Mike Lovecchio · Tuesday April 22, 2008
Talladega Superspeedway is one of the more intimidating tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule. It requires skill; it requires patience; and most often, it requires a certain amount of luck. For a few of the drivers, the 2.66-mile track is a welcomed site; but for most, Talladega is a dreaded wild card event where anything can and will happen.
But despite the track’s unpredictable nature, some drivers have achieved consistent success down in Alabama. As the Who’s Hot / Who’s Not column returns from an off week, we take a look at not only the hottest and coldest drivers in the series this year, but how the Top 15 in driver points have fared at Talladega throughout their careers.
Jeff Burton: Points leader extended his Top 10 streak to six races at Phoenix. Burton’s worst finish is still a remarkable 13th in what’s amounted to the best start of his career to date.
Carl Edwards: Nearly went four for eight in the win column this year if not for a pit road problem at Phoenix. And if it weren’t for a blown engine while leading at Atlanta, Edwards would have just two finishes out of the Top 10 in all of 2008.
Jimmie Johnson: Some slump that was. With his win at Phoenix, Johnson has now finished in the Top 5 in his last three events, moving him from tenth to fourth in driver points.
Clint Bowyer: His second place run two weeks ago was Bowyer’s best finish of the year, but the Kansan has also built a streak of five consecutive Top 10s around it after just one Top 20 in the first three races.
Denny Hamlin: Hamlin is quietly catching fire. In his last four races, the No. 11 has finished outside of the Top 5 just once (6th – Bristol) while winning at Martinsville and streaking into 7th in the standings.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Junior is the prohibitive favorite this week at Talladega, and is having an excellent year to date — he’s collected Top 12s in all but one race.
Reed Sorenson: Since opening eyes at Daytona, Sorenson has just one Top 20 since and has fallen to 31st in points. Now, rumors surfaced his sponsor may be leaving at the end of this season; those were quickly denied amidst a flurry of reactive press releases from Target’s higher ups. But if Sorenson doesn’t pick it up, the whispers of his imminent departure won’t die down anytime soon.
J.J. Yeley: It’s been another disappointing year for Yeley, who has finished on the lead lap just once in 2008. In eight starts, his No. 96 Hall of Fame Racing Toyota has yet to finish better than 25th.
Dave Blaney: The No. 22 is trying to crack the Top 35 in owner points, but is struggling — Blaney’s recorded just one Top 25 finish all season.
Regan Smith: The DEI driver is sitting on the bubble in 35th in owner points. In his eight starts this year, Smith is averaging a 31.2 finish, hardly the rookie run everyone anticipated from Mark Martin’s protege.
How The Top 15 In Points Have Fared At Talladega
1) Jeff Burton: 28 Starts, 2 Top 5s, 10 Top 10s. Finished better than 25th once in the last five races.
2) Kyle Busch: 6 Starts, 0 Top 10s. crashed out of both races in 2007.
3) Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: 16 starts, 5 Wins, 7 Top 5s, 9 Top 10s. Has not won in his last six starts at Talladega (as part of a winless streak overall that dates to May, 2006 at Richmond).
4) Jimmie Johnson: 12 starts, 1 Win, 4 Top 5s, 5 Top 10s; finished 2nd in both races here in 2007.
5) Kevin Harvick: 14 Starts, 3 Top 5s, 7 Top 10s, no DNF’s … an accomplishment in itself at this facility.
6) Denny Hamlin: 4 Starts, 1 Top 5, 1 Top 10, and an average finish of 17th.
7) Tony Stewart: 18 Starts, 8 Top 5s, 11 Top 10s. 4 Top 10s in his last 6 races in Alabama.
8) Clint Bowyer: 4 Starts, 0 Top 5s, 0 Top 10s. Finished better than 35th just once here in his career.
9) Carl Edwards: 7 Starts, 1 Top 5, 3 Top 10s. All of Edwards’ Top 10 finishes came in the last three races held at the track.
10) Greg Biffle: 10 Starts, 0 Top 5s, 0 Top 10s. 4 straight DNF’s at ‘Dega.
11) Kasey Kahne: 8 Starts, 1 Top 5, 1 Top 10, and an average finish of 20.4. Kahne has never won a restrictor plate race in his career.
12) Ryan Newman: 12 Starts, 3 Top 5s, 5 Top 10s. The brainiac scored Top 10s in both Talladega races in 2007, and is 1-for-1 in plate races in 2008 (Daytona).
13) Jeff Gordon: 30 Starts, 6 Wins, 13 Top 5s, 16 Top 10s. Won both races last year at this track.
14) Martin Truex, Jr.: 6 Starts, 1 Top 5, 2 Top 10s, and a mediocre average finish of 23.7 at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
15) Matt Kenseth: 16 Starts, 3 Top 5s, 6 Top 10s. He’s finished the last seven races held at Talladega.
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