Rivals line up to end Dale Jr.'s Talladega win streak DAYTONA BEACH, Florida, U.S.A. (September 25, 2003) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) has won the last four NASCAR Winston Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway -- the...
Rivals line up to end Dale Jr.'s Talladega win streak
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida, U.S.A. (September 25, 2003) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) has won the last four NASCAR Winston Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway -- the largest oval track on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. Events at this track mandate that cars have carburetor restrictor plates that limit airflow and reduce horsepower on this 4.27994 km / 2.66-mile oval track. The other track where restrictor plates are required is Daytona International Speedway.
However, no one is conceding a fifth consecutive Talladega triumph to Earnhardt coming into Sunday's EA Sports 500. There are indeed plenty of legitimate contenders to beat Earnhardt, who have acheived their own success at Talladega and.
Consider, for instance, the following drivers' chances:
* Terry Labonte (No. 5 Kellogg's/got milk? Chevrolet): Lately, Labonte has performed like the two-time (1984 and '96) NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion that he is, a turnaround especially evidenced by his victory in the Mountain Dew Southern 500 last month at Darlington Raceway. Labonte also recently returned to the NASCAR Top 10; he's ninth in the driver championship point standings this week. Labonte leads all active drivers with 14 top-five finishes and 23 top 10 finishes at Talladega.
* Four-time (1995, '97-98, 2001) champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) has two victories at NASCAR's largest track. Overall he has 11 top-10 finishes in 21 Talladega races.
* Reigning series champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) has finished in the top 10 in five of his nine races at Talladega, including three second-place finishes. Stewart has led a total of 56 laps in the 19 restrictor-plate races he has run; 49 of those laps led have been at Talladega.
* Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) has taken to restrictor-plate racing quickly, in his brief NASCAR Winston Cup career. Last season as a rookie, Johnson had two pole positions and an average start of 4.75 in the four races at Daytona and Talladega. Johnson had two top-10 finishes and an average finish of 16.75. Then, to start this season, he finished third in the Daytona 500. Subsequent restrictor-plate finishes of 15th at Talladega in the spring and 18th at Daytona this summer belie his capability on the two tracks.
* Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet) has won three times at Daytona (two Daytona 500s, one Pepsi 400) but still seeks a first victory at Talladega where he has a highly respectable 11 top-10 finishes in 35 races.