With only four races left in the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR drivers will be looking to avoid disaster in Sunday’s AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Super-speedway. This Sunday’s race is the most anticipated during the Chase and Talladega is widely considered the “wild Card” race. Anything can happen and to make things even more exciting, it takes place on Halloween.
Now in the homestretch of the Chase, Talladega becomes a crucial spot on the tour. Jimmie Johnson will enter as the points leader and is looking for a fifth straight Cup championship. He is followed by Denny Hamlin (second) and Kevin Harvick (third).
However, Sunday could be Harvick’s best chance to gain the lead in the Chase as he is just 62 points behind Johnson. He has been dominant in restrictor-plate racing this season after winning at Talladega in the spring and at Daytona in July. Not to mention, in 19 career Cup starts at Talladega, he has zero DNF’s and Hamlin realizes the success Harvick has had.
“I think it’s very possible for the 29 [Harvick] to leapfrog both of us,” Hamlin deadpanned before adding, “as well as it’s an opportunity for the 48 [Johnson] to distance himself from me and the 29, and it’s another opportunity for me to get past all of ‘em. … We just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The fall race at Talladega has been historically a scrambler for the Chase. Anything can happen on this track and drivers usually try to avoid the massive pileups that are inevitable. And should Harvick get the victory, he will become only the second NASCAR driver in history to win three plate races in a season. Harvick has the opportunity to get the win and if he does and Johnson and Hamlin get involved in one of those major pileups, he could jump as many as 99 points heading into the final three races of the Chase.
Harvick likes to run out in front of the pack in hopes of avoiding one of the big wrecks that always occur at Talladega. On the contrary though, Johnson tends to stay in the back. He has only won at Talladega once and that was in 2006. Maybe a different approach would assist Johnson on Sunday.
“I know our record doesn’t show us as a favorite here, but a lot of it is because of the strategy that we’ve run,” Johnson said. “We just haven’t been as strong. We’ve been at the back of the pack trying to be smart.”