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Who’s Hot/Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: After the 2008 Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix

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 wildcard 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.

HOT

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 five in his last three events, moving him from 10th 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-five just once (sixth – Bristol) while winning at Martinsville and streaking into seventh 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.

NOT

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.

JJ 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) Burton: 28 starts, two top fives, 10 top 10s. Finished better than 25th once in the last five races.

2) Kyle Busch: Six starts, zero top 10s. crashed out of both races in 2007.

3) Earnhardt Jr.: 16 starts, five wins, seven top fives, nine 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) Johnson: 12 starts, one win, four top fives, five top 10s; finished second in both races here in 2007.

5) Kevin Harvick: 14 starts, three top fives, seven top 10s, no DNFs… an accomplishment in itself at this facility.

6) Hamlin: Four starts, one top five, one top 10, and an average finish of 17th.

7) Tony Stewart: 18 starts, eight top fives, 11 top 10s. Four top 10s in his last six races in Alabama.

8) Bowyer: Four starts, zero top fives, zero top 10s. Finished better than 35th just once here in his career.

9) Edwards: Seven starts, one top five, three top 10s. All of Edwards’s top-10 finishes came in the last three races held at the track.

10) Greg Biffle: 10 starts, zero top fives, zero top 10s. Four straight DNFs at ‘Dega.

11) Kasey Kahne: Eight starts, one top five, one 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, three top fives, five top 10s. The brainiac scored top 10s in both Talladega races in 2007, and is one-for-one in plate races in 2008 (Daytona).

13) Jeff Gordon: 30 starts, six wins, 13 top fives, 16 top 10s. Won both races last year at this track.

14) Martin Truex Jr.: Six starts, one top five, two top 10s, and a mediocre average finish of 23.7 at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.

15) Matt Kenseth: 16 starts, three top fives, six top 10s. He’s finished the last seven races held at Talladega.

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