Junior At The Front? Book It
As unpredictable as Talladega may be, it does offer a number of guarantees: action, intrigue and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the front of the field.
OK, that first one isn’t exactly a lock. But it’s pretty close. In 28 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts, Earnhardt has led at least one lap in 25 of them. Only 10 drivers have led more races at Talladega, including his late father Dale Earnhardt, who leads that list, with 38. Only one active driver ranks ahead of Earnhardt on the Talladega races led list – Jeff Gordon, with 34.
Simply put, consider Earnhardt a favorite to win this Sunday’s Aaron’s 499, the second restrictor-plate race of the year. Of course, Earnhardt’s restrictor plate record is solid – he won the Daytona 500 to open the 2014 season.
A second win of the season would lock Earnhardt into the Chase, no matter how many different winners there may be after race No. 26. And there’s plenty of evidence to build a case that he’ll do just that.
Earnhardt has five Talladega wins in his career, and though the last came back in 2004, he’s threatened in nearly every race since. The last time the series raced at Talladega, in October, Earnhardt finished second to Jamie McMurray. It was his fourth career runner-up finish at Talladega.