Talladega: Round 10 preview

*• Home (Pressure) Cooking Greets Gale At Talladega *• Busch Aims For Ard's Four-Straight Series Wins Standard *• Bowyer, Edwards In Closest Title Chase Since 2001 *• Aaron's 312 Second Of Four Series Races On ESPN On ABC Starring Role:...

*• Home (Pressure) Cooking Greets Gale At Talladega
*• Busch Aims For Ard's Four-Straight Series Wins Standard
*• Bowyer, Edwards In Closest Title Chase Since 2001
*• Aaron's 312 Second Of Four Series Races On ESPN On ABC

Starring Role: Mobile's Cale Gale Gets Big Start At Home Track

Daytona Beach, Fla. (April 22, 2008) -- Nothing like a little pressure to top off a homecoming.

Cale Gale (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) comes to Talladega Superspeedway as the lone driver for Kevin Harvick Inc., a team owned by the two-time series champion and his wife, DeLana.

Normally at a companion event, Harvick is behind the wheel of one of the team's two cars in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Only twice this season has Gale competed with Harvick.

But at Talladega, it's the 23-year-old Mobile, Ala., native all by his lonesome.

Driving for the team that won this race last year.

With its second car in the runner-up position.

In front of his home crowd.

"Obviously I do put a little added pressure on myself since I am from Alabama," Gale said.

"The last person from Alabama to win at Talladega was Davey Allison, so to be in good equipment and have a shot is pretty cool.

"KHI won this race last year with Bobby (Labonte) and Tony (Stewart) finished second.

"That's more pressure on me because we're returning with only one car this time."

Gale is scheduled to compete in 14 races for KHI this season, sharing time with his boss and also with defending NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr., to gain knowledge and experience.

He's run three races thus far and his last outing was a successful one. He finished a career-best eighth at Nashville Superspeedway in March.

"This is the same car Kevin ran at Daytona (finishing 21st) and since then, (we've) worked hard to improve (it) before heading back to the superspeedways," Gale said. "The main thing is to stay in line, hang in the draft and hopefully have a shot at the end of the day."

The Versatile One: Busch Latest To Take Aim At Ard's Record

What more can Kyle Busch (No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota) do for an encore?

He's been pretty successful in his follow-up work since winning three weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway.

Since that victory, Busch has posted two more wins -- at Phoenix International Raceway and last Sunday at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Not only has Busch -- who is in the top 10 in the standings in each of NASCAR's national series -- won three in a row for the first time since Ryan Newman in 2005, but he's shown his talent and versatility off the same way Newman did.

Like Newman, Busch accumulated his wins on totally different tracks -- the intermediate and racy venue at Texas; the one-mile short track at Phoenix and the winding road course in Mexico City.

He has two top fives in four series races at Talladega, but was 39th last year after an early accident.

The only series driver to win four races in succession is Sam Ard. The two-time series champion did so in 1983.

Three of Ard's four consecutive wins were on short tracks while one was an intermediate-track victory.

Three Degrees Of Dale Jr. At Talladega

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 5 Delphi Chevrolet) has one NASCAR Nationwide Series win (2003) at Talladega but his connections in the series there extend beyond his own results.

His father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., won at Talladega in series competition 10 years before his son. Martin Truex Jr., like Earnhardt Jr. a two-time series champion, is the all-time series wins leader at the track with three -- all in succession (2004-06). Those came with Chance 2 Motorsports, the team co-owned by Earnhardt Jr. and Teresa Earnhardt.

His current connection is his own JR Motorsports team, led by driver Brad Keselowski (No. 88 U.S NAVY Chevrolet). Keselowski comes to Talladega sixth in the standings, the highest-ranked NASCAR Nationwide Series-only driver in the top 10.

Ambrose, Wallace Back In The Groove?

The collective sigh that emanated Sunday from Mexico City was let loose by two drivers who came into this season with high expectations but thus far hadn't delivered.

Marcos Ambrose (No. 59 Kingsford Ford) collected a runner-up finish, not a surprise for the veteran of road-course racing. More surprising was the career-best result for the Aussie, his first top 10 since last year's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (10th).

Steve Wallace (No. 66 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet) was due for his breakthrough top-10 finish but few figured it would be on a road course in his 61st start.

Wallace finished 10th in Mexico and moved to 14th in the rankings, tying his career-best standing. He was 26th at Talladega in 2007.

Ambrose, who finished eighth in the final standings last year, had understandably lofty goals for 2008, but it's been his JTG Racing teammate, Kelly Bires (No. 47 Clorox Ford), who's been the leader for the organization.

Bires is 10th in the standings and will make his track debut at Talladega. Ambrose was 25th at last year's race.

Bowyer, Edwards Engaged In Battle

Clint Bowyer (No. 2 Camping World/RVs.com Chevrolet) has a nine-point lead over defending series champion Carl Edwards (No. 60 Save-A-Lot Ford) in the standings.

This is the closest the drivers in first and second have been since 2001 when Greg Biffle (No. 16 CitiFinancial Ford) led Kevin Harvick by three points after nine races.

In The Loop: Bowyer, Edwards Close In Points, Stats At Talladega

Saturday's race at Talladega Superspeedway looks like a perfect opportunity for Clint Bowyer to put some space between himself and a hard-charging Carl Edwards.

Edwards tightened the gap with a fourth-place finish at Mexico City last weekend, closing to within nine points of the series-leading Bowyer.

Now comes the unpredictable nature of Talladega, where Bowyer has performed well in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (as opposed to his 30.2 average finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series). Bowyer finished fifth there in 2006 and 13th the last time the series raced at Talladega in 2007. Over the last three races, Bowyer has a Driver Rating of 93.8, an Average Running Position of 10.5 and has run 70.9% of the Laps in the Top 15.

Edwards, though solid with two consecutive 10th-place runs at Talladega, hasn't been as statistically strong as Bowyer. In his NASCAR Nationwide Series career at Talladega, Edwards has a Driver Rating of 87.4, an Average Running Position of 14.8 and has run 67.5% of the Laps in the Top 15.

Also watch for a strong run by David Ragan (No. 6 Discount Tire Ford), who sits fifth in the standings. In his only series start at Talladega, Ragan scored a fourth-place finish, had a Driver Rating of 100.1, an Average Running Position of 10.8 and ran 66.7% of the Laps in the Top 15.

Of the NASCAR Nationwide Series regulars, watch for a solid run from David Stremme (No. 64 Atreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet), who returns to the track for the first time since 2005. He finished fourth in that race, earned a Driver Rating of 89.1 and an Average Running Position of 12.5.

NNS Etc.

Brad Coleman (No. 27 USPS Ford) is one driver who is looking forward to returning to Talladega. The 20-year-old Houston, Texas native captured his first career pole at this event last year then went on to finish ninth in the race -- his career-best at the time.

Coleman had three top fives and five top 10s in 17 starts last year, but has only one top 10 in his first nine races this season.

Eric McClure (No. 24 Hefty Brand Chevrolet) will reach a milestone at Talladega where he will record his 50th series start. The superspeedway is McClure's favorite track; he recorded his series-best finish (18th) there in 2007 and made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut in 2004, finishing 26th.

Different team, same solid results. That's the M.O. of Mike Bliss (No. 1 Miccosukee Resorts Chevrolet), who registered his fourth top-10 finish of the season at Mexico City.

Bliss began the season with Fitz Motorsports but moved to Phoenix Racing during the season's first open week. He had two top 10s for Fitz and after a 24th-place finish at Texas in his first race in the No. 1. Since then he has posted back-to-back top 10s.

In three career series starts at Talladega, Bliss has two -- what else? -- top 10s.

When he was signed by Richard Childress Racing early this year, Stephen Leicht's (No. 21 Childress Vineyards Chevrolet) original schedule was two races, sharing time with 1991 series champion Bobby Labonte, who was set for 15 events.

But with two top-10s in three starts this season, Leicht was extended to at least four races with the addition of Talladega.

He'll drive the chassis that has produced one win (Kevin Harvick  --  Daytona)
and a top-10 (Harvick  --  Talladega) on superspeedways since 2007.

However, Leicht's two-race average finish at Talladega is 29.5.

Bill France Performance Cup Standings

Chevrolet has closed the gap on Toyota in the race for the Bill France Performance Cup and its chances to take the lead in the manufacturers' race are high at Talladega.

Chevy is the series leader in wins there with 12, including the last five consecutive victories.

Up Next: Lipton TEA 250 at Richmond International Raceway

Friday night short-track racing is up next for the NASCAR Nationwide Series when the Lipton TEA 250 kicks off the month of May at Richmond International Raceway.

Clint Bowyer is the defending winner of the May 2 event and hometown favorite Denny Hamlin is the defending pole winner. Hamlin has yet to win at his home track in NASCAR national series competition.

FAST FACTS

The Race: Aaron's 312

The Place: Talladega Superspeedway The Date: Saturday, April 26

The Time: 3 p.m. ET
The Distance: 311.22 miles/117 laps

TV: ABC, 2:30 p.m. ET
Track Size: 2.66-mile tri-oval

2007 Winner: Bobby Labonte
2007 Pole: Brad Coleman

Schedule:Thursday
Practice 3-4:45 p.m.; Final Practice 5-6 p.m.;
Friday--Qualifying, 4:05 p.m. (Impound)

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Bobby Labonte , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Marcos Ambrose , Mike Bliss , Martin Truex Jr. , Carl Edwards , Brad Coleman , Clint Bowyer , Eric McClure , David Ragan , Denny Hamlin , Cale Gale , Kelly Bires , Steve Wallace , Kyle Busch , Davey Allison
Teams Richard Childress Racing , JR Motorsports , Phoenix Racing