fake nunchuk. One year, I was a football player and, one year, I even dressed up as Jeff Gordon since he was my favorite racecar driver when I was kid.”

BUSCH ON MEMORIES OF TRICK OR TREATING WHILE GROWING UP IN LAS VEGAS:“It was always cold in Las Vegas during Halloween, even though it can be really hot most of the year. I guess the biggest memory was going out to everyone’s house and trick-or-treating and hanging out with friends as a group. Sometimes, people wouldn’t be home, so they had a bucket out and you would reach in and grab whatever you wanted out of the bucket. It was all about how much candy you could collect, not necessarily about how much you would eat when you got home.”

BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 260 - This chassis will make its third-ever start in Sunday’s AMP Energy Juice 500. No. 260 made its debut in February’s Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, where Busch started seventh and finished 14th. The M&M’s team brought this chassis to Talladega in April for the Aaron’s 499, where Busch started sixth, stayed out of trouble, and finished a respectable ninth.

- True Speed Communications Press Release

RCR Talladega Preview: Harvick, Burton and Bowyer Plate Engines Have Huge Advantage

KEVIN HARVICK ON TALLADEGA IN RELATION TO WHERE HE SITS IN POINTS: “I think you can control a lot of more things at the other places (tracks). But, when you get to Talladega, you’re kind of at the mercy of a lot of things that can happen around you. So, I think after you leave Talladega, you’ll kind of know where you stand as far as what you need to do over the last few weeks. I think the last few weeks are really good race tracks for us, and Talladega is a good race track for us, as well. They can all flip you upside down and turn things around and have things turn at any given week, but it seems that Talladega is definitely the biggest wild card as far as what’s going to happen, and who is going to get caught in a wreck and who isn’t. So, I think everybody has been waiting for this particular race to see where you stack up from here.”

HARVICK ON TALLADEGA BEING A CRAP SHOOT AND MAYBE HAVING AN ADVANTAGE: “I’ll take the odds. If it all ended at Talladega and we were behind, I’ll take the odds. We’ve been really good on those race tracks this year. I feel like we’ve had good strategies, done the things that we have needed to do, and had fast cars. So, in the end, fast cars are what it takes to even have shot at winning a race. You have to have a car that is capable of doing that. I like the plate races. I enjoy them. We’ll go and race just like we have, and, hopefully, come out with a similar outcome.”

HAPPY HARVICK WITH RESTRICTOR PLATES ON: Harvick has enjoyed tremendous success at restrictor-plate racing in 2010. In February at Daytona International Speedway, Harvick was one of, if not the most dominant competitor, throughout the 2010 Speedweeks. He opened the season with a bang by winning his second straight Budweiser Shootout. He followed that up by finishing second in his qualifying race for the Daytona 500. In the “Great American Race,” Harvick led the most laps (41) and finished seventh. In April at Talladega, he won, and followed that up with a dominating performance in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July, where he led the most laps (28) and scored the victory.

Career Talladega Stats … The Talladega 500 marks Harvick’s 355th career start in the NSCS.
# In 19 NSCS starts at the 2.66-mile oval, Harvick owns one win, one pole, four top-five and eight top-10 finishes.
# He has led at least one lap in 12 of those 19 starts, and five of his last six.
# He owns an average start of 22.2 and an average finish of 15.5 at Talladega.

NEW LOOK FOR NO. 29 CAR AT TALLADEGA THIS WEEK: Harvick and the No. 29 team will sport a different look this weekend at Talladega. The traditional yellow and red colors of their Chevrolet will be transformed to white and camouflage, and adorned with Realtree on the hood. Realtree, based in Columbus, Ga., began its involvement with RCR in 1997 on the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet team with the legendary Dale Earnhardt. It began its relationship with Harvick at RCR in 1999 and continues today as an associate sponsor of the No. 29 team. In addition, Realtree president Bill Jordan and RCR president and CEO Richard Childress have been personal friends for decades through racing and their love of the outdoors.

HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Kevin Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 237 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet has gone two for two this year, scoring the win in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona in February and the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega in April.

JEFF BURTON ON TALLADEGA BEING AN "X" FACTORE FOR ALL THE CHASERS: “I look at it as an opportunity to gain points. We’re behind in points and we need to gain some, so I look at it as an opportunity. When you’re behind a little bit, you’re looking for odd things to happen and, certainly, Talladega is a place where odd things can happen. In the spring race, we were really fast. We thought we had a great shot to win the race. A piece of debris got on the grill late in the race and we had to pit. We ended up getting in a wreck right after that, but we were leading the race when the caution came out. We were really fast so, for me, I’m looking forward to going to that race track. You know there’s a good chance you might get in a wreck, but there’s a good chance other people will get in a wreck, too. You just go and try and run the best you can. Honestly, it’s hard to say this, but you can’t worry about it. You have to try not to cause a wreck, and you try not to get in one.”

BURTON ON WHAT'S IT'S LIKE RUNNING AT TALLADEGA: “I’m always nervous to run at Talladega. You have to go into that race thinking that there is going to be a multi-car incident and how to miss it. To me, it’s a stressful Sunday morning and once the race gets going, I calm down. But, as the laps start winding down, the intensity level just goes through the roof. It’s unbelievable how you can feel it there more than any other race track. At every other race track, if you’re racing for the lead you might be racing with maybe two or three other guys. At Talladega, you’re contending with 30 drivers. When the intensity level increases for 30 people versus three, it changes the way you race.”

BURTON ON WHERE HE WANTS TO BE ON THE LAST LAP: “Talladega has the potential of being a 20-car pack with 23 others in the garage or the potential to be a 35-car pack. The bigger the pack, the more danger you are in being in the front. If something happens with three to go and the first four cars break away, then being in the front is not as dangerous. Being in the front is dangerous when the guys in front can get momentum and come get you. I do believe with the old car you were more protected up front than you are in the new car. You seem to be more of a sitting duck with the new car.”

ONE YEAR AGO: Todd Berrier took over crew chief duties on the No. 31 Caterpillar team at Talladega exactly one year ago. Together, Burton, Berrier and the Cat Racing team have posted nine top-five and 19 top-10 finishes in 36 starts. Berrier’s RCR career began as a fabricator in 1994. Since then, the Kernersville, N.C., native has earned 19 victories as a crew chief in the Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series. He won the 2001 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship, the 2003 Brickyard 400 and the 2007 Daytona 500, all with driver Kevin Harvick.

BURTON AT TALLADEGA: In 33 Sprint Cup Series starts at Talladega, Burton owns four top-five and 13 top-10 finishes. Although he has yet to visit Victory Lane at the storied race track, his best finish of third came in October 2001. The South Boston, Va., native holds a 24.8 average finish, has led 104 laps of competition and ranks eighth with the most miles completed at the larger-than-life speedway. Over the past 11 races at the Talladega, Ala., facility, Burton has made 4,322 passes under green-flag conditions, the most of all drivers. Of those same passes, the RCR driver made 2,970 of them while running in the top 15, making him the sport’s best quality passer.

BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: Jeff Burton will race chassis No. 312 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s 500 miler. Built new this season, Burton drove this No. 31 racer to a fifth-place finish in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway in July.

CLINT BOWYER ON WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN AT TALLADEGA: “We have very good race cars. Our plate program is second to none right now. I’m looking forward to going there. I look at Talladega as being the track that I can get my second win of the year.”

BOWYER ON THE ADVANTAGE ECR ENGINES HAVE AT TALLADEGA: “That’s certainly the piece of the puzzle that has us up front and leading laps, but I’m sure everyone else has picked their program up since then. I think the boys will be ready for the competition and, hopefully, we can bring another win home for ECR.”

BOWYER ON BEING INVOLVED IN SOME THRILLING RESTRICTOR PLATE RACE MOMENTS: “I think the only thing you can take away from them is that it’s part of racing. You have to be able to put yourself in those positions. You have to put yourself in the position to get to the front and sometimes, being in those situations, will get you in trouble. It’s just the nature of the beast. You have to be able to go for it at times and sometimes that will get you.”

BOWYER AT TALLADEGA: In nine starts at the 2.66-mile oval in NASCAR’s premier division, the three-time Sprint Cup Series race winner has earned one top-five and three top-10 finishes. Bowyer boasts a 24.4 average start that goes along with a 21.4 average finish, registering a best finish of fifth in October 2008 after starting 35th.

BOWYER CHASSIS CHOICE: Clint Bowyer will race Chassis No. 294 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. Built brand new for the 2010 season, this No. 33 racer was piloted to a fourth-place finish in the season opening Daytona 500.

- Richard Childress Racing Press Release 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Talladega Preview: The Chase Just Got Interesting and Now We Get 'Dega!

By Micah Roberts

Last weeks race at Martinsville wasn’t supposed to be a race where drivers behind points leader Jimmie Johnson could make up some ground in the Chase for the Championship because of how good Johnson has been there over the years, but it was. Denny Hamlin won the third straight time at Martinsville and with Johnson finishing fifth, Hamlin was able to chop Johnson’s lead over him from 41 down to a mere six points.

Also gaining ground was Kevin Harvick, who had his best career finish at Martinsville with third-place. By leading a lap, while Johnson never did, and finishing two positions higher than Johnson, Harvick cut his deficit from 77 points to 62 with four races remaining as they head to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend.

Talladega was to be the track that some of the Johnson chasers could really make their move, not Martinsville. Now we have the stage set for a race that could ultimately determine who wins the championship. The volatile nature of Talladega can wipe out any driver at any time like no other track on the circuit. Drivers can’t simply sit back and play it safe because danger lurks everywhere on the monstrous 2.66-mile beast.

Johnson has had success at Talladega in the past, but the Hendrick restrictor-plate program isn’t what it used to be and he should have cause for concern this week. In the first go around at Talladega in April, Johnson finished 31st while Harvick won. Harvick also went on to win the next plate race at Daytona in July showing that he is the driver to beat this week.

Should the same results occur this week that happened in April, both Hamlin and Harvick would leap frog Johnson in points and have a substantial lead. Johnson gained only 75 points with his finish while Hamlin gained 165 points for finishing fourth and Harvick 190 for winning. Kyle Busch could realistically get back into the Chase with a good run; he’s currently 172 points behind and always runs well in plate races.

The strategies for the contenders this week will be completely different. Hamlin has said jokingly that he is just going to follow Johnson for the entire race to ensure that he has the same fate as Johnson to stay close in points. Johnson will likely lag behind all the cars to try and stay out of trouble and then make a move with five laps remaining. Harvick will be looking to lead the most laps and get the bonus 10 points for doing so, along with going after the win which his car and skills are very capable of. Hamlin has a good enough program to compete for the most laps bonus and also go for the win.

The bonus of leading laps will have some takers outside the chase, most notably Jamie McMurray who has been just a small notch below Harvick in plate races this year. McMurray won the Daytona 500 and finished runner-up to Harvick at Talladega.

Jeff Burton, Harvick teammate, has equally good parts and should run well as he did at Talladega in April when he led the most laps. Look for both of these drivers to contend for the win late. Burton finished fifth in the last plate race run at Daytona.

Juan Pablo Montoya has the same plate program as his teammate McMurray and should run a good race this week as well. He finished third at Talladega in April and his a career best finish of second-place came in 2008.

For NASCAR’s sake, with it’s declining ratings, having a real chase down the stretch with Johnson chasing others would be a real boost. In order for that to happen, Johnson will have to falter this week. The three remaining tracks after Talladega are all tracks Johnson fares well at. I’ll be looking for Harvick and Hamlin to do very well this week with Johnson finishing in the high teens which should give us a new points leader after the race and set up for a great final three races.

Early Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #1 Jamie McMurray (12/1)
2) #29 Kevin Harvick (8/1)
3) #31 Jeff Burton (18/1)
4) #18 Kyle Busch (10/1)
5) #42 Juan Pablo Montoya (20/1)    


Las Vegas Hilton Super Book Odds To Win at Talladega: Amp Energy Juice 500



Talladega Odds & Ends: Amp Energy 500

compiled by Mike Forde
NASCAR Media Services

·         Construction began on what was then known as the Alabama International Motor Speedway on May 23, 1968.
·         The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on Sept. 14, 1969.
·         The name changed to Talladega Superspeedway in 1989.
·         Fourth repaving completed on Sept. 19, 2006.
·         There have been 82 NASCAR Sprint Cup races since the track opened in 1969; two a year every year except the inaugural season, which had just one.
·         Richard Brickhouse won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
·         Bobby Isaac won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup pole in September 1969. Isaac won the first three poles there.
·         35 different drivers have won poles.
·         Bill Elliott leads all drivers with eight poles.
·         40 different drivers have posted victories, led by Dale Earnhardt Sr. (10); 18 drivers have won more than once.Kevin Harvick won his first Talladega race this past April.
·         Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in victories, with six.
·         Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing each have 10 wins, more than any other organization.
·         31 of 81 races have been won from a top-two starting position, including 13 from the pole; 23 have been won from a starting position outside the top 10. The most recent driver to win from the pole was Jeff Gordon in 2007 (spring).
·         The furthest back in the field a race winner started was 36th, by Jeff Gordon in 2000.
·         Mark Martin’s pace in the 1997 spring race set an all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup record for the fastest race ever. He won the caution-free race with an average speed of 188.354 mph and covered the 500-mile distance in two hours, 39 minutes and 18 seconds.
·         Dale Earnhardt Jr. had four consecutive victories (October 2001 through April 2003), the most ever by a driver there. Buddy Baker (three – May 1975 through May 1976) is the only other driver to win more than two consecutive races there.
·         Since the inception of electronic scoring in 1993, every race that has ended under green has had a margin of victory under half a second. In April, the MOV was 0.011 seconds, the second-closest margin at Talladega.

NASCAR In Alabama 
·         There have been 101 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Alabama.
·         65 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Alabama.
·         There have been seven race winners from Alabama in NASCAR’s three national series:
Bobby Allison
Davey Allison
Neil Bonnett
Donnie Allison
Red Byron
Steve Grissom
Rick Crawford
Talladega Superspeedway Data
Race #: 33 of 36 (10-31-10)
Track Size: 2.66 miles
·     Banking/Corners: 33 degrees
·     Banking/Frontstretch: 16.5 degrees
·     Banking/Backstretch: 2 degrees
·     Frontstretch: 4,300 feet
·     Backstretch: 4,000 feet

Driver Rating at Talladega

Denny Hamlin                95.9
Dale Earnhardt Jr.          93.3
David Ragan                  92.5
Tony Stewart                 89.0
Jeff Burton                     87.1
Jeff Gordon                    86.0
Joey Logano                  85.3
Kurt Busch                    85.0
Jamie McMurray            84.4
Jimmie Johnson             83.6
Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2010 races (11 total) at Talladega.
Qualifying/Race Data
2009 pole winner: None (weather)
2009 race winner: Jamie McMurray, 157.213 mph, 11-1-09)
Track qualifying record: Bill Elliott (212.809 mph, 44.998 seconds, 4-30-87)
Track race record: Mark Martin (188.354 mph, 5-10-97)
Estimated Pit Window: Every 34-36 laps, based on fuel mileage