Certainly in recent years, Ford drivers have shown the way to Talladega Superspeedway’s famous Victory Lane – the seven most recent race trophies all belong to the manufacturer and its teams.
Yet NASCAR’s biggest and fastest speedway always remains a place where last lap maneuvers and daring from-the-gut calls have produced some of the most thrilling and unpredictable finishes of the racing season. Ford has hoisted a string of trophies in recent seasons but the statistical examination of past driver performance keeps this historic venue one of the schedule’s most fickle venues and NASCAR’s best drivers perpetually on the verge of breakthrough and triumph.
Sunday’s GEICO 500 is the next great superspeedway chapter. And for all of Ford’s recent winning patterns, Chevrolet and Toyota drivers are every bit a part of the statistical high expectation.
Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski owns five Talladega trophies – most of anyone competing this weekend. His Ford teammate Joey Logano is the defending winner of this race and has three Talladega trophies of his own.
But it’s Chevrolet driver Chase Elliott who boasts the top driving rating (91.3) and best average running position (10.8) even as he looks for his first win on the track. Fellow Chevrolet driver, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch is hoping his 36th start will result in his first win at the famed track. He leads this weekend’s field in quality passes (7,406) and laps run in the top 15 (66.7%) and more importantly top-five (eight) and top-10 finishes (19) even as he races for his first trophy.
Seven-time Monster Energy Series champion Jimmie Johnson is looking to snap a nearly two-year winless streak – the longest time in his 83-victory career between trophy hoists and champagne toasts. A two-time Talladega winner, he’s led the most laps (322) at this track among his competitors this weekend. This year’s Daytona 500 winner, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin is second with 302 laps led.
“I think superspeedway racing is just something where you have to stay out of trouble,” Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman said. “Things can change on track quickly and you just have to be able to stay out of harm’s way.
“We were strong in Daytona and our Nationwide Camaro ZL1 is usually pretty good on superspeedways. The new aero package that we tested in Daytona a few months ago should be interesting to run and I am definitely looking forward to how it does on track. I am ready to see how it does and get to the track.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!