Driver Handicaps: Talladega

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This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway for Sunday's AMP Energy 500. To help you make your fantasy racing picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 188-lap event.

Who's HOT at Talladega
• Jeff Gordon leads all drivers with six wins.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. has five wins and 10 top 10s in 17 starts.
• Tony Stewart has finished second six times.
• Jimmie Johnson has a win and two runner-up finishes in his last five starts.
• Kurt Busch has finished eighth or better in seven of the last eight races.
• Kevin Harvick currently holds the longest streak without a DNF.

Keep an Eye on at Talladega
• Kyle Busch won the two restrictor-plate races this season.
• Denny Hamlin will be driving the same car that led 37 laps and finished third at Talladega in April.
• Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman has finished in the top 10 in his last three Talladega starts.
• Brian Vickers has finished sixth or better in four of his last five starts.
• The Roush-Fenway and Yates cars - Yates engines usually pack an extra punch at Talladega.

Track Performers
Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in wins (12) and laps led (1,359) on restrictor-plate tracks. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is second with seven wins and has the best average finish of 14.3 in 36 appearances (including NHIS in 2000). Sterling Marlin, who is entered in the No. 09 Chevrolet this weekend, is third in wins among active drivers. Marlin is also the active pole winner on plate tracks with seven. This past July, Kyle became the ninth driver to win back-to-back restrictor-plate races, with his wins in the Aaron's 499 and Coke Zero 400.

Talladega Rookie Report
Regan Smith was the top finishing rookie in the spring at Talladega after taking the checkered flag in 21st. He was also the only rookie to lead a lap. Michael McDowell, who will be replaced by Kenny Wallace this weekend, was the only other driver to finish on the lead lap in the spring. Patrick Carpentier and Sam Hornish Jr. finished 31st and 35th, respectively. Carpentier holds the best average finish (22.5) on the three restrictor-plate tracks in 2008. Rookie Standings



Qualifying Tidbits
Joe Nemechek is coming off his fourth pole at Talladega Superspeedway after turning a lap of 187.386 mph. The pole broke a tie for second among all active drivers. Bill Elliott, who will not race this weekend, leads all active drivers with eight poles. Last year in this event, Michael Waltrip gave Toyota its first-ever top spot at Talladega. In the 2007 spring race, Jeff Gordon became the first driver to win from the pole, since Bobby Labonte turned the trick in 1998. Gordon also holds the distinction as the winner to have started the furthest back in the field when he took the green flag 36th in his 2000 season victory. In all, 13 drivers have gone on to win at the 2.66-mile speedway from the pole. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of Talladega Winners

Chase Contenders at Talladega
  Driver
Races
Poles
Wins
Top Fives
Top 10s
DNFs
Avg. Finish
Driver Rating
1 Jimmie Johnson
13
1
1
4
5
5
17.5
86.7
2 Carl Edwards
8
0
0
1
3
2
24.0
70.5
3 Greg Biffle
11
0
0
0
0
4
25.3
68.0
4 Jeff Burton
29
0
0
2
10
5
19.1
80.2
5 Kevin Harvick
15
1
0
3
7
0
14.3
75.9
6 Jeff Gordon
31
1
6
13
16
7
15.0
96.9
7 Clint Bowyer
5
0
0
0
1
2
26.0
58.4
8 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
17
0
5
7
10
4
14.1
86.6
9 Matt Kenseth
17
0
0
3
6
2
17.5
83.0
10 Denny Hamlin
5
0
0
2
2
0
14.2
96.8
11 Tony Stewart
19
0
0
8
11
4
13.9
94.4
12 Kyle Busch
7
0
1
1
1
4
27.3
70.7


Talladega Loop Data Stat Leaders(2005-2008)
*Fastest Early in a Run
*Fastest Late in a Run
Avg. Running Position
1. Regan Smith
1. Michael McDowell
1. Tony Stewart - 12.2
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2. Michael Waltrip
2. Denny Hamlin - 12.4
3. Paul Menard
3. A.J. Allmendinger
3. Jeff Gordon - 13.8
4. Denny Hamlin
4. Tony Stewart
3. Kurt Busch - 13.8
5. Travis Kvapil
5. Jamie McMurray
5. Brian Vickers - 14.2
Laps in Top 15
*Quality Passes
*Driver Rating
1. Kurt Busch - 912
1. Kurt Busch - 1836
1. Jeff Gordon - 96.9
2. Jeff Gordon - 869
2. Jeff Burton - 1819
2. Denny Hamlin - 96.8
3. Tony Stewart - 864
3. Brian Vickers - 1508
3. Tony Stewart - 94.4
4. Jamie McMurray - 830
4. Matt Kenseth - 1496
4. Jamie McMurray - 92.1
5. Matt Kenseth - 772
5. Ryan Newman - 1446
5. Brian Vickers - 91.3

*Fastest Early In a Run: Ranks each driver during the first 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Fastest Late In a Run: Ranks each driver during last 25 percent of laps run since a pit stop.
*Quality Passes: Passing a car running in the Top 15 while under a green flag.
*Driver Rating : Formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race.


RacingOne Staff Picks
Jeff Wackerlin: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Pete Pistone: Tony Stewart
Rachael West: Kyle Busch
Kym Opalenik: Denny Hamlin

Top 20 Driver Notes - Based on Current Standings

1. Jimmie Johnson: Johnson won his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in the 2006 spring race after starting 16th. It was also his second plate win of 2006 after winning the Daytona 500. Last year he went on to finish second in both events for his fourth and fifth top 10 in 13 starts. In 2002, Johnson won his second of 18 career poles in his first race at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. In the 2004 Talladega fall event, Johnson equaled his worst finish (37th) after the engine overheated from a collision on pit road. In the last 11 races, Johnson has led in every race adding to his 187 laps led at Talladega. This weekend Johnson will race the same car (chassis No. 474) that finished 27th in the Daytona 500 after starting from the pole.

2. Carl Edwards: Prior to 2007, Edwards put together a solid run of finishes in three consecutive races at Talladega Superspeedway. In that span, he recorded an average finish of 7.3, which included his career-best Talladega finish, of fifth, in the fall of 2005. His first two starts didn't fare as well, as he finished 42nd (mechanical) and 32nd (crash), respectively. In the 2007 spring race, the engine failed in the No. 99 Ford, and Edwards was relegated to another 42nd-place finish. This weekend Edwards will be racing a new chassis (RK-593) in the AMP Energy 500.

3. Greg Biffle: Talladega Superspeedway is the only track on the schedule where Biffle has yet to score a top 10. His best finish in 11 starts was a 13th in the 2005 spring race. This weekend Biffle will be racing the same car (chassis No. RK-583) that finished 43rd at Daytona in July after an accident took him out of contention.

4. Jeff Burton: Burton has raced in 60 restrictor-plate races, including the 2000 New Hampshire event where he led every lap. Burton has run 29 of the events at Talladega Superspeedway where he has captured two top fives and 10 top-10 finishes. His fourth-place finish in the 2006 spring race was his first top five and second top 10 in eight track starts with Richard Childress Racing. The 2004 fall race marked Burton's first race at Talladega with RCR. He led six laps in that event and ran in the lead pack until he broke a valve in the engine with five laps to go, relegating him to a 13th-place finish. Burton's worst finish with RCR at Talladega came last fall when he finished last after the engine expired in the No. 31 Chevrolet. This weekend Burton will race the same chassis (No. 226) that finished 12th at Talladega in April.

5. Kevin Harvick: Harvick currently holds the longest streak without a DNF at Talladega Superspeedway of 15 races. In fact, he has only scored one DNF in 30 restrictor-plate races. Harvick, who has two runner-up Sprint Cup finishes at Talladega, saw his worst finish in the last seven races come this past spring when he took the checkered flag in 24th. Seven top-10 finishes have helped give Harvick an average finish of 14.3. Harvick's best qualifying effort at Talladega came in the 2005 spring race when he won the pole. In that event he led 12 laps and finished 12th, snapping a four-race streak of finishes of seventh or better. This weekend Harvick will be racing the same car (chassis No. 219) that has posted an average finish of 16.7 in the three restrictor-plate races this season.

6. Jeff Gordon: Gordon leads all active drivers with 12 wins on restrictor-plate tracks. Last fall, he broke a tie with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the most wins among active drivers at Talladega Superspeedway after he took his sixth checkered flag. His laps led total, of 802, currently leads all drivers.

7. Clint Bowyer: Bowyer is coming off his first top 10 at Talladega Superspeedway after finishing ninth in April. The finish lowered his overall average to 26.0 in five starts. This weekend he will pilot the same car (chassis No. 223) that was leading the Daytona 500 until he was spun out with 17 laps to go. The car is also the same one that competed at Talladega in the spring.

8. Dale Earnhardt Jr: Although Earnhardt Jr. has posted an average finish of 23.7 in his last seven starts at Talladega Superspeedway, his track record speaks for itself. From the fall event in 2001 through 2004, Earnhardt Jr. mastered Talladega scoring five wins - including four straight - and two runner-up finishes. Junior has the best finishing average (14.3) among all active drivers on restrictor-plate tracks and the third best (14.1) at Talladega. In 17 starts at the Alabama track, Earnhardt has led in 15 races, including 10 consecutive from 10/15/2000 - 05/01/2005, for a total of 616 laps. This weekend Earnhardt Jr. will be make his second track start with Hendrick Motorsports driving the same car (chassis No. 478) that won the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona and finished 10th at Talladega in April after leading 46 laps.

9. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth captured his best finish, of third, in 17 starts at Talladega Superspeedway in the 2005 fall race. In 2006, he continued the top-10 streak by finishing sixth and fourth, respectively. Kenseth led at least one lap in his first eight starts for an overall total of 61 and then led a combined 70 in four of the last six races. This weekend Kenseth will be driving the same chassis (No. RK-582) that finished 41st at Talladega in April after cutting a tire on lap 19.

10. Denny Hamlin: Last fall at Talladega Superspeedway, Hamlin scored his first top 10 in nine restrictor-plate starts by finishing fourth. He backed up that run in April with a third-place run after leading 37 laps. Hamlin did score a win in the non-points paying Budweiser Shootout at Daytona in 2006. This weekend Hamlin will be back in the same car (chassis No. 188) that competed at Talladega in the spring.

11. Tony Stewart: Prior to the 2006 fall race where he finished 22nd, Stewart finished second in three consecutive races at Talladega Superspeedway. In fact, his overall total of six runner-up finishes at Talladega ties him with Bobby Allison (Martinsville) and Mark Martin (Pocono) for most second-place finishes on a track without a victory. In 19 Talladega starts, Stewart has 11 top-10 finishes and has led 244 laps. This weekend Stewart will debut a new car (chassis No. 218) in the AMP Energy 500.

12. Kyle Busch: Busch turned around his restrictor-plate record this season after capturing wins at Talladega in April and Daytona in July. Prior to this year, Busch's only top 10s on plate tracks came at Daytona. His Talladega win lowered his finishing average to 27.3 in seven starts at the track.

13. David Ragan: Ragan finished in the top five in both restrictor-plate races this season. His fourth-place finish at Talladega in April is his career-best in seven plate starts. Ragan scored his first top five (third overall) on a plate track in 2007 when he finished fifth in the Daytona 500. This weekend he will return in the same car (chassis No. Rk-589) that finished fifth at Daytona in July.

14. Kasey Kahne: Kahne's only top 10 in nine starts at Talladega Superspeedway was a second-place finish in the 2006 fall race. Only once has Kahne scored a DNF at Talladega after crashing out of the spring event that same season. Overall, Kahne has a 20.7 average finish and had led 13 laps.

15. Ryan Newman: Newman has finished in the top 10 six times, including his last three races, in 12 starts at Talladega Superpseedway. His best finish is a pair of fourth-place efforts in the 2003 and 2005 fall races. With his winning Daytona 500 car sitting in the Daytona 500 Experience, Newman will race a brand new car (chassis No. 573) in the AMP Energy 500. Newman also raced a new car in the spring when he finished eighth.

16. Martin Truex Jr: Truex Jr. snapped a streak of consecutive top 10s at Talladega Superspeedway last fall after finishing 42nd due to engine problems. The finish marked one of five DNFs in seven starts at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. Truex has enjoyed success at Talladega in the Nationwide Series, capturing three wins in four starts.

17. Brian Vickers: Vickers is coming off his third top five in eight starts at Talladega Superspeedway. His fifth-place finish in the spring was his best in two starts with Team Red Bull at the superspeedway. He won this event in 2006 driving for Hendrick Motorsports in a controversial finish.

18. Kurt Busch: Busch has finished in the top 10 in 11 of the 15 races he has competed in at Talladega Superspeedway, including seven of the last eight events. His best finishes at the 2.66-mile superspeedway are three third-place runs, with two of them coming in two of the last four races.

19. Jamie McMurray:
McMurray's best finishes in five starts with Roush-Fenway Racing at Talladega Superspeedway is a pair of fifth-place finishes in the spring event in 2006 and 2007. His two outings with the team in the fall races have resulted in DNFs after crashes relegated him to 37th-place finishes. McMurray's first seven starts at Talladega came with Chip Ganassi Racing where he captured two top 10s. This weekend McmUrray will pilot the same car (chassis No. RK-590) that finished 32nd at Daytona in July.

20. Bobby Labonte: Labonte has one victory and 11 top-10 finishes in 31 races at Talladega Superspeedway. In a seven-race stretch between 1996-1999, Labonte never finished lower than eighth, but since then has gone on to post only three top 10s. He has started fifth or better five times and has led a total of 153 laps at the superspeedway. In five track starts with Petty Enterprises, Labonte has posted an average finish of 25.6.

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