Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When it's Chase time in the Sprint Cup
Series, the one racetrack that concerns the title contenders the most is
Talladega is the "wild card" in the 10-race Chase for the championship. The
unpredictable can happen there, including the big wreck or wrecks. One thing
is for sure, the Chase drivers will be able to breathe a little easier once
the Talladega race is in the rear-view mirror.
Sunday's race at Talladega is round four in this year's playoffs.
Some of the Chase members have done well at Talladega lately, while other have
"That race can shake things up in a big way," said Chase driver Clint Bowyer,
who has won the last two fall races at Talladega. "It can propel you to the
lead or bury you. It's one of those races that I kind of look forward to. I've
won a couple times there and enjoy it, but I also know what can happen there
After winning this past weekend at Dover, Brad Keselowski reclaimed the points
lead. Keselowski holds a five-point advantage over Jimmie Johnson. Denny
Hamlin is 16 markers behind, while Bowyer trails by 25.
Talladega could be Bowyer's best opportunity to move up in the Chase rankings.
The Michael Waltrip Racing driver has finished no worse than seventh in the
last five races there.
Keselowski is also a two-time race winner at Talladega. He won the spring race
there in May and scored his first career Sprint Cup victory at this 2.66-mile
speedway in April 2009.
"I really respect the challenge that Talladega is mentally to every driver,
but then certainly loathe the lack of ability to fully determine the outcome
of your day," Keselowski said. "So it's a bit of a love/hate relationship for
sure, but the mental challenge of it is what I really enjoy a lot."
Jeff Gordon is the last driver who scored a season-sweep at Talladega, doing
so in 2007.
No Chase driver has won the fall race at Talladega and gone on to capture the
series championship in the same season since NASCAR began its playoff format
for its premier series in 2004.
Johnson and Hamlin have both struggled on the restrictor-plate tracks
(Talladega and Daytona) this year. Johnson is 0-3 in finishing a plate race
during the 2012 season. The five-time series champion was involved in an
accident in all of those events, placing 42nd in the Daytona 500, 35th in the
spring race at Talladega and 36th in July event at Daytona.
"Well, as you can probably see from our finishes this year, we haven't had a
lot of luck at the restrictor-plate tracks," Johnson said. "It definitely is
the one track in the Chase I've kind of been a little concerned about. There
are a lot of great tracks for the 48 (Hendrick Motorsports team) coming up in
the Chase, but this one is definitely one where anything can happen.
"There are so many things that are out of your control. There is a lot of room
on this track to move around though, obviously, and try things. I think the
odds are in our favor to be able to finish one of these restrictor-plate races
this year. At least I hope so."
Johnson does have two wins at Talladega, with his most recent one coming in
April 2011. He beat Bowyer to the finish line by the slimmest of margins --
0.002 seconds to be exact.
Hamlin did post a fourth-place run in the Daytona 500 but finished 23rd and
25th in the other two restrictor-plate races this season.
"(Talladega) is an absolute crap shoot, but it's going to be for everyone,"
Hamlin said. "We have to know who we're racing. We have to make smart
decisions and keep all the fenders on it. Typically, most superspeedways I'm
right in it until the very end and get caught up in a wreck. My job is to make
sure I concentrate on that weekend, not look forward and focus on getting the
most points possible."
Hamlin's finishes in the last two fall races at Talladega have been eighth and
Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with six wins at Talladega, while his
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. has five victories there.
Earnhardt Jr.'s last win at Talladega came in Oct. 2004. Gordon has not taken
the checkered flag there in five years.
Heading to Talladega, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne are both 32 points out of
the lead. Earnhardt Jr. is next in the Chase rankings, 39 points behind,
followed by Martin Truex Jr. (-42), Kevin Harvick (-46), Gordon (-48), Greg
Biffle (-51) and Matt Kenseth (-72).
"For the first time in my career, I'm probably really looking forward to going
to Talladega," said Kenseth, who won this year's Daytona 500. "Our plate stuff
has been extremely strong this year. I think we've led a lot of laps at all
three plate races. They all ended on a green-white-checker. We were leading
all three green-white-checkers, but unfortunately, we lost the last two. I
messed up both of them and didn't do the right things, but we've had really
Forty-four teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Good Sam Roadside
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, Oct. 7. Race: Good Sam Roadside
Assistance 500. Site: Talladega Superspeedway. Track: 2.66-mile oval. Start
time: 2 p.m.(ET). Laps: 188. Miles: 500. 2011 Winner: Clint Bowyer.
Television: ESPN. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.
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