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Contenders look to avoid ‘The Big One’ At Talladega

Posted Friday, Apr 24, 2009, 1:19 pm in Employee News

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the enormous 2.66-mile superspeedway at Talladega, Ala., for this weekend’s Aaron’s 499. The event is the ninth of 36 points events on the regular-season Sprint Cup schedule.

All seven Dodge Chargers are guaranteed spots in the 43-car starting field for Sunday’s race. After eight races, two Dodge Chargers (Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne) currently sit inside the coveted top 12. After the first 26 races, the top 12 in points will compete for the Sprint Cup championship in the final 10 races of the 2009 season.

Celebrating its 80th Sprint Cup event, Talladega Superspeedway is famous for three-wide racing with speeds approaching 200 mph despite the restrictor plates on the engines. The turns are banked 33 degrees, which permits drivers to maintain full throttle all the way around the track.

Temperatures are expected to reach the high 80s during the weekend with clear skies. This edition of the Aaron’s 499 is expected to be no different than any other race at Talladega, which is notorious for fireworks including multi-car mishaps, commonly referred to as “the big one” at ’Dega.

Race strategy is simple: survive the first 400 miles. Teams that accomplish that will be in position to challenge for the win. In most cases, the race isn’t decided until the final sprint with 44 of the 79 past event winners taking the lead with 10 or less laps remaining.

Kurt Busch(No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) is one of four former Sprint Cup champions (Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart) currently inside the top five in the point standings champions that has yet to win at the track that hosted its first race in 1969. In 16 career starts at Talladega, Busch has six top-five and 11 top-10 finishes. He’s finished third four times.

“I’ve always looked at it as a huge strategic exercise that puts a premium on so many of your senses,” Busch said. “Of course, you have to have a fairly strong race car to begin with. But the key has always been to avoid the wrecks and be there in the thick of things when the laps are winding down. The way the drafting works, you don’t always have to have the strongest car out there in order to win.”

Busch is currently third in the point standings, just 89 points behind leader Jeff Gordon.

Elliott Sadler(No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger) hopes to recapture the magic the No. 19 team experienced at the last restrictor-plate race, the Daytona 500, where Sadler finished third. Sadler has started from the pole three times in 19 Talladega starts.

“Talladega is a 200-mph chess match,” Sadler said. “It’s crazy to think that we have 43 drivers out there running wide open three- and four-wide for almost four hours. Everyone has to be perfect. One person’s small mistake turns into ‘the big one’—the trick is to make sure that you are nowhere near the person that makes the mistake. My goal has always been to be going forward and not backward when I cross the finish line. If I can cross the finish line with little or no damage and heading in the right direction, I know I’ve had a good day.”

Other Notes

Sam Hornish Jr.(No. 77 Penske Truck Rental/AAA Dodge Charger) broke through last weekend in Phoenix to earn the first top-10 Sprint Cup finish of his career. In his only Talladega start, Hornish Jr. finished 35th.
AJ Allmendinger (No. 44 Hunt Brothers Pizza Dodge Charger) will be making only his second-career start at Talladega. Allmendinger started from the outside of the second row at the fall event last year and finished 30th.

David Stremme(No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger) has a career-best finish of eighth in five starts at Talladega.

Kasey Kahne(No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger) will be seeking his first top-10 finish in 10 starts at Talladega. Kahne is 10th in the Sprint Cup driver points.

Reed Sorenson (No. 43 U.S Air Force Dodge Charger) will have the wings of the U.S Air Force on his Dodge Charger as a primary sponsor for the first time this season.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Point Standings
(Top 12 after 8 of 36 races)
1. Jeff Gordon 1,242 points
2. Jimmie Johnson -85
3. Kurt Busch (Dodge) -89
4. Tony Stewart -104
5. Clint Bowyer -154
6. Denny Hamlin -190
7. Kyle Busch -216
8. Carl Edwards -219
9. David Reutimann -250
10. Kasey Kahne (Dodge) -267
11. Jeff Burton -289
12. Matt Kenseth -296

What you need to know
The Race: Aaron’s 499
The Place:Talladega Superspeedway
The Date: Sunday, April 26
The Time: 2:16 p.m. (ET)

The Track: 2.66-mile oval
The Distance: 500 miles/188 laps
TV: Fox, 2:00 p.m. (ET)
Radio: Sirius Satellite Radio
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