NASCAR Preview

Last Updated Monday, May 3, 2010 2:32 am, EDT

Race Capsule

Talladega Superspeedway
  • What:

    Race 9 of 36 on Sprint Cup circuit

  • Where:

    Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, AL

  • When:

    April 25, 2010 1:19 pm EDT

  • Laps:


  • Track Length:

    2.66 miles

  • Race Length:

    500.00 miles

  • Purse:


Drivers to Watch

Jimmie Johnson Just past the first quarter of the season, Johnson already has a 108-point lead in the standings heading to Talladega, where he has one win (spring 2006), four top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 16 starts. He was 30th in this race last year and sixth in November. He has five top-10 finishes in his last eight Talladega races, including three in the top five. "With the double-file restarts and potential multiple attempts at a green-white-checkered, it's really made the finish less predictable," Johnson said. "At times when we would be convinced that four tires wouldn't work, it has worked. Two tires used to be the call at that moment and it still does work out, but it has opened the door for four-tire pit stops in the closing laps. It has really changed strategy, and I don't know if there really even is a strategy now. It's more what the masses do. If you're on two and there are a lot of guys that stay out on two, then you're probably in good shape. If there isn't and you took two when a lot of guys took four, then you're a sitting duck."
Denny Hamlin Hamlin, who jumped seven spots in the standings with his victory at Texas, has only two top-10 finishes in eight starts at Talladega. "We've had some really good cars there the last couple of years, and we've led a lot of laps," said Hamlin. "But our luck hasn't been too good, like the engine failure last fall. If we can run a whole race without problems, including avoiding the 'Big One' (the huge accident that always seems to happen at Talladega), then I think we can have a real good day."
Kevin Harvick Harvick is 141 points back heading to Talladega, where he has no victories, three top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 18 starts. He was 38th last spring and 21st in November. He has finished no higher than 20th in his last five Talladega stars. "I really don't know what the rules package wound up being, to be honest with you, but I know they drafted very well (during the test)," Harvick said. "The speeds closing up were really fast, and I think that was NASCAR's biggest concern. The cars drove great even when they were running 208-209 miles an hour -- they still feel very secure. ... I think the race is going to be good. I don't think it will be much different that it normally is. It will be typical Talladega, three wide, exciting, pushing and shoving. The biggest thing that has changed Talladega is just the grip that the race track has. The cars themselves didn't really change much as far as how they drive in the draft. The biggest change is your ability to be able to see out in front of you. That has improved significantly. With the wing it was hard to see out in front of the car directly in front of you. But now with the spoiler, it definitely improves your vision, which helps tremendously in the draft."
Carl Edwards Edwards has only three top-10 finishes in 11 starts at Talladega. "We're going to Talladega with points in mind considering the trouble we had in Atlanta and Texas, and hopefully we can come out of Talladega in one piece," said Edwards. "I'd like to have an opportunity to win again like we did a year ago."
Matt Kenseth Kenseth has never won at Talladega and has three top-five and six top-10 finishes in 20 starts. He was 17th last April and 24th in November. He has finished out of the top 10 in his last six Talladega starts, snapping a streak of third in October 2005, sixth in spring 2006 and fourth in the fall of 2006. "Talladega is all about speed," Kenseth said. "Everyone's cars handle well there, typically, and it seems that you run wide open all day. At Daytona, the corners are much tighter and the surface is worn out, so handling is really important, but at Talladega it is much more about drafting and getting into the right position in the draft. The other challenge of Talladega is being able to avoid getting caught up in a wreck. Things happen quickly at Talladega, so you have to have your car in the right place, with the right cars, so you don't get hung out and lose a lot of positions."
Greg Biffle Biffle, 128 points out of the lead, has one top-five and two top-10 finishes in 14 starts at Talladega but hasn't won there. But he's been better lately -- both of his top-10s there were last year (seventh in the spring and fourth in November). "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," Biffle said. "We haven't had a lot of luck at Talladega, but last year we had two top-10s 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, but you can bet that we're going for the win just like we did in Daytona."
Tony Stewart Stewart has one win, nine top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 22 starts at Talladega. In addition to the victory, Stewart has finished second a remarkable six times at the high-speed track. "The key, as always, at Talladega is to get to the finish," said Stewart. "If we can stay out of trouble, we can have a good day."
Kyle Busch Busch leaped an incredible six positions in the standings and is sixth, 228 points behind the leader, Jimmie Johnson. Busch is a former Talladega winner, in April 2008, but that is his only top-five or top-10 finish in 10 starts there. He was 25th in this race last year and 15th in November. "The key there is to somehow stay out of trouble," he said. "At Talladega, 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."
Jeff Gordon Gordon, who has dropped 220 points back in the standings, has been one of the most successful drivers at Talladega -- he has six victories, 13 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s in 34 starts. He was 37th last April and 20th in November. Since he swept both races in 2007 he has finished 19th, 38th, 37th and 20th. "We tested at Talladega, so we have a pretty good idea what the spoiler is going to handle," Gordon said. "I'm really anxious to see what NASCAR goes back there with on the spoiler height as well as the restrictor plate because when we ended there we were making some changes and some people liked it and some people didn't. I think no matter what, it's going to be an extremely exciting race. You're going to see where the cars can be pretty aggressive in the draft; you can bump draft a lot and all those things. I think if it's too aggressive then the drivers are going to want to try to ride to the middle of the race, and I don't think they want that. We need to make it a little bit harder to pass than what we have had. I think that means that track position will be a little more important and make us fight a little harder for that track position and want to maneuver their way from wherever they are to try to get up front. I think that's the direction I would like to see them go in. We'll see what they decide. I don't even know what they've done or if they've done anything."
Clint Bowyer Bowyer has two top-10 finishes in eight starts at Talladega. "Talladega is one of those places where you can have a good day or get caught up in someone else's mess and have a bad day," said Bowyer. "Last year, we got wrecked on lap eight, and that was frustrating. That ended up leading to three straight 35th-or-worse finishes and, ultimately, knocking us out of having any chance of having a good year."
Kurt Busch Busch is another big mover -- he climbed five points in the standings and is ninth, 249 points out of the lead. Busch has no wins, six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes in 18 Talladega starts, including eight top-10s in his last 11 starts. He was sixth last April and 30th in November. He has never won a restrictor-plate race. "I've been racing at this level full-time for going on 10 years now, and we've been close -- really close -- to winning in restrictor-plate racing," Busch said. "This weekend's race at Talladega offers us another opportunity to break into the win column, and we're looking forward to it. Our attitude has always remained the same. We always come into the races at Talladega and Daytona confident that we'll have a good shot at winning if we play our cards right, stay out of the big crashes and put ourselves in a position to be there up front at the end."
Jeff Burton Burton, who dropped one spot in the standings and is 243 points out of the first place, has no wins, four top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 32 starts at Talladega. However, his record the last three races is much better --he has two top-five finishes in his last three Talladega starts, including fifth in November, and he was a respectable 10th last April. Before that, Burton was 27th, 34th, 43rd and 12th in the previous four races. "Anytime you leave Talladega in the top 10, you are happy," Burton said. "But the same time, you get disappointed because you could have won, done this or done that, but everyone in the field says the same thing. To be quite honest, Talladega is one of the race tracks where truly anyone can win. But when you can leave Talladega with a top 10, you need to be happy with your finish and move on. When we tested with the spoiler last month, we practiced with a few cars around us, but we never had a 43-car pack. That changes things a great deal. I've said this all along, but with Talladega being as big as it is, there's not much NASCAR can do to prevent the wrecks. You're always going to have the cars running close together and in one big pack, no matter what package we run. So I don't see how having a spoiler is going to be different than any other race we have had there. It is going to be interesting to see how it all plays out. At the end, 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."
Mark Martin Martin, who improved three positions in the standings and is 254 out of the lead, is a two-time Talladega winner, but his last victory is ancient history -- it was all the way back in the spring race in 1997. He has 10 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes in 44 career starts and was last in the 43-car field last April and 28th last November. He has just one top-10 finish in his last seven Talladega starts. "I was happier than how we started at the test," Martin said. "I don't know what the final outcome with what the size of the rear spoiler will be. Certainly as we cut down on the spoiler it got better, and the situations got better on the race track. I didn't talk to nearly everybody, but the guys that I did talk to all liked the smaller spoilers and hopefully we'll have something like that. As far as the drivability, you couldn't even tell the difference in the drivability when you took the spoiler down. There is so much incredible difference with the smooth, new asphalt. They learned something through the years about the asphalt mixture. It used to be in five years that the asphalt was old and worn out after a repave, and today five years afterward it's lighter in color, but it doesn't feel older or worn out at all. Like at Charlotte, we kept saying that Charlotte would get back to the way it used to be. I don't think Charlotte will ever get back exactly to where it used to be because I don't think the asphalt itself will open up and be like rocks like sticking up. It is closed up a lot more; it is smoother and the surface is not open. It's a different mixture that they're using everywhere. Darlington has it as well."
Jamie McMurray McMurray has won the last two restrictor-plate races. His victory last fall at Talladega was his first at the track. Even though he switched teams over the winter, McMurray won the Daytona 500 to show his true talent as a restrictor-plate racer. "Talladega is always a race that I feel I can win each time we go there," said McMurray.
Ryan Newman Newman has four top-10 finishes in the last six races at Talladega, including a third last spring. Newman hopes the new spoiler means the cars will not get airborne at Talladega. "I think that is making it safer, not just for us drivers, but for the fans, too. Keeping the car on the ground is what it's all about."
Joey Logano Logano finished ninth and third in his first two Sprint Cup starts at Talladega in 2009. He will be driving the same car that he drove to the third-place finish last October. "I know people either love or hate restrictor-plate racing," said Logano. "I have fun there and we've had two good runs there, so hopefully we'll be able to do that again."
Juan Pablo Montoya Montoya finished second in the spring race of 2008 for his lone top-10 finish in six starts at Talladega. He did win the pole for the spring race last year. "We've got to finish the race, and we've got to finish good," said Montoya. "We're behind on where we need to be (to qualify for the Chase for a second straight year). But we've got a car capable of the win." Montoya is 152 points out of the top 12.
A J Allmendinger Allmendinger has not finished better than 30th in three Sprint Cup starts at Talladega. Yet Allmendinger said he is "really looking forward to Talladega this week. I think our team has found some momentum, and I want to keep it going. We've posted back-to-back top-15 finishes, plus we grabbed the pole at Phoenix and led laps there."
Kasey Kahne Kahne finished second last October at Talladega, his second runner-up finish in 12 starts at the track. "I've always loved restrictor-plate racing," said Kahne. "There is always something going on around you and you're totally focused for three or four hours of racing. It's really intense."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Another big mover in the standings, Earnhardt improved three places in the standings and is seventh, 235 out of the lead. He also has been a big mover at Talladega over the years -- he has five victories there, including four in a row from the fall 2001 race to the spring race in 2003. He also drove to victory in the fall 2004 event. Those victories are a big part of his eight top-five and 11 top-10 finishes in 20 starts. He was second last April and 11th in November. His runner-up finish was his only top-five finish in his last 10 Talladega starts, a span in which he has had only three top-10 finishes. "During the testing, I really enjoyed it -- my car was super fast," Earnhardt said. "The racing seemed pretty entertaining. I think it will be really close to what you've seen there the last several trips. We'll start the race, run a little bit. Everybody will find some position they are happy with, and we will all probably go to the top and ride around for about 300 miles and then start racing. Riding around the top is fun. Even though we are all in a line, it is pretty cool getting up against the wall like that going over 190 mile an hour. Probably super boring for you guys, but a way to pass the time until the real race starts."
Martin Truex Jr. Truex finished third in the spring race at Talladega last year for his second top-10 finish in 10 starts at the track. "For some reason, Cup Series racing at Talladega hasn't been good to me," said Truex. "I have had good runs going, but I always seem to get caught up in the big wreck. It's a lot of fun to race. I just need some luck."
Paul Menard Menard's only top-10 finish at Talladega in seven starts is a second in the fall race of 2008. "Racing at Talladega is a crapshoot," said Menard. "It doesn't really matter what kind of strategy you go into the race with, you can always be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Brad Keselowski Keselowski, driving for James Finch last year, won a thrilling duel with Carl Edwards last spring. With Keselowski doing the pushing, he and Edwards overtook the duo of Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the last lap. After moving to the point, Edwards tried to block a pass attempt by Keselowski. The contact sent Edwards' car airborne as Keselowski shot by for the win. Keselowski returned in the fall to finish eighth.
Scott Speed Speed finished a career-best fifth in his Sprint Cup debut at Talladega a year ago. "That was a great day," said Speed. "I sure hope we can have another one like that. I know Brian (Vickers, his teammate) will run well there, so if we can hook up who knows what can happen?"
Brian Vickers Vickers won his first Cup race at Talladega in the fall of 2006, and he has four other two top-10 finishes in 11 starts at the track. "We need a good run and a good finish this week, and that is why I'm glad we're heading to Talladega," said Vickers. "I just feel real good about our chances this weekend."