Aaron's 499 News and Notes

Aaron's 499 News and Notes

NEXTEL Cup Series Top 12 along with some other notable drivers, going into the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 29

1 – Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet)
This Season:
• 35-years-old from Vallejo, Calif., 76 career wins
• One win, six top fives, seven top 10s; three poles
• Average finish of 4.5 this season
• Led in seven of eight races for 467 laps
Talladega Superspeedway Outlook:
• Four wins, 11 top fives, 14 top 10s; two poles
• 15.893 average finish
• 15th and 36th, respectively, last season
• Led in 22 of his 28 Talladega races for a total of 729 laps

2 – Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet)

This Season:
• 39-years-old from S. Boston, Va., 19 career wins
• One win, five top fives, six top 10s
• Average finish of 6.0 this season
• Led in four of eight races for 25 laps
Talladega Superspeedway Outlook:
• Two top fives, 10 top 10s
• 17.923 average finish
• Fourth and 27th, respectively, last season
• Led in nine of his 26 Talladega races for a total of 55 laps

3 – Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford)
This Season:
• 35-years-old from Cambridge, Wis., 15 career wins
• One win, five top fives, six top 10s
• Average finish of 7.9
• Led in six of eight races for 168 laps
Talladega Superspeedway Outlook:
• Three top fives, six top 10s
• 15.5 average finish
• Finished sixth and fourth, respectively, last season
• Led in 11 of his 14 Talladega races for a total of 128 laps

4 – Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
This Season:
• 31-years-old from El Cajon, Calif., 26 career wins
• Three wins, five top fives
• Average finish of 12.9
• Led in four of eight races for 368 laps
Talladega Superspeedway Outlook:
• One win, two top fives, three top 10s; one pole
• 21.0 average finish
• Finished first and 24th, respectively, last season
• Led in nine of his 10 Talladega races for a total of 168 laps

5 – Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet)
This Season:
• 26-years-old from Chesterfield, Va., two career wins
• Three top fives, four top 10s; one pole
• Average finish of 11.2
• Led in three of eight races for 372 laps
Talladega Superspeedway Outlook:
• 21.5 average finish
• Finished 22nd and 21st, respectively, last season
• Led in both of his Talladega races for a total of two laps

6 – Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet)

This Season:
• 21-years-old from Las Vegas, Nev., four career wins
• One win, two top fives, five top 10s
• Average finish of 15.4
• Led in five of seven races for 56 laps
Talladega Superspeedway Outlook:
• 29.25 average finish
• Finished 32nd and 11th, respectively, last season
• Led in one of his four Talladega races for a total of 10 laps

7 – Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet)
This Season:
• 35-years-old from Columbus, Ind., 29 career wins
• Two top five, five top 10s
• Average finish of 16.1
• Led six of eight races for 584 laps
Talladega Superspeedway Outlook:
• Eight top fives, 10 top 10s
• 11.938 average finish
• Finished second and 22nd, respectively, last season
• Led 10 of his 16 Talladega races for 138 laps

8 – Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford)
This Season:
• 27-years-old from Columbia, Mo., four career wins
• Two top 10s
• Average finish of 14.6
• Led in one race for three laps
Talladega Superspeedway Outlook:
• One top five, three top 10s
• 19.2 average finish
• Finished eighth and ninth, respectively, last season
• Led in two of his five Talladega races for a total of nine laps

9 – Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet)

This Season:
• 27-years-old from Emporia, Kan., zero career wins
• Three top 10s
• Average finish of 15.4
• Led in three of eight races for five laps
Talladega Superspeedway Outlook:
• 37.5 average finish
• Finished 40th and 35th, respectively, last season
• Led in one of his two Talladega races for a total of five laps

10 – Mark Martin (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet)
This Season:
• 48-years-old from Batesville, Ark., 35 career victories
• Four top fives, five top 10s
• Average finish of 6.2 this season
• Led in three of his six races for 42 laps
Talladega Superspeedway Outlook:
• Two wins, 10 top fives, 22 top 10s
• 15.476 average finish
• Finished 35th and eighth, respectively, last season
• Led in 22 of his 42 Talladega races for a total of 315 laps

11 – Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet)

This Season:
• 31-years-old from Bakersfield, Calif., 11 career victories
• One win, two top fives, three top 10s
• Average finish of 19.2 this season
• Led in five of eight races for 71 laps
Talladega Superspeedway Outlook:
• Three top fives, six top 10s
• 13.667 average finish
• Finished 23rd and sixth, respectively, at Talladega last season
• Led in seven of his 12 Talladega races for a total of 54 laps

12 – Jamie McMurray (No. 26 Crown Royal/IRWIN Industrial Tools Ford)
This Season:
• 30-years-old from Joplin, Mo., one career win
• One top five, four top 10s
• 17.4 average finish
Talladega Superspeedway Outlook:
• Two top fives, three top 10s
• 17.111 average finish
• Finished fifth and 37th, respectively, last season
• Led five of his nine Talladega races for 102 laps

13 – Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge)
This Season:
• 28-years-old from Las Vegas, Nev., 15 career victories
• One top 10
• Average finish of 19.4 this season
• Led in four of eight races for 161 laps
Talladega Superspeedway Outlook:
• Five top fives, nine top 10s
• 10.833 average finish
• Finished seventh and third, respectively, at Talladega last season
• Led in 10 of his 12 Talladega races for a total of 74 laps

15 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet)
This Season:
• 32-years-old from Kannapolis, N.C., 17 career wins
• One top five, two top 10s
• Average finish of 20.5
• Led in three of eight races for 234 laps
Talladega Superspeedway Outlook:
• Five wins, seven top fives, eight top 10s
• 13.0 average finish
• Finished 31st and 23rd, respectively, last season
• Has led in 12 of his 14 Talladega races for 537 laps

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Record Breaker Could Come At Talladega

With 76 victories in his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup career, Jeff Gordon is tied for sixth place on the all-time win list with the late Dale Earnhardt. Gordon would pass the racing legend with a victory Sunday in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, which he said would be an appropriate location for the historic moment to take place. Because not only was the track one of Earnhardt’s favorites, but the race will be held April 29, which would have been Earnhardt’s 56th birthday.

“If it happened (at Talladega Superspeedway), that would be really cool,” said Gordon, who tied Earnhardt with a victory this past Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway. “I have great memories of racing with Dale there. I feel like any win I have at Talladega, I attribute a lot to Dale, because I learned so much from racing with him.”

Gordon made his Cup debut at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. That was the same year Earnhardt won the sixth of his record-tying seven series titles (he picked up No. 7 the following year). During the eight seasons that the two drivers raced against each other, Earnhardt won five Cup events at Talladega Superspeedway, along with two victories in the IROC Series and one Busch Series victory.

As a former open-wheel racer who had limited drafting experience early in his NASCAR career, Gordon said he carefully watched what Earnhardt did at Talladega Superspeedway and slowly learned how to handle the demanding restrictor-plate track. The visual lessons must have paid off, because Gordon has won four times at Talladega, including back-to-back victories in the Aaron’s 499 in 2004 and 2005.

“(Earnhardt) was just a master at this place,” Gordon said. “You’d watch him and see some of the things that he’d do, and you’d shake your head going, ‘It’s not possible. He must be cheating.’ But years later I started to understand how he was able to do some of those things. That plays a big role in any win I’ve had there.”

In addition to surpassing Earnhardt on the all-time win list, Gordon’s victory could also accomplish two additional feats – he would tie Dale Earnhardt, Jr. with number of wins, five, most among active drivers at Talladega Superspeedway and place Rick Hendrick in a tie for first place with Richard Childress on the all-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series winning car owner list at Talladega Superspeedway. It all adds up to a high-speed chess match that Gordon – just like Earnhardt before him – finds exhilarating. The result, he said, is some of the most exciting racing of the season for NASCAR fans.

“The racing at this place is spectacular,” Gordon said. “If you come to this race and you don’t leave an avid race fan, then there’s something wrong with you. Because when you’re four-wide, inches off of one another at 195 mph, I know it gets my adrenaline flowing, and I’m sure from a fan’s standpoint it does as well.”


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NASCAR - AARonS 499 - Odds to Win
4-29-07 2:10 PM

Jimmie Johnson     7-1

Tony Stewart     7-2

Kasey Kahne     40-1

Jeff Gordon     6-1

Matt Kenseth     12-1

Dale Earnhardt Jr     8-1

Kevin Harvick     15-1

Jeff Burton     18-1

Carl Edwards     25-1

Kyle Busch     15-1

Greg Biffle     40-1

Kurt Busch     9-1

Denny Hamlin     20-1

Clint Bowyer     30-1

Juan Pablo Montoya     60-1

Martin Truex Jr     35-1

Ryan Newman     30-1

Elliott Sadler     50-1

Casey Mears     50-1

Jamie McMurray     30-1

Scott Riggs     100-1

Reed Sorenson     100-1

Bobby Labonte     100-1

David Stremme     100-1

Joe Nemechek     100-1

David Gilliland     50-1

Ricky Rudd     50-1

JJ Yeley     75-1

Dave Blaney     100-1

Robby Gordon     100-1

Brian Vickers     100-1

Paul Menard     100-1

David Ragan     100-1

Field (Any Other Driver) 40-1

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Aaron's 499 preview
April 23, 2007
By Micah Roberts

After having races on almost every type of track thus far into the season, the Nextel cup teams now prepare for the scariest track of all, Talladega Superspeedway. What is tough for the drivers, makes it all that more exciting for the fans. The combination of speed, the probability of danger, and lots of passing make this race a fan favorite.

That appeal of seeing great racing mixed with the spectacular end over end wrecks has been drawing fans to the little Alabama town for 38 years. In the last few decades, the fans have also been able to rely on the possibility that their favorite driver would win a race there. The late Dale Earnhardt Sr wasn’t always a fan favorite, but they grew to love his style and it soon turned into legendary status when he became the chief villain against the young upstart, Jeff Gordon. The anti-Gordon fans loved it and ate the rivalry up. Earnhardt went on to win 10 Cup races at Talladega, still a track record.

When Dale Sr passed, the family name still carried on in dominant fashion with his son, Dale Jr, driving for the team that he built, DEI. Junior went through a stretch of Talladega race where he won five of seven races and the other two that he didn’t win saw him finish second. Even Junior’s daddy didn’t dominate Talladega like that.

Things have slowed tremendously for the DEI team and Junior. His last restrictor plate win was the fall of 2004 at Talladega. 2004 saw Junior finish no worse than third in the four restrictor-plate races which included the prized Daytona 500 trophy. 2004 was also the year that Hendrick Motorsports moved into DEI’s restrictor plate spotlight.

Jeff Gordon won the two plate races that Junior didn’t in 2004. Gordon then went on to win the 2005 Daytona 500 and the spring Talladega race. In 2006 Jimmie Johnson grabbed the baton and ran away with the Daytona 500 and then took the spring Talladega race just as Gordon had done the previous year. Two different drivers from the same team in back to back years? That is dominant power. But wait, it gets stronger! To close out the 2006 plate race season, Brian Vickers, a Hendrick teammate, gets his first career win at Talladega. That is a very impressive run.

This year we can expect much of the same with Hendrick. The car that Vickers drove to a win will be driven by Casey Mears. It wouldn’t a surprise to see all four Hendrick cars finish in the top five. The other driver for Hendrick is Las Vegan Kyle Busch who has shown a knack for plate racing, but can’t stay out of trouble late. Those two entries of Mears and Busch have great value this week.

The only non-chevrolet entries that should be considered candidates to topple the guys in bow-ties are from the Peske Dodge camp. The last Dodge to win at Talladega was driven by Dave Marcis in 1976, but the combo of Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman could do nice teaming together and make a run for the win.

Ford has Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards who have been good in plate races going for them. Ford also has the Yates team of David Gilliland and Ricky Rudd. They are awful in everything but plate races. At Daytona this year, the two Yates drivers sat on the front row. Gilliland looked very good out there and ran very conservative in his eighth-place finish.

Chevy should be a minus -360 favorite in this weekend’s race. The combo of Hendrick, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, and Junior is too much to overcome for Dodge, Ford, and oh yeah, Toyota.

I would love to see Junior get back on track at Talladega, but it is a long shot. Junior’s odds of 12 to 1 are the highest his odds have been at a restrictor plate race since 2000. Considering the fact that his odds are always lower than a true number because of his demand and popularity, you could likely equate a true number on Junior this week to about 20 to 1 based on his last 7 plate races.

TOP 5 Talladega Finish Prediction:

1)       #5 Kyle Busch (12/1)
2)       #2 Kurt Busch (15/1)
3)       #20 Tony Stewart (4/1)
4)       #48 Jimmie Johnson (9/2)
5)       #29 Kevin Harvick (12/1)

Talladega Superspeedway Data

Qualifying/Race Data

2006 pole winner: Elliott Sadler (188.511 mph, 50.798 seconds)
2006 race winner: Jimmie Johnson, 142.880 mph, 5-1-06)
Track qualifying record: Bill Elliott (212.809 mph, 44.998 seconds, 4-30-87)
Track race record: Mark Martin (188.354 mph, 5-10-97)
Estimated Pit Window: Every 34-36 laps, based on fuel mileage

Cash Prizes available: $6,022,630.00

Talladega Odds and Ends

• There have been 75 Cup races at Talladega.

• There have been five different winners over the last five Cup races there.

• Talladega boasts both the fastest qualifying lap (Bill Elliott, 212.809, April 1987) and the fastest race (Mark Martin, 188.354, May 1997) in NASCAR history.

• The have been 12 drivers who have won from the pole position at Talladega, most recently Bobby Labonte in 1998.

• Eighteen races have been won from the second starting position, more than any other position.

• Jeff Gordon’s starting position of 36th in 2000 is the worst start position of a Dega race winner.

• The track surface was repaved in 1970, 1979 and 2006.

• Ken Schrader (1998) and Brian Vickers (2006) won their first career race at Talladega.

• Sterling Marlin, Jeremy Mayfield, Joe Nemechek and Elliott Sadler each have won three poles at Talladega, most of active drivers.

• There have been 35 different race winners at Talladega – 18 of them have won more than once.

• The have been three caution free races at Talladega: April 1997, April 2001 (The first plate race immediately after Dale Sr passed) and October 2002.

• Tony Stewart has finished second six times at Talladega, but has not won there. That ties him with Bobby Allison (Martinsville) and Mark Martin (Pocono) for the most bridesmaid finishes without a victory at a track on the current Cup circuit.

Talladega Streakers

• Kurt Busch has five consecutive top 10 finishes at Talladega. He also has led at least one lap in nine consecutive Talladega races.

• Matt Kenseth has three consecutive top 10 finishes at Talladega and has finishes in the top five in two of the last three races there.

• Elliott Sadler has started in the top 10 in four of the last five Talladega races.

• Brian Vickers has three consecutive top 10 finishes at Talladega.

Last Five Winners at Talladega

2006 – Brian Vickers - Hendrick
2006 – Jimmie Johnson - Hendrick
2005 – Dale Jarrett – Yates (Ford)
2005 – Jeff Gordon - Hendrick
2004 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. - DEI

Active Drivers – Most Laps Led at This Track

Jeff Gordon – 729   Michael Waltrip – 190
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – 537  Jimmie Johnson – 168
Sterling Marlin – 437   Ken Schrader – 155
Mark Martin – 315   Bobby Labonte – 150
Dale Jarrett – 233   Tony Stewart – 138

Quick Facts All-time Highlights at Talladega

Most Wins: 10, Dale Earnhardt
Most Wins, Active: 5, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Most Poles: 8, Bill Elliott
Most Poles, Active: 3, Sterling Marlin, Joe Nemechek, Jeremy Mayfield, Elliott Sadler
Most top 5s: 23, Dale Earnhardt
Most top 5s, Active: 11, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett
Most top 10s: 27, Dale Earnhardt
Most top 10s, Active: 22, Mark Martin

Best Average Starting Position, Active: 7.0, Jimmie Johnson
Best Average Finish, Active: 10.833, Kurt Busch

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RacingOne Power Rankings

The latest edition of the RacingOne NEXTEL Cup Series Power Rankings as the series heads to Talladega Superspeedway for Sunday's Aaron's 499, which features NASCAR's comprehensive statistical ratings system using a detailed formula to calculate each driver's performance.

Editor's Note: Top 10 rankings are generated by a 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. Must have raced in 75 percent of scheduled point-paying races.

1. Jeff Gordon
- Historic Phoenix victory vaulted him to the top of the rankings and increased his series point lead, but will have his hands full this weekend with the pro-Earnhardt fans in the Talladega stands.

Talladega Finishing Average: 15.9
Talladega Wins: 4

2. Jimmie Johnson - Another top five finish Saturday night in Phoenix overshadowed by his teammate's milestone victory.

Talladega Finishing Average: 21.0
Talladega Wins: 1

3. Tony Stewart
- For the second week-in-a-row upset with his finish and stormed out without talking to the media. Will let his driving do the talking this week at Talladega.

Talladega Finishing Average: 11.9
Talladega Wins: 0

4. Jeff Burton - Fourth and 27th at Talladega a year ago and looking for a repeat trip to victory lane this year.

Talladega Finishing Average: 17.9
Talladega Wins: 0

5. Matt Kenseth - His usual stealth self at Phoenix to score another top five finish.

Talladega Finishing Average: 15.5
Talladega Wins: 0

6. Mark Martin - Will no doubt be smiling from ear-to-ear this weekend as he barbeques at home, far far away from Talladega.

Talladega Finishing Average: 15.5
Talladega Wins: 2

7. Denny Hamlin - Has had the best COT car three times this year with nothing to show for it, will look for redemption on a restrictor plate track.

Talladega Finishing Average: 21.5
Talladega Wins: 0

8. Kyle Busch
- Talladega not a favorite of his with an average finish just a shade worse than 29th.

Talladega Finishing Average: 29.2
Talladega Wins: 0

9. Kurt Busch
- Had a great car at Daytona until his tangle with Stewart, looks for restrictor plate track redemption this weekend.

Talladega Finishing Average: 10.8
Talladega Wins: 0

10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- The clock is ticking on contract negotiations and his time to straighten out a somewhat disappointing first part of the season.

Talladega Finishing Average: 13.0
Talladega Wins: 5


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[img]http://i.a.cnn.net/nascar/.element/img/ … eneric.jpg[/img]

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Driver Handicaps: Talladega

This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway for the Aaron's 499. To help you make your Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing fantasy picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 188-lap event.

Who's HOT at Talladega Superspeedway
* Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the active leader in wins with five.
* Jeff Gordon, a four-time winner, is the active leader in laps led with 729.
* Matt Kenseth holds a 4.3 average finish in his last three starts.
* Kurt Busch leads all active drivers with a 10.8 average finish.
* Tony Stewart has finished second six times in 16 starts.

Keep an Eye on at Talladega Speedway
* Defending race winner Jimmie Johnson leads all divers, with more than one start, with a 7.0 starting average.
* Jamie McMurray has the second best Talladega driver rating at 110.5.
* David Gilliland has a 1.0 starting average and an 11.5 average finish in two restrictor-plate races.
* Ricky Rudd has completed the most laps at Talladega (9071) among all drivers entered in the Aaron's 499.
* Kevin Harvick is the all-time leader with zero DNF's in 12 starts at Talladega.
* Carl Edwards will race the same chassis that he scored top 10-finishes with in both Talladega races in 2006.
* Sterling Marlin leads all drivers entered in the Aaron's 499 with 10 top 10's at Talladega.
* Casey Mears will be behind the wheel of the same car that Brian Vickers piloted to victory last fall at Talladega.

Track Performers
Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in wins (10) and laps led (1226) on restrictor-plate tracks. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is second with seven wins and is first in finishing average among drivers with three or more starts at 12.9 in 29 starts. Dale Jarrett surpassed Sterling Marlin for third in career plate wins in the 2005 fall Talladega race with his sixth win. Marlin is the active pole winner on plate tracks with seven. Jimmie Johnson, who won the 2006 Daytona 500 and Aaron's 499, has a 16.4 average finish in 21 plate starts. Talladega Driver Stats

Talladega Rookie Report
Paul Menard is the only Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate that has competed in a NEXTEL Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway. Menard competed in the fall race last year and finished 34th after an accident took him out of contention. Menard is also the only rookie that has made multiple starts in a Busch car at Talladega, finishing a best ninth last year. David Ragan, David Reutimann and AJ Allmendinger all have scored a top 10 in Truck series competition at Talladega. Juan Pablo Montoya is the only rookie that has not made a NASCAR start at Talladega. Last year Montoya made his stock car debut in an ARCA RE/MAX car at Talladega, where he started second and finished third. Although he's officially not a Raybestos Rookie, Regan Smith, who will return in the No. 01 Chevrolet, finished 37th in his only Busch Start at Talladega. Since 1987, a Raybestos Rookie has finished in the top five in the Aaron's 499 just twice: Tony Stewart (fifth in 1999) and Kurt Busch (third in 2001). Rookie Standings

Qualifying Tidbits
The No. 38 Robert Yates Ford has won the pole for the last three NEXTEL Cup events at Talladega Superspeedway. Current No. 38 pilot, David Gilliland, won his first career pole at Talladega last fall and then went on to score his second consecutive restrictor-plate pole in the 2007 Daytona 500. In the two races prior to Gilliland's pole at Talladega, Elliott Sadler drove the No. 38 to the top spot. This year's Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick was the last non-RYR driver to win the pole, doing so in this event in 2005. Over the last 10 races there have been seven different Bud Pole winners. Qualifying was canceled in the fall of 2002 and Stacy Compton is the last driver to sweep both poles in one season (2001). Ten of the last 15 races have been won from a starting position of 10th or worse. Past Pole Winners | Starting Positions of Talladega Winners

Looking For Speed
At 15.1, Dale Jarrett has the best average start among all the drivers with more than one start at Talladega who are required to qualify on time. Jarrett, who was one of the slowest Toyota's in Daytona 500 qualifying, has only one past champion's provisional left to fall back on. A majority of Jarrett's top 10 starts came driving a Ford for restrictor-plate powerhouse Robert Yates Racing. Scott Riggs is second in starting average (15.5) after posting six consecutive starts of eighth or better. Boris Said, who was fastest among the group in qualifying for the Daytona 500, started 12th in his only start at Talladega in 2005. David Reutimann and Jeremy Mayfield were the fastest in Daytona 500 qualifying among the Toyotas.

Top 20 Driver Notes - Based on Current Standings (Excludes Rookies)

1. Jeff Gordon (Points: 1326): Gordon led a race high 62 laps in this event last year at Talladega Superspeedway. He appeared to be in contention for the win, but was shuffled out of the lead draft with two laps to go and went from possibly winning his third straight Talladega spring race to a 15th-place finish. Overall, Gordon has a 15.9 average finish, four victories, 14 top 10s and has led 729 laps at Talladega. He currently leads all active drivers in wins on plate tracks with 10. In the 2005 fall race, Gordon finished 37th ending a string of six consecutive races in which he led a lap, with the most being 139 in the 2005 spring race.

2. Jeff Burton (Points Behind: -74): Jeff Burton has raced in 54 restrictor-plate races, including the 2000 New Hampshire event when he led every lap. Burton has run 26 of the events at Talladega Superspeedway where he has captured two top fives and 10 top-10 finishes. His fourth-place finish in this event last year was his first top five and second top 10 in five 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 in the 2005 fall race when he ended with a DNF in the 35th position. The No. 31 Cingular team will bring chassis No. 186 to Talladega as the primary car. This is a brand new car that was tested at Daytona back in January.

3. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: -160): Kenseth captured his best finish, of third, in 14 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 67 in the last three races. Over the past two seasons, he has spent 650 of the past 752 laps at Talladega running in the top 15, which is best among all Cup drivers. He will be driving the same car (chassis No. RK-271) that raced in the last four events at Talladega.

4. Jimmie Johnson (Points Behind: -211): Johnson won his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in this event last year after starting 16th. The win was his third top 10 in 10 starts. It was also his second plate win of 2006 after winning the Daytona 500. In 2002, Johnson won his second of nine 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. Over the last eight races Johnson has led in every race adding to his 168 laps led at Talladega.

5. Denny Hamlin (Points Behind: -242): Since winning the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, Denny Hamlin has yet to score a top 15 in five restrictor-plate races. Hamlin's best effort on a plate track came in the 2006 Pepsi 400 at Daytona when he finished 17th. This weekend Hamlin will be behind the wheel of the same car (chassis No. 90) that finished 28th in the 2007 Daytona 500 after the car received fender damage. The 2006 Talladega races are the site of Hamlin's only lap led in Cup restrictor-plate competition (points paying).

6. Kyle Busch (Points Behind: -324): Busch's second-place finish at Daytona last July is his only top 10 in nine starts on restrictor-plate tracks. His best effort in four starts at Talladega Superspeedway came last fall when he finished 11th. Busch will be back in the same car (chassis No. 362) that has competed in the last three races at Daytona where it has posted a combined average finish of 16.3.

7. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: -332): 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 16 Talladega starts, Stewart has 10 top-10 finishes and has led 138 laps. Stewart will debut a new car (chassis No. 96) because his most recent plate car - which captured two Pepsi 400 wins - was retired after it crashed hard in Turn 4 in this year's Daytona 500.

8. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -359): Edwards has put together a solid run of finishes in the last three NEXTEL Cup 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. Edwards will race the same chassis (No. RK-232) that he scored top 10-finishes with in both Talladega races in 2006.

9. Clint Bowyer (Points Behind: -363): Bowyer posted a 37.5 average finish in his first two starts at Talladega Superspeedway in 2006. He will pilot a brand new car (chassis No. 205) in Sunday's Aaron's 499. Bowyer will be pulling triple duty this weekend as he will be racing in the Busch Series race and at the Talladega Short Track driving a new dirt late model he recently took delivery of.

10. Mark Martin (Points Behind: -405): Two-time Talladega winner Mark Martin will be taking the weekend off from NEXTEL Cup action and will hand the wheel of the No. 01 Chevrolet to Regan Smith. Martin will be at a much smaller track on Saturday, as he will be looking after development drivers Ricky Carmichael and Matt Martin, who will be racing in a super late model race at New Smyrna Speedway.

11. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: -424): Harvick currently holds the longest streak without a DNF at Talladega Superspeedway of 12 races. In fact, he has only scored one DNF in 24 restrictor-plate races. Harvick, who has two runner-up NEXTEL Cup finishes at Talladega, finished 23rd in this event last year after being black-flagged from prior damage. It was his worst plate finish of 2006. 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. With his Daytona 500 winning chassis sitting in Daytona USA, Harvick will get back behind the wheel of the same car (chassis No. 161) that last raced at Daytona in July where it finished ninth.

12. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind: -427): Last year in this event, McMurray equaled his best Talladega finish (fifth) in his first track start with Roush Racing. Prior to 2006, McMurray captured two top-10 finishes in seven starts with Chip Ganassi Racing. In 2005, he led 38 laps in the fall race before finishing 12th. McMurray will be racing the same chassis (No. RK-192) that he raced in his debut with Roush Racing at Daytona back in 2006. The car has raced a couple times since then, including the 2006 fall race at Talladega and the 2007 Daytona 500, but was involved in crashes in each event. On the other hand, this is the same car that produced a positive result in this event last year.

13. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -458): Busch has finished in the top 10 in nine of the 12 races he has competed in at Talladega Superspeedway, including the last five events. His best finishes at the 2.66-mile superspeedway are three third-place runs, with the most recent coming last fall. Busch, who has scored 14 top-10 finishes in 26 restrictor-plate races, has led at least one lap in the last nine races at Talladega.

14. Greg Biffle (Points Behind: -476): Biffle has yet to post a top-10 finish in eight starts at Talladega Superspeedway. His best finish of 13th came in the 2005 spring race. This weekend Biffle will be racing a brand new car (chassis No. RK-337) that was fast in testing at Daytona earlier this year.

15. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points Behind: - 483): Although Earnhardt Jr. has finished 23rd or worse in his last three 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. His 40th-place finish in the 2005 fall event was his worst at the track since placing 42nd in his first start in 2000. Junior has the best finishing average (12.9) among all active drivers with three or more starts on restrictor-plate tracks and the third best (13.0) at Talladega. In 14 starts at the Alabama track, Earnhardt has led in 12 races, including 10 consecutive from 10/15/2000 - 05/01/2005, for a total of 537 laps.

17. Elliott Sadler (Points Behind: -509): This weekend Sadler will make his third restrictor-plate race start with Evernham Motorsports. After finishing 29th at Talladega Superspeedway last fall, Sadler gave the No. 19 a solid effort in the Daytona 500 by finishing sixth. Sadler's success at Talladega came with Robert Yates Racing over the past three seasons. During that span he recorded three poles - including two of the last three - and two finishes of sixth or better. He also led at least one lap in every Talladega event with the team.

18. David Stremme (Points Behind: -513): In 2006, Stremme posted an average finish of 33.5 in his first two starts at Talladega Superspeedway. His best finish in five restrictor-plate races came this year when he finished 11th in the Daytona 500.

19. Bobby Labonte (Points Behind: -546): Labonte has one victory and 11 top-10 finishes in 28 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 150 laps at the superspeedway. Last year in his first two track starts with Petty Enterprises, Labonte finished 29th (engine) and 10th, respectively. This weekend the No. 43 will have a new look as it will carry a "Spiderman 3" paint scheme.

20. Martin Truex Jr. (Points Behind: -552): Truex Jr. is coming off his first top five at Talladega Superspeedway and first finish of 20th or better in four starts. On Saturday, Truex Jr. will look to try to become the first driver to win four straight Busch Series events at Talladega.

Notables (Outside The Top 20)

* Ryan Newman has a pair of fourth-place finishes in 10 Talladega starts.
* David Gilliland has a 1.0 starting average and 11.5 average finish in two restrictor-plate races.
* Sterling Marlin has five victories and 34 top-10 finishes in 76 career restrictor-plate races.
* Ricky Rudd has completed the most laps (9071) among all drivers entered in the Aaron's 499.
* Kasey Kahne has finished second and seventh, respectively, in the last two restrictor-plate races.
* Casey Mears will be behind the wheel of the same car (chassis No. 372) that Brian Vickers piloted to victory last fall at Talladega.
* Dale Jarrett has captured two wins and 16 top 10s in 40 Talladega starts.
* Brian Vickers has finished sixth or better in his last three starts at Talladega.


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Aaron's 499: Return of the Random    
by: Brian Gabrielle

Talladega isn't the greatest place to get off a losing streak.

Not that we're technically on a losing streak; we had Jeff Gordon winning last Saturday night's Phoenix event, which he did, as a +385 favorite. But in an excruciating turn of events, Dale Earnhardt Jr. got caught on in the pits during a late caution, went a lap down, and wound up losing his head-to-head match-up against Greg Biffle, who didn't have nearly the car Junior did, and who trailed the #8 all night. Drat.

So we lost a little money, and now we head to the 'Dega, probably the sport's most random site. It's random, of course, because the Big One is never more than a few laps away: the giant wreck that takes out half the field, since the cars all ride so impossibly close together at 190 mph with restrictor plates on their carburetors. The favorites can lead all day, as did Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch in this year's Daytona 500, only to get slam-drafted late and see the afternoon go up in a puff of tire smoke. It's nerve-rattling for us; imagine how crazy it is for the drivers themselves.

Anyway, we can but try. Here are the best bets for the Aaron's 499 from Talladega.

Last Week: Gordon's win couldn't overcome Junior's terrible luck (which he's now experienced two weeks running), meaning we dropped 0.38 units on 1.5 units wagered. For the season, then, we stand a positive net 1.49 units on 12 units wagered, a return of 12.4%. Note also that if you eschew the conservative betting scheme I outline below, and simply place one unit on every wager I recommend, for the year you'd be up 17.52 units on 32 units wagered, for a 54.8% return. As always, though, be aware that that betting scheme is far riskier on a week-to-week basis.

Take Tony Stewart (+403), 1/6th unit. Smoke is the favorite Sunday for a reason. He had close to the best car at Daytona, but wrecked from the lead and wound up 43rd. Leading up to last fall's Talladega event, he'd finished second in three consecutive races here, though he'd never won. Stewart made all kinds of noise this week about how NASCAR is essentially fixing races by creating phantom cautions in advance of green-flag pit stops, thereby bringing the field together again for late restarts. NASCAR isn't pleased about that, and they won't be pleased by the firestorm Stewart creates winning this race, either. Talk about a post-race interview you want to watch.

Take Kurt Busch (+1123), 1/6th unit. And if it's not Stewart, I think it'll be the older Busch. My opinion is that Busch had the best car in the field in Daytona this February, and that he very well could've won the race had he and Stewart not smacked into one another while jostling for the lead late. Hopefully he learned a little something, which is: don't fight for the lead until the final five laps. Busch has five consecutive Talladega finishes in the top eight, and while he hasn't won a plate race in his career, he's come close on several occasions.

Take Matt Kenseth (+1436), 1/6th unit. This is a value bet, pure and simple. The Hendrick cars (Jeff Gordon (+608) and Jimmie Johnson (+649)) have better chances to win, having already proven they can take plate-track events. But getting Kenseth at this price is too good to pass up, because he's no slouch when it comes to Talladega. His last three finishes here? Fourth, sixth and third. And remember, Kenseth actually had a great chance for the win in the last couple laps at the Daytona 500 (after Stewart and Busch had wrecked), but got taken out by Kyle Busch (+1352) and his over-aggressive racing. Kenseth will win a plate-track race someday, and getting him at better than 14-1 means you can take a chance on him this weekend.


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Four-time Cup champ has history of success at Alabama superspeedway
By Johnny Benson

It's restrictor-plate racing this Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Jeff Gordon, who got his first win of the season last weekend at Phoenix, could make it two in a row as he is my favorite to get to Victory Lane.

The current stock car will be run with the Car of Tomorrow not debuting in plate racing until the fall Cup event at Talladega on Oct. 7.

Working in Gordon's favor
When it comes to racing at restrictor-plate tracks (Talladega and Daytona International Speedway), Gordon is one of the best. He has lots of experience and success at the superspeedways.

If the four-time Cup champion wins on Sunday, it will be his fifth restrictor-plate victory since 2004, and his 11th overall. The only driver to have reached that mark is the late Dale Earnhardt.

Gordon has four wins at the 2.66-mile Alabama track. He also has 11 top-fives and 14 top-10s. In this event last year he led for 62 laps but got shuffled back late in the race and came home 15th. Last fall he got caught up in a wreck at Talladega and finished 36th.

The engines and chassis of Hendrick Motorsports perform well at the restrictor-plate tracks, and the resources the organization has to work with have helped make it tough to beat on superspeedways. Last year Hendrick registered a Talladega sweep with Jimmie Johnson winning in the spring and Brian Vickers (who is no longer with Hendrick) winning in the fall.

Gordon, who leads in points, has finished fourth or better in six of his last seven races. And only once this season (when he was 12th at Atlanta) has he crossed the checkers outside of the top 10. He leads the Cup series in poles (3), top-fives (6), top-10s (7), and average finish (4.5).

His great start to the season is not only due to his driving, but also due to the impact of his crew chief Steve Letarte. Gordon has said that Letarte has done a great job of leading his team, building the team chemistry, and preparing great race cars.

That's not only a formula for success, but also a formula that could bring Gordon a fifth Cup championship.

Other drivers to watch
I have two of Gordon's teammates, Johnson and Kyle Busch, pegged as top contenders on Sunday. Both are off to solid starts this year as Johnson is fourth in points and Busch is sixth.

This is Johnson's 11th Cup start at Talladega, where in addition to his win in this event last year, he has two poles, two top-fives, and three top-10s. He will be in the chassis he won in a year ago.

The defending Cup champion also won at Daytona last year and his two restrictor-plate wins in 2006 enabled him to learn a lot about what it takes to get to Victory Lane at the superspeedways. Johnson says that he'll use what he learned and apply that knowledge to his racing on Sunday so look out he could chalk up his fourth win of the young season.

Busch's results have been mostly positive this season, but he's run even better than those finishes indicate. The soon-to-be 22-year-old posted his career-best start and finish at Talladega last fall when he qualified sixth, led 10 laps, and wound up 11th.

The fourth driver for Hendrick Motorsports, Casey Mears, has shown some promise on the superspeedways, but so far this season Mears and his No. 25 team don't have a handle on things. Mears has only one top-10 and is 35th in points.

Tony Stewart of Joe Gibbs Racing and Kevin Harvick of Richard Childress Racing must be considered prime threats to make it to Victory Lane.

Stewart has never won a Cup event at Talladega, but he has finished second in three of his last four starts at this superspeedway. Overall at the Alabama track the two-time Cup champion has a half dozen second-place results.

Harvick is good at restrictor-plate racing, and a rejuvenated RCR can expect success at the superspeedways. In 12 Cup starts at Talladega, Harvick has one pole, three top-fives, and six top-10s. He also has a 17.7 starting average, and a 13.7 finishing average.

Like Hendrick Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt Inc. has made a major commitment to winning at restrictor-plate tracks. That explains why DEI driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. has five wins and two runner-up finishes in his last 12 Talladega races.

Junior has won more Cup races at Talladega (5) than at any other track. And his five victories at the Alabama superspeedway are the most of any active driver. He also ranks second on the track’s all-time wins chart behind his father, Dale Earnhardt, who won 10 times in 44 starts.

Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin round out my group of drivers with the best shots at a win. This is Kenseth's 15th Cup start at Talladega, where he has no poles, no wins, three top-fives, and six top-10s.

This will be Hamlin’s third Cup start at Talladega. He had a very strong car in last fall's event at this superspeedway but had the misfortune of twice getting caught up in wrecks that required repairs and relegated him to a finish of 21st.

My darkhorse is Kurt Busch who has had his struggles this season, but who has five top-fives and nine top-10s in 12 Cup starts at Talladega.

Keys to success at Talladega
It's no secret how unpredictable racing can be at this superspeedway so there's a lot to be said for finding someone to draft with especially late in the race.

Talladega's been repaved so we'll see more than three-wide racing. You'll see drivers who'll be willing to run four-wide and make more gutsy moves than we've seen in the past.

With the added grip on the track, look for some drivers to race differently meaning more aggressively than what we've come to expect.

Getting caught up in the "Big One" is the fear of all drivers, and the best way for a driver to lessen the odds of being involved in such a multi-car pileup is to try and run up front all day.

While trying their best to keep their cars from getting damaged, the drivers are also trying to figure out when it's best to make their moves, so it's like a game of mental chess. But luck plays a big role at this track, more so than at any other track on the Nextel Cup circuit.

Talladega is big, wide and fast -- a track that places a premium on a quality car. Cars run in large packs, and that makes it mentally draining on the drivers, who need to focus on all that is going on around them so they can try and stay out of big wrecks.

Drivers must be careful not to speed on pit row after coming in from running at about 190 mph on the track. In 2004 NASCAR ended its policy of checking pit-row speeds with stop watches, and began using electronic devices to do so.

On the pit stops we'll probably see mostly two-tire changes because the grip should be good after the resurfacing and drivers aren't going to want to wait on four tires since they'll be using smaller fuel cells (13 gallons instead of 22).

The racing will intensify over the final 20 laps or so and that's when some of the more desperate moves are made -- moves that often result in wrecks. Getting through clean in the late stages of the race is one of the biggest challenges of winning at Talladega.


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Re: Aaron's 499 News and Notes

Gordon Adds to Record
RacingOne Report

Jeff Gordon's record-setting month of April continued on Saturday.

A week after notching his 76th career NEXTEL Cup win to tie Dale Earnhardt on the all-time win list, Gordon added to his active driver pole record.

Gordon won another Bud Pole on Saturday taking the top spot for the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway for his 60th career NEXTEL Cup pole position.

It was Gordon's fourth pole of the season.

Gordon's run of 192.069 mph in his DuPont Chevrolet topped the 52-car field.

David Gilliland qualified second in the M&M's Ford with an identical lap of 192.069 mph, but the pole went to Gordon since the No. 24 was higher in owner's points than the No. 38.

Denny Hamlin, Sterling Marlin and Ricky Rudd rounded out the top five.

Kenny Wallace, Casey Mears, Jimmie Johnson, Scott Riggs and Boris Said completed the first ten qualifiers.

Sunday's Aaron's 499 is slated for a 1:30 p.m. (ET) start

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Re: Aaron's 499 News and Notes

Michael Waltrip qualifed 20th and still missed the race  big_smile

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mvbski wrote:

Michael Waltrip qualifed 20th and still missed the race  big_smile

Waltrip has ideas for fairer qualifying
Fri, Apr 27, 2007
By Associated Press

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Michael Waltrip has failed to qualify for seven of the eight NASCAR Nextel Cup races this season, and he believes the system now being used to select the fields is somewhat flawed.

The two-time Daytona 500 winner, now also owner of a three-car, first-year team, says he has a better idea.

''They ought to draw for qualifying, like they do now,'' Waltrip said. ''Then, the top 35 go out one through 35. Then you've got this drama built. Then you let the scrubs go out. Let's see who has got what. Seven of these guys are going to make it. It would be more fair if we were right there together.''

As it stands now, the top 35 drivers in the car owner points are guaranteed a starting spot in the 43-car field, actually leaving eight spots to fill. Those positions are filled by qualifying speed, with one spot reserved for any former series champion who fails to make it on the other criteria.

Dale Jarrett, Waltrip's teammate and the 1999 champion, has used five of his six allotted provisionals already this year.

Under the current rules, everyone entered gets his qualifying position in the blind draw.

Last week at Phoenix, qualifying began in the late afternoon and the track temperature changed by more than 20 degrees as the session progressed. That gave the drivers who drew later qualifying spots a decided advantage over the early qualifiers.

Kyle Petty, another longtime stock car racer, agreed with Waltrip that a change in qualifying procedure could be good.

''On at least two occasions, he's been beat by the luck of the draw,'' Petty said. ''He's been fast enough. Other guys have been beat by the luck of the draw, too, and other guys have got in by the luck of the draw.''

Waltrip also had a suggestion for NASCAR about a change when qualifying is rained out, as it was two weeks ago at Texas. In that case, the formula for determining the field includes the top 35 in points, then former series champions, the previous year's race winners, qualifying attempts during the current season and, finally, back to the current points.

Waltrip's No. 55 Toyota went home that weekend without racing.

''Texas was a crisis,'' he said. ''Our sponsors pay as much for us to compete as sponsors pay for cars in the top 35. It was more upsetting to Domino's and NAPA that qualifying got canceled on Friday and that's it, go home. They said, 'Why couldn't we have qualified on Saturday?'

''They should come up with qualifying for the whole field,'' Waltrip said. ''Say it rains on Friday. Set the top 35 by points and we're going to have a session for the other guys on Saturday. We're going to try to get qualifying in for these guys so they can go home knowing they had a chance.''

On that suggestion, Petty did not agree.

''If qualifying gets rained out, it just gets rained out, sorry,'' Petty said. ''You got beat by God then, not the luck of the draw. That's the way it's been. We play an outdoor sport and you've got to live with it. The race tracks and NASCAR and everybody, we have a schedule. You can't manipulate stuff like that.''

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Re: Aaron's 499 News and Notes

mvbski wrote:

mvbski wrote:

Michael Waltrip qualifed 20th and still missed the race  big_smile

Waltrip has ideas for fairer qualifying

Try getting a faster car  big_smile

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Re: Aaron's 499 News and Notes

Lots of value on some drivers who have looked good so far and some who have not.

C Mears 33/1 @ SIA
Mears looked good in yesterdays Busch race and will be driving the same car that Vickers won with last year at Talladega.

Jeff Burton 24/1 @ SkyBook
Burton has ran well all year but didn't qualify well which means nothing here and I look for him to be up front in time at all.

I bet C Mears early at 50/1 and I have a feeling that this is the weekend that he finally shows Hendrick why they signed him.

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Talladega Update
April 29, 2007
By Micah Roberts

I can’t wait for the race to begin, and it’s not because of the excitement generated by a plate race on the monster track of Talladega. It’s because I want Talladega to be over and get ready for Richmond. The root of my boredom this week leading into the Talladega race is that the NASCAR betting public is just too sharp. Because of how astute they have become, the week of line movements on match-ups and odds to win have been at the pace of Champ Car World Series line movements, which is minimal at best.

On a normal week, you can play several angles going off what you know the public will play. Basically, Joe Public fires on whatever driver qualified and/or practiced faster than the other and doesn’t care about the price. Rarely do they ever wager against one of the favorites and rarely are they enticed into taking quality at plus money. These players like to lay the chalk at any price. They win some and they lose some, but they keep it fun for the others who wait for their moves to inflate diamonds in the rough at better plus money.

This week for Talladega bettors, its like being in Norman, Oklahoma when the Sooner football team is on TV playing a road game……..a complete Ghost Town. The action in the books are light, the discussions among players are limited, and not even the tastiest chum bait can reel in plays on some of these lop sided match-ups. Because of the high propensity for wrecks that are unavoidable at Talladega and the restrictor plates which bunch the cars up, it takes value away in the match-ups. The bettors know this and basically stay away from them altogether this week.

You could throw Kurt Busch -120 against Bobby Labonte and then follow them in candid camera fashion. Watching them as they contemplate making the play; debating with themselves, walking towards the window, and then pulling out of line because of so much indecision from their inner-conscience that it drives this bettor absolutely mad.

Ask your neighborhood book just how much less action there is this week in match-ups compared to a normal week and I’m sure they’ll say it’s in the 90% range

To attract action on odds to win prices, some books have really gone overboard. I think its great marketing and I’m buying. Because there is a great chance that a long shot can sneak in, I’m buying on Casey Mears at 50 to 1 or higher, Kyle Busch at 18 to 1 or higher, Kurt Busch at 15 to 1 or higher, and Ryan Newman at 45 to 1 or higher. It’s a risk going against all the top Chevy’s, but we got there last season with Brian Vickers at 30 to 1 doing the same thing.

As for match-ups, the only thing I could advise would be to take just about any plus money you can find. The match-ups are bound to be fairly close so if you can find someone baiting you, put the hook in your mouth and make the book think they got a catch. Anything can happen in plate races and it usually does.

By the way, as a fan, Talladega is one of favorite viewing races of the season. There’s lots of drama with twists and turns that really takes you for enjoyable ride. Its must see TV; Pure Entertainment at its finest! Good luck this week, GO CASEY GO!

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Talladega Viewer's Guide
Steve Byrnes / FOXSports.com

With the Chase for the Nextel Cup 18 races away, some teams are bordering on desperation. Since he finished 7th in the Daytona 500, Kasey Kahne's best finish is 19th at Bristol. Owner Ray Evernham has said that they won't contend for a championship until they improve on restrictor plate tracks.

Darrell Waltrip says desperate times require desperate measures, and desperate men do desperate things. We're past the point when teams can say they have to be careful at Talladega because you can be up front or in the back and get wrecked. The teams struggling that are struggling to get into the top 35 and stay there just have to finish the race.

Who to Watch
# Jeff Gordon: With momentum following a win last week at Phoenix, Gordon won this race two years ago.

# Tony Stewart: Strong at Daytona until he was the first car crashed out of the race, there's a little bit of irony with Stewart. In 2002, he finished 43rd in the Daytona 500, too, and he came back and won the championship that year.

# Dale Earnhardt Jr.: His father is the master at Talladega with 10 wins, and Dale Jr. is second on the all-time list with five victories. He's due, too, after having a great race car and getting crashed in Texas, and then he got trapped in the pits at Phoenix.

# Jamie McMurray: Although he finished 31st at Daytona, McMurray ran as high as third in the 500. He's my sleeper pick this week.

# Kyle Busch: The No. 5 was a great race car at Daytona. He didn't have the finish to show for it, but he had a great piece so he should be one to watch on Sunday.

What to Watch
# On the offensive: Racing at Talladega is like a high-scoring football game. It's the epitome of a track meet, and it's going to be wide open. It would be easier to say who aren't we going to watch.

# Hanging back: I've seen Dale Jarrett used different strategy. He won at Talladega, leading the very last lap in the October race a couple of years ago. Sometimes he hangs near the back. The Yates cars are always strong on the restrictor plate tracks. Gilliland and Rudd both qualified well at Daytona. For Dale Jarrett, I've seen him use different strategies.

# Coopetition: You'll see two-tire stops and drivers running and pitting together so they won't lose momentum on pit road. You'll see wheeling and dealing in the pits, on the racetrack and atop the spotters' tower.

# 'Getting a good suck:' You'll hear drivers talk about getting a good suck or a good pull from the car in front of them. Being fast by yourself in qualifying is one thing, but they want to run together in packs and pull up on the car in front of them. Part of it is drafting. Part of it's just trying to figure out your closing rate and how quickly you can make the pass and keep your momentum.

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Gordon wins under caution, pases Earnhardt
Associated Press

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) - As beer cans bounced around his car, Jeff Gordon crossed the finish line Sunday for win No. 77 - breaking a tie with the late Dale Earnhardt on NASCAR's career victory list.

It was only fitting that it happened at Talladega Superspeedway, where Earnhardt - who would have been 56 on Sunday - won 10 times in his Cup career.

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But it was anticlimactic and confusing, ending under caution to leave Gordon unsure if he'd actually won and taken over sixth place on the wins list.

"Is it over?" he radioed his crew. "Is it over? Is it official?"

Nobody knew after two separate accidents on the first lap of a three-lap shootout to the finish froze the field and had NASCAR scrambling to make sense of the finish.

Gordon, who was 14th on a restart with 10 laps to go, stormed to the lead a second before NASCAR called a caution after David Reutimann's engine failed and dumped oil all over the track.

It set up a three-lap sprint to the finish, but NASCAR makes only one attempt to complete it. If caution comes out, the race instantly ends. So when Elliott Sadler bumped the back of Greg Biffle to trigger a wreck, the race was effectively over.

But Tony Stewart was knocked into the wall far ahead of that accident and went spinning down the track into the inside wall. He was fuming as the field passed by him under caution, angrily gesturing at Jamie McMurray.

The fans, meanwhile, figured out that Gordon, who tied Earnhardt last week in Phoenix, was the victor and reacted with the shower of beer cans.

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