Talladega II: Round 29 preview

The pressure's on: Martin the only Chase driver with a Talladega victory DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 27, 2005) -- As if a race at Talladega Superspeedway needed any added intrigue, Sunday's UAW-Ford 500 will have just that. Of the 10 drivers...

The pressure's on: Martin the only Chase driver with a Talladega victory

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 27, 2005) -- As if a race at Talladega Superspeedway needed any added intrigue, Sunday's UAW-Ford 500 will have just that.

Of the 10 drivers involved in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, only one has claimed a victory at Talladega, and that took place eight long years ago.

The message is clear. Entering Round 3 of the 2005 "Chase," someone needs to answer the bell, and ring up some rare success at NASCAR's biggest race track, in the season's last restrictor-plate race.

Suffice to say the pressure is on -- even more than usual.

Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford) is the only Chase competitor with a Talladega win. He has two, actually. But those came in 1995 and '97, respectively, in Talladega's spring races.

The rest of the Chase field is a combined 0-for-120, thanks in part to recent 'Dega dominance by two drivers who did not make this year's Chase field -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet). Between them, they have won seven of the last eight Talladega events. Earnhardt's Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammate Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet) has the other win.

Martin is in the middle of a traffic jam in the top half of the Chase standings; only 23 points separate points leader Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) from sixth-place Greg Biffle (No. 6 National Guard-Post It Ford). Martin is fourth this week, merely 21 points behind Johnson.

Two drivers in the Chase, while winless at Talladega, appear to be poised for a breakthrough there. Fifth-place Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) has finished second four times at Talladega, including this past May. Tenth-place Kurt Busch (No. 97 Crown Royal Ford) has twice finished third at the 2.66-mile tri-oval.

"It's one of those scenarios where the guys in the top 10 are really going to be careful, but they're still going to have to race hard to gain as many points as they can," Stewart said.

"[Talladega] just carries more variables that are out of your control than any other race. That's kind of why we view Talladega as a wild-card race. You can't really predict anything.

"You can say the track hasn't been kind to me with as many second-place finishes as we've had, but there's 41 guys who didn't have it as good as we had it those days. There have been a lot of days where we ran second and it was as good as a win for us. The spring race was a perfect example. We knew we didn't have the best car, but we ended up with a second-place finish. That was the best we could do and we left the track with smiles on our faces."

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin