Harvick Hopes For More Talladega Success
TALLADEGA, Ala. — If Kevin Harvick is going to catch Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway might be his best opportunity to do it.
Harvick, who spent most of the regular season as the championship leader before the points were reset for the Chase, has two victories on restrictor plate tracks this season at Talladega and Florida’s Daytona Int’l Speedway.
“When you get to Talladega you’re kind of at the mercy of a lot of things that can happen around you,” said Harvick, who is 62 points behind point-leader Johnson. “So I think after you get done with Talladega you’ll kind of know where you stand as far as what you need to do over the last few weeks.
“I think the last few weeks are really good race tracks for us and Talladega is a good race track for us as well. They can all flip you upside down and turn things around and have things turn at any given week, but it seems the Talladega is definitely the biggest wild card as far as what’s going to happen and who is going to get caught in a wreck and who isn’t,” Harvick said.
While Harvick is hoping to use Talladega as a springboard to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is simply hoping for a return to victory lane. With five victories at Talladega in his career, Earnhardt thinks Sunday might be the day he ends his 89-race losing streak.
“I just look forward to going back there (Talladega). We always enjoy racing there,” Earnhardt said. “Always been good and fast. Hope we can get up front and lead a lot of laps and be there at the end.”
While Harvick and Earnhardt are the favorites heading into Sunday’s race, anyone who is running near the end of the race has a realistic shot at winning thanks to the unpredictability of the draft and the mayhem it can create.
In 2008, Regan Smith became a prime example of that unpredictability. He survived a number of crashes and used the draft to seemingly steal a victory away from Tony Stewart, only to be penalized for passing Stewart below the yellow line coming to the finish.
“We know we have a strong superspeedway program, we just haven’t had the opportunity to show it this year,” said Smith, who now drives for Furniture Row Racing. “We got wrecked early in the Daytona 500, broke an engine in Talladega while running up front and got wrecked in the Daytona summer race.”
If Smith and his team can keep the No. 78 Chevrolet together for the full 500 miles Sunday, they’ll have just as good a shot at winning the Amp Energy Juice 500 as anyone else.
Race: Amp Energy Juice 500
Track: Talladega Superspeedway, a 2.66-mile asphalt oval in Talladega, Ala.
Laps/Distance: 188 laps/500 miles
Defending Race Winner: Jamie McMurray (No. 26 Irwin Marathon Saw Blades Ford)
Defending Pole Winner: None (Qualifying Rained Out)
Track Race Record: Mark Martin, 188.354 miles per hour (May 1997)
Track Qualifying Record (Restrictor Plate): Bill Elliott, 199.388 miles per hour (May 1990)
Most Victories: Dale Earnhardt (10)
Most Top Fives: Dale Earnhardt (23)
Most Top 10s: Dale Earnhardt (27)
Most Poles: Bill Elliott (eight)
Most Wins By Manufacturer: Chevrolet (36)