April 21, 2004 | 9:48 A.M. EST
Matt Kenseth- Kenseth has finished all but one of the eight races he’s started at Talladega, but has just three top 10 finishes and one top 5 result here in a Cup car. He did manage a runner-up result in the 2000 Busch race here.
Kurt Busch- Considering the vagaries of fate at Talladega, Busch has run fairly well here. He’s got finishes of sixth or better in four of his six Cup starts at Talladega with a best result of third. (Twice.)
Jimmie Johnson- Johnson won the pole for both Talladega races during his rookie 2002 season but it didn’t help him much that fall when Mark Martin, who started on the outside pole hit him and spun the 48 on the parade lap. The seventh place result he scored in his first Talladega Cup start remains Johnson’s only top 10 result at Talladega to date.
Elliott Sadler- Sadler struggled mightily at Talladega for most of his career before finishing third in this race last year. He also took the pole position for last fall’s Talladega race but crashed and finished 30th.
Tony Stewart- Stewart seems to have figured out the trick to finishing well at Talladega lately. He'll just hook onto Earnhardt’s rear bumper and work with him to the front of the pack. It seems to work. Stewart has three second place finishes and a third place result in the last six Cup races run here.
Jeff Gordon- Gordon has won here twice but the most recent of those victories was in 2000. He does run well here usually though with top 10 results in six of his last Cup starts at Talladega. It’s likely after this race Gordon would supplant the late Dale Earnhardt as the all career earnings leader at Talladega.
Rusty Wallace- Strange but true: Wallace has never won a points paying plate race during his Cup career that stretches back to the Bronze Age. He has just one top 5 result in 41 starts at Talladega (back in 1988 when I think the cars still ran whitewalls) and has led just 105 laps here an average of a little over 2.5 laps led per event
Kasey Kahne- This will be Kahne’s first Cup race at Talladega. In the Busch series he took the outside pole for the 2003 race, but got caught up in the big wreck and finished 37th.
Kevin Harvick- Harvick didn’t do too well in his first four Cup starts at Talladega but he finished second and seventh here last year.
Ryan Newman- If Newman has an Achilles’ heel it’s restrictor plate racing. He tends to crash and end up upside down a lot at the plate tracks especially at Talladega in the spring. He did manage a fourth place finish in last fall’s Talladega race and crossed the line right side up. Strange but true: Newman has never won a Cup pole at Talladega.
Bobby Labonte- Labonte won here back in 1998 and nine top 5 finishes in 21 starts here but has struggled in his last five outings at Talladega with an average finish around 26th.
Jamie McMurray- McMurray has started well but finished poorly in the three Cup races he’s run here to date.
Sterling Marlin- Marlin won two races here back in 1995-96 but has just one top 5 Cup finish at Talladega since.
Jeremy Mayfield- Mayfield has two career Cup poles in nineteen starts at Talladega but just one top 10 (fifth place in 1998) here. Is that the nauseating stench of failure you’re wearing?
Joe Nemechek- Nemechek has three top 10 finishes in eighteen career starts, all of them scored consecutively in 2000-01. His best finish here in the three races since then is 21st. Nemechek has won here twice in a Cup race and scored two runner up results in that series here as well, including last fall’s race here.
Dale Jarrett- Jarrett has run quite well here winning the fall race in 1998 and finishing second five times. Lately he’s been a little off his feed at Talladega with just two top 10 finishes and no top 5s in his last eight starts here.
Mark Martin- Martin doesn’t like the plate tracks but he’s done better here than he has at Daytona with a pair of wins at Talladega. He has twenty top 10 finishes in 36 starts here, but Martin has missed the top 10 in the last four Talladega Cup races.
Ward Burton- In seventeen starts Burton has managed only one top 5 finish here (fourth in 1999) and a total of five top 10 results. Having just rolled his personal vehicle last week, my guess is he’d prefer to stay right side up this weekend.
Casey Mears- Talladega was a disaster for Mears last year with 37th and 40th place results. He crashed out of both races.
Others to Watch
Michael Waltrip- It’s not a question if whether Waltrip can win here. He won the fall race here last year. It’s a question of whether Waltrip will ever win a Cup race at a non-plate track.