Talladega Kodak Racing Team Preview

Morgan-McClure, RCR prepare for plate showdown at Talladega Heavyweights from Team Monte Carlo will square off in a Chevrolet Showdown on Sunday in the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Chevrolets have won 26 of 39 restrictor-plate...

Morgan-McClure, RCR prepare for plate showdown at Talladega

Heavyweights from Team Monte Carlo will square off in a Chevrolet Showdown on Sunday in the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Chevrolets have won 26 of 39 restrictor-plate points races (67 percent) at Daytona and Talladega in the '90s, and no one has been more successful at NASCAR's fastest tracks than Morgan-McClure Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing.

RCR and MMM are tied with nine wins each (18 of 39 or 46.15 percent) heading into Sunday's final restrictor-plate race of the decade. Seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt has won all nine races for RCR, while Sterling Marlin and Ernie Irvan won five and four races, respectively, for MMM.

Bobby Hamilton currently drives the No. 4 Kodak Max film Monte Carlo and will take on the RCR tag team of Earnhardt in the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo, and Mike Skinner, driver of the No. 31 Lowe's Monte Carlo, out of the RCR stables.

The RCR teammates have Morgan-McClure outnumbered in the high-speed Talladega draft, but MMM owner Larry McClure says he'll put Runt Pittman's restrictor-plate motors up against all challengers.

"My plate program is as good as anybody's right now," McClure said. "The last couple of years we haven't dominated, but we're getting back in that position. We'll be able to compete for that win.

"Going into Talladega, the team is pumped up and Bobby is pumped up. When he came to our team, he told us he'd help us win a short track race if we'd help him win a superspeedway race.

"Runt hasn't been to the track very much. He's been dedicating most of his time to restrictor-plate motors. He's been a headliner with those, and we're going to show some people we do have a chance at Talladega."

McClure doesn't have to make a believer out of Childress.

"Larry has got a really strong restrictor-plate program," Childress said. "You can always count on having to race that 4 car when you go to a restrictor-plate race.

"We put a lot of effort into our restrictor-plate racing, too. You've got to kick off the Daytona 500 right. You don't want to go down there and have a bad run, so that's the biggest reason we put so much effort into our restrictor-plate program."

Chevrolet teams have really dominated the Daytona 500 in the '90s with eight wins in 10 races. Derrike Cope won the 1990 Daytona 500 in a Bob Whitcomb Chevrolet. MMM won in '91 with Irvan and in '94 and '95 with Marlin. Dale Jarrett won the 1993 Daytona 500 in a Chevy owned by Joe Gibbs. Jeff Gordon won in a Hendrick Motorsports Monte Carlo in '97 and '99, and Earnhardt won his first Daytona 500 in 1998 in an RCR Monte Carlo.

A Monte Carlo victory in the Winston 500 on Sunday would give Chevrolet eight victories in the 10 Winston 500s during the '90s at Talladega Superspeedway. Earnhardt won in the RCR Chevy in '90, '91 and '93, while MMM won in '92 with Irvan and '95 with Marlin at Talladega. Gordon won in '96 in a Hendrick Motorsports Monte Carlo, and Terry Labonte won the 1997 Winston 500 in a Hendrick Motorsports Chevy.

Drafting is the key to victory at Talladega and Daytona, and McClure says that's one of the reasons Chevrolet has such an impressive record at the two superspeedways.

"When you go to Talladega, you've got to be able to draft," McClure said. "Earnhardt's got the winning experience, but we've got the same engine builder we've had since 1989, and we've got the same people building our race cars. I think it could go either way. We're both going to be competitive.

"If you've got the fastest car, they're going to tag along with you. We've been there when we had the fastest car and we didn't have a teammate and they'd gang up on us. If you've got the fastest car and you can draft, you can win. If you've got horsepower and you've got a car that's aerodynamically sound, they'll tag along.

"I think Chevrolet has had better drivers and teams. Robert Yates is the king of the engine builders, and we whipped him most of the time at Daytona and Talladega in the '90s. Everybody is fast. You can buy speed. That's what's happened. Look at the 18, they've been good with the Pontiacs at the plate tracks. You've got some people who just know how to win."

Two of Hamilton's three career victories came on intermediate tracks, and he also won on the short track at Martinsville. But the 42-year-old Tennessee native likes the high-banked superspeedways just fine. Plus, he's got a master building his plate motors.

"When everybody swapped to the SB2s (new Chevy engine) some guys who had never run good on the restrictor-plate tracks got a handle on it quicker," Hamilton said. "We were with the 18-degree stuff, and I think we got behind, but our motors are right up there with everybody now.

"I've never won on a superspeedway, but I'm going to try to win this race. There's always plenty of competition. Earnhardt's probably the best. Who's been around as long as he has doing that stuff? He's got the experience, talent and equipment. Skinner will be good there. He's got the equipment, too, but I think we'll be just as good.

"When you unload at a restrictor-plate race, if you're fast, you can be good in the race. If you unload and you qualify 15th, then you're probably a top-10 car. If you're 35th in qualifying, you might have a top-10 car.

"If you qualify in the top-five, then you could win the race. If you qualify below that, then you've got your work cut out for you. I think by the numbers we're seeing on the dyno and the way the car was at Daytona, I feel good about Talladega."

McClure says his driver may be on the verge of winning his first race at NASCAR's fastest track in the No. 4 Kodak Max film Monte Carlo.

"Bobby has had to make some adjustments, but he finished eighth at Daytona in July in the Pepsi 400 and was real competitive," McClure said. "We've made some big gains since then.

"Restrictor-plate racing is a niche, and Runt has always liked that. I look for an exciting race at Talladega. It will be the last restrictor-plate race for this Monte Carlo, and you're going to see some people going all out to win it."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Derrike Cope , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Ernie Irvan , Dale Jarrett , Terry Labonte , Mike Skinner , Sterling Marlin , Robert Yates
Teams Hendrick Motorsports