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NASCAR Notebook: Talladega

by Dave Grayson
Thursday, April 23, 2009

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Last year's Fall race winner, Tony Stewart
The elite of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves to the Talladega Super Speedway: the home of the "big one." The big one is that fleeting moment in time when the sheet metal of two race cars lightly touch each other just enough for one of those cars to start a sideways slide. The end result often features ten or more cars getting collected in that single car slide. That, in turn, leads to a multimillion dollar state of race car carnage.

There are going to be fans who will spend this Sunday afternoon with their eyes glued to the television just waiting for any hint that the big one may be coming. I'm not one of them. I really don't enjoy the sight of that many cars hitting each other while the safety and health of the drivers are being put at risk.

But I do enjoy the sight of those cars running three wide all afternoon long just mere inches from each other. It's the ultimate mixture of aggression and finesse. A Talladega race often reminds me of the Los Angeles freeway system during rush hour. The major difference is the fact that the citizens of L.A. aren't travelling at speeds close to 200 MPH although many of them probably wish that they could.

With that thought in mind here's the breakdown on Sunday's race:

The Aarons 499 has 45 entries. Ten of the entries are outside of the top 35 in NASCAR owner's points also known as the go or go home list.
The race has a very healthy purse of nearly $6.2 million.
The race will be broadcast live by Fox Sports, at 1 pm eastern, and will be re aired by the Speed Channel on Wednesday, April 29th, at noon eastern.

The Aarons 499 is 188 laps around a mammoth 2.66 mile quad oval.
The banking is 33 degrees in the turns and 18 degrees on the straightaways.
The track's grandstands can accommodate 143,231 fans.
The pit road speed is 55 MPH.
The track has a solid yellow line located on the very bottom of the surface. Any driver getting his wheels below this line will receive an out of bounds penalty.

Construction on the speedway began in May of 1968.
The first NASCAR Cup race was held there in September 1969.
The first winner was a relatively unknown driver named Richard Brickhouse. This event was actually boycotted by many of the NASCAR stars of the day due to safety concerns regarding tire wear at such high speeds. NASCAR went to extraordinary measures to fill the starting line up for that first race which included a retired driver named "Big Bill" France.
Since that time there has been 79 NASCAR Cup races at Talladega that has produced 37 different winners. 18 of them has two or more wins.

The defending race winner, from April of last year, is Kyle Busch who started fifth on the field.
Tony Stewart won the Fall race, last October, from the 34th starting position.
Dale Earnhardt Sr holds the all time win record at Talladega with ten. He also holds the Talladega performance records with 23 top fives and 27 top ten finishes.
Jeff Gordon holds the win record, among current active drivers, with six.
Hendrick Motorsports holds the record for most wins by a team owner. Rick Hendrick has been to victory lane in Talladega ten times.
Dale Earnhardt Jr holds the record for most consecutive wins with four from October 2001 to May 2003. He's followed by Buddy Baker who has three consecutive wins from May 1975 to May 1976.
NASCAR champion Bill Elliot holds the track qualifying record in two different categories: without a restrictor and with the plate. Elliot set the non plate record, 212.809 MPH, in 1987. The restrictor plate record, 199.588 MPH, was set in 1990.
The track record for the most caution flags, 11, was set in April 2004.
However Talladega archives also indicates that a race can be held there without "the big one." On three different occasions this race was run with zero caution flags.

SOME INTERESTING RACE ENTRIES.

For the first time 2006 Morgan McClure Racing will be returning to the NASCAR Sprint Cup ranks. The famed team, who has an impressive past record with restrictor plate races, will be campaigning a Chevrolet with their familiar #4 on the car. Young Eric McClure will be behind the wheel. That's largely because this driver brings some major sponsorship money with him. Hefty brand trash bags has been McClure's sponsor in NASCAR's Nationwide Series since 2006.

Brad Keselowski will be getting more Sprint Cup seat time this Sunday at Talladega. Keselowski is the driver of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Chevrolet owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr and Rick Hendrick. He's being groomed for a someday soon move to a Hendrick owned Sprint Cup ride. Keselowski will be driving the #09 James Finch owned Chevrolet sponsored by Miccosukee Resorts and Gaming in Sunday's race.

Italian bred road racer Max Papis returns to his part-time NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule this Sunday. Papis will be driving the #13 Toyota, sponsored by Geico Insurance, fielded by Germain Brothers Racing.

Former NASCAR Sprint Cup, now Nationwide Series, driver Michael McDowell will be driving the #66 Phil Parsons owned Toyota at Talladega in the place of regular driver Dave Blaney. This story first raised a few eyebrows. However, in recent days, it was disclosed that the driver change was made due to Blaney having an undisclosed family obligation this weekend. He's expected to be back in the car at the Richmond race.

THE VEGAS REPORT

This week's numbers from the Las Vegas based WSE, World Sports Exchange, says that Kyle Busch is going to win Sunday's race at Talladega and they are backing that up with 5 to 1 odds. The trio of Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr are placed to win at 8 to 1. Jimmie Johnson is rated at 9 to 1 odds this week while the trio of Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards are rated at 12 to 1. Some other notable numbers include drivers Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin at 15 to 1.

As always NASCAR wants us to remind you that these numbers are for entertainment purposes only and they do not condone the placing wagers on their events.

Hang on to that sentiment. You'll need it next year when you file your income tax returns.

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