Talladega Chevy turf

Oct 3, 2006 7:39 AM

This week it’s off to Talladega Superspeedway, the meanest track on the planet.

The track is difficult enough to handle alone, but when Ford and Dodge compound the fact that Chevy owns them here, it can be a bit disheartening. Chevrolet has won 20 of the last 23 restrictor plate races. At Talladega alone, Chevy has won 14 of the last 15 events including 13 straight between Ford wins. Both victories happened to come from Dale Jarrett (55-1 this week) including last season.

Here’s a look at some of the drivers to watch this week:

Kasey Kahne: Five wins this season, but it doesn’t mean a thing this week. Kahne comes in at an unusual 30-1. The record shows that he should probably be listed even higher. Kahne finished 39th in the first Talladega race this season.

Jeff Burton: Four straight top 10 finishes including each of the first three races in the Chase. He is the only driver with three top-10 finishes in the Chase. He should be comfortable here, despite his best finish being a third. Burton leads the points, placed fourth in the initial Talladega race this year and drives for Richard Childress. Chevy’s boss has more wins than any other owner.

Mark Martin: Climbed from tenth to third in points over the last five races. During that span he posted five straight top 15 finishes. He’s been running at the finish in the 36 races since Kansas one year ago — the longest current NASCAR streak. Talladega hasn’t been kind to Martin over the years, after having some moderate success earlier in his career. He has two career wins, the last coming in ’97. Martin can be found in the 30-1 odds range to win.

Denny Hamlin: Posted 20 straight top 20 finishes since Richmond in May. No other driver has more than six. Because he comes from the Joe Gibbs organization, he should be considered a threat to win. We saw him win the Bud Shootout in the beginning of the year and know all about what his teammate can do here.

Tony Stewart: Has done just about everything at Talladega except win. Stewart has never won a race in 15 starts there. However, he has finished second six times, including the last three. He has the most runnerup finishes without a victory of any driver in Talladega history.

Kurt Busch: Joins Stewart as the only drivers to post top 10 finishes in each of the last four races at Talladega. Busch could be the one driver to come strong for Dodge. The last time Dodge won a race at Talladega was Dave Marcis way back in 1976. Busch has looked very good in all his plate races this season even though the results don’t really reflect it.

The drivers to look at this week all come from the Hendrick Motorsports camp. All four of them will have cars set up capable of winning.

Kyle Busch: Has had the least success of them all, especially at Talladega. Kyle has shown brief flashes of brilliance in some plate races. At Daytona in July, Busch rolled to a second place finish just behind Stewart and just ahead of his brother.

Brian Vickers: Comes in with a great run over the last year in plate races. In his last two at Talladega, he has a sixth and a third. Despite his lame duck status with the team, he does still have the respect and support of his teammates. They would all like to see Vickers finally get a win.

Jimmie Johnson: The big man for the organization this year. Johnson took the first Talladega race this year along with the Daytona 500. He is the favorite to win this week. Gordon, with four career wins at Talladega, is closely behind at 5-1.

We know the race is going to be won by a Chevrolet. That gives us three teams to choose from; Gibbs, Hendrick, and Childress. What about DEI and Dale Earnhardt Jr?

Junior used to be the focus of attention on any article written about a plate race. He is the active leader in wins (5) at the track, but when you roll a 15, 40, and 31 in succession at the track, your dominance becomes questioned.

Because this race is at Talladega and the Bud team appears to be rid of all its junk rides, I would expect them to do well this week. The Alabama crowd would go wild if Junior were to take the checkers. It would be nice to see, however, I’ll still go with Hendrick.