It's a New Ball Game-- NASCAR changed the rules for the final restrictor plate race of the season, and that led to some anxious moments in the inspection bay. The restrictor plates are bigger, and so are the spoilers, in an effort to increase...
It's a New Ball Game--
NASCAR changed the rules for the final restrictor plate race of the season, and that led to some anxious moments in the inspection bay. The restrictor plates are bigger, and so are the spoilers, in an effort to increase the driver's ability to pull out and pass. Several teams struggled with the new rules, including the all-conquering DEI stable. That struggle culminated after qualifying on Friday, when Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car was found to be too low at the quarterpanels. DEI teammate Jason Keller, filling in for John Andretti in a one-race deal for the Pennzoil Chevrolet, had the same thing happen. Both were forced to take provisional spots after their times were disallowed.
Going for 10 Straight
Chevrolets have won the last nine races at Talladega. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won the last four. That's a pretty good mix of success lately at NASCAR's fastest track. If you take into consideration the 68 races run here, GM Racing is by far the most successful. GM Racing products have won 39 of those 68 races, good for a winning percentage of .574. Chevrolet has won 25 races, Oldsmobile and Buick six races each and Pontiac has won twice. Looking at this year's top 10 in points, four Chevrolet drivers--Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Terry Labonte--are the only drivers to have won here.
--Track position is the key to nearly every track NASCAR races on these days. Talladega is the exception to that rule. Given the high-speed draft and the ability to run three- and four-wide all the way around the speedway, it is much easier to advance by passing and not in the pits. Jeff
Gordon started 36th in 2000 and won the spring race here, the farthest back a driver has started and won here. Seven of the last nine races here have been won from 13th starting spot or worse.
--Since February 2001, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. has won eight of the 11 restrictor-plate races. Earnhardt Jr. has won five of them, and teammate Michael Waltrip has won the other three. Should Earnhardt win Sunday, he will become the first driver in NASCAR history to win five straight races at the same superspeedway.
Celebrating No. 50
--Terry Labonte will make his 50th Talladega start on Sunday and will do so with a paint scheme honoring 33 years of Winston sponsorship. He and Bobby Allison are teamed up during pre-race ceremonies as part of NASCAR's Victory Lap tribute to Winston, which is leaving the sport following the season.
Talladega Quick Shots
--Tony Stewart, who has finished second in three of the last five races at Talladega, came down with a severe migraine on Saturday morning. He was not able to practice his No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet, and Kyle Petty, who missed the race in qualifying, stood in for him during Happy Hour practice. Petty is standing by to fill in for Stewart should he not be able to race on Sunday.
--Seven Chevrolet drivers are in the top 10 in series points after 28 races, and all seven have at least one victory. GM Racing machines have won 14 of the 26 races so far this season. The next GM Racing victory will match last year's total of 15.
--Kevin Harvick has 13 top-10 finishes in 28 races so far this season. That's pretty solid. But point leader Matt Kenseth has 22, and has 26 top-15 finishes in the 28 races.
--Seven drivers have competed in all 63 restrictor-plate races NASCAR has run since 1988. Terry Labonte and Michael Waltrip are the only two currently driving Chevrolets. Jimmie
Johnson leads all active drivers with two or more restrictor-plate starts in average starting position. His average starting spot is 6.71 in seven races.
--Johnson is now the only driver to have been in the top 10 in points from the first race of the season at Daytona. Michael Waltrip shared that distinction until last week's race at Dover, when he fell to 11th.
--Sam Hornish Jr. earned a record-setting victory last Sunday at California Speedway, winning the fastest race ever run. Hornish averaged 207.151 miles per hour in winning the Indy Racing League event there. It was his third victory in the last four races, second straight at California's 2-mile oval and the 11th of his career. He is the IRL's all-time leading winner. Hornish's Gen IV Chevy Indy V-8 has powered him to victories at Kentucky, Chicago and California and runner-up finishes at Michigan and Nazareth. Hornish's record average speed eclipsed the previous record of 197.897 miles per hour he set earlier this year at Kentucky. Hornish enters the season's final race (Oct. 12 at Texas Motor Speedway) 19 points behind leaders Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves, who are tied for the top spot.
--The General Motors Chevrolet Corvette Racing team secured the second and third positions on the GTS grid during qualifying on Friday before the Grand Prix Americas in downtown Miami. Chevrolet factory drivers Oliver Gavin and Kelly Collins will start Saturday's race from the second position in the GTS class, ninth overall, after qualifying the #4 Compuware Corvette C5-R at 51:246. Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell will start the 2-hour, 45-minute race from the third position in class, or 11th overall on the 37-car grid, after qualifying their #3 Compuware Corvette C5-R at 51:576.
--Chevrolet is the only manufacturer currently competing in the ALMS, Indy Racing League, NASCAR Winston Cup and NHRA.