Dale Earnhardt Jr. is heading into Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 race at Talladega looking for his first win in a plate race in over five years. Always a favorite at Talladega Superspeedway, Earnhardt is coming off an eighth place finish at Texas on Monday. This year’s race on Sunday will be no different as NASCAR sportsbooks have Jr. as a 8/1 favorite to win once again.
Despite his long stretch of not winning, Earnhardt showed a glimpse of how things used to be at this year’s season-opening Daytona 500. He stormed back from 10th to finish second, displaying the ability he once possessed to wiggle his way through the field. So far this season, he has three top-ten finishes and is seventh in the points standings. After missing the Chase last season and finishing 25th in the points standings, Earnhardt is not penciling in Talladega as a must-win race where he is a five-time Cup winner.
“I’ve just really been trying to race every lap and every track with the mindset of trying to gain as many points each week as we can to add to the total and give ourselves that chance to finish in the Chase,” he said. “The race itself is going to be a real hard one to win, but I feel like we can be up there in the mix and if we don’t win, we can at least get a finish that helps us in the points.”
Weather has had an impact for the second week in a row and now canceled qualifying today for the Sprint Cup race. Jimmie Johnson, four time defending Cup champion, will take the pole as the field is set by points. Johnson has his odds set at 11/1 in the Aaron’s 499 where spoilers will replace rear wings for the first time on a restrictor-plate track.
Teammate Jeff Gordon, another usual favorite at Talladega, has his odds set at 10/1 and is now racing with much more aggressiveness. Enough so that both Johnson and Gordon insist their is a rivalry between the two which was apparent after beating on each other Monday at Texas. However at Talladega on Sunday, Gordon realizes he must take a different approach to the race.
“All that aggressiveness that I’ve had over the last several weeks, I need to completely change gears for here,” he said, “and go back to being really, really patient. Obviously in the closing laps you’ve got to be aggressive, but mostly it’s about being patient here all day.”
The race is scheduled for 1 pm ET on Sunday and can been seen live on Fox. Other favorites in the race are Kyle Busch who has his odds set at 10/1 and Tony Stewart is at 11/1.