Be honest, who was surprised when they saw Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the pole for what could be his final Talladega Cup Race? Now were your not really surprised because you think the 'fix is in' or because Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is really, no I mean REALLY, good at plate races. For me it was a little bit of both.
I've been saying for months that I think Junior will probably win this race at Talladega. There are two reasons why. First, because NASCAR storylines always seem to work out that way, but also because the 88 team and Hendrick Motorsports I'm sure put a lot of effort into getting Junior back to victory lane in this race. It just seams destined to happen.
“It is a track we’ve had a lot of success at and we’ve been looking at this race as a great opportunity for us to come in and get an awesome run or finish and maybe a win," said Dale Jr. "So, we’ve just been focusing on the car to be as good as possible and make sure it’s driving the way we need to drive it so we can be aggressive in the race; and all the usual things you think about and are concerned with on any given race weekend, that’s what we’re dealing with."
And Junior knows better than most how to "deal with" Talladega. It's just in the Earnhardt DNA. People used to say that his father, Dale Earnhardt, could see the air. That's what made him such a good driver at the restrictor plate races. What ever it is, it's worked for Dale Jr as well, he has six wins at the massive Alabama track.
"You love it or you hate it," said Junior. "It seems like there’s no middle ground. I always enjoy coming to the track and trying to figure out what’s working in the draft and what’s changed."
Now don't think for a minute that the other 39 cars in the field are going to roll over and just give the win to Junior, espsecially the 10 still fighting to advance to round three of the playoffs. And it that group there are some drivers that are good restrictor plate racers in their own right,. Seven of them have a win at Talladega.
“Last Talladega was really special for me. Talladega is considered my home track so it meant a lot to me to have my dad and friends there to help celebrate my first Cup win," said Ricky Stenhouse, Jr, who won there in the Spring. “It would be nice to be able to get our SunnyD Ford back in victory lane and secure a spot in the next round, but, if not, I think it’s a race track that we could still gain a lot of points."
As I mentioned Dale Jr will lead the field to the green from the pole, followed by Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and Stenhouse. Tennessee native Trevor Bayne, who is a good plate racer in his own right, has his best starting spot in a while. He will roll off 10th.
"Our car has been really fast at these speedways," said Bayne. "We’ve got a great restrictor plate program and we’ve got a fast Ford, so hopefully in the race when it pays we’ll be the fastest one and be able to get to the front.”
The green flag is set to drop at 2:19 pm. You can watch the race on News 5 WCYB.