By Peter Carcia Lead Reporter



When the green flag was thrown, there were a lot of questions to be answered. While Denny Hamlin, currently the chaser in the points, was on pole, the Drive for Five found itself in its worst starting position in Martinsville since the drive began, and although Jimmie Johnson was able to contain the disappointment for the most part, he still ended up not leading a single lap and turning his convincing point lead from 41 to an amazing and absolutely dominating… 6. That’s right folks, it is now an even closer three way battle for glory as we head to the most daring, crazy, and all out freakiness of the sovereign king of all scariness. Cue epic Halloween music, because it is time to unmask the legend.


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            Yes, Talladega Super Speedway. Funny how this track is set free deep within the air of mini goblins and devils and… Lady Gagas… asking for candy. With 2.6 mile oval and the highest banking in the business, we will see the true form of surprise and scare and-


            Ok, this intros getting out of hand, let’s get to the real stuff.


            So the Amp Energy Juice 500 is coming up this Sunday and while everybody is looking for costumes like a normal human being I’ve been crunching the numbers about the three drivers currently still in decent contention for the big daddy of stock car racing. With four races to go, anything can still happen. What we do know is that Jeff Gordon has been taken from this list of hopefuls after he got caught up in a wreck with fellow chase disappointment Kurt Busch. Talladega however has been the perfect race to gain some ground, and although the point leader hasn’t always wrecked out, you can either have a really good day or an absolute disaster out there. If you take a look at the point race below however, there could be a real shake up in the mood.


1.) Jimmie Johnson (5998 / Lead) Jimmie had an unexpected struggle in the race this week. After qualifying in the 20s, he ended up coming back, but not well enough to his standards. The result; his lead is now dwindled to a mere 6 points. I am confident however that he can rebound from this whole thing. Last time the wild card race was held, he was able to use the very useful idea of staying conservative until the end. Since Mark Martin wrecked out and many that were ahead of him went empty, he was able to finish it out eighth and almost ensure the championship. He will need that plan once again coming into another one, because now he isn’t just running to gain points he doesn’t need. He’s now fighting to stay in the lead altogether. One bad mistake could cost Johnson big time just like any other driver, but it is game time for him; a place that he’s prone to be well in handling. Unlike last time he dealt with that though, he has a potential to do it sooner rather than later.

  • Finished 5th in Martinsville
  • 17.80 Average finish in Talladega since Feb. 2008 (16th among active drivers)
  • 17.82 Career average in Talladega (17th among active drivers)
  • 2 DNF’s in COT era


2.) Denny Hamlin (5992 / -6) The win in Martinsville, as myself and many others said, was just what the doctor ordered for Denny Hamlin’s run to dethroning the main man. He also had an extra break when Johnson went a little more off than we’re used to. Many believe that Hamlin is able to do well in the Ring of Fire, but hold up on that thought. Take a look at the numbers; Hamlin does on average 4 spots worse than the man he’s chasing in the last five Talladega races. Sure they both have the same amount of DNF’s in this time (2 each since 2008), but it’s when those have happened that have killed Hamlin in the past. The DNFs for Hamlin have been earlier in races and costing him more in valuable points later on. My simple advice for Hamlin is to follow the guys sandwiched on you in the points, specifically the guy below, and you’ll see why.

  • Finished 1st in Martinsville
  • 21.20 Average finish in Talladega since Feb. 2008 (25th among active drivers)
  • 19.33 Career average in Talladega (22nd among active drivers)
  • 2 DNF’s in COT era
  • Must finish 3 spots better than Johnson for lead


3.) Kevin Harvick (5936 / -62) “Not So Fast” was the cover of NASCAR’s website, and with good reason. First, the obvious reason of that he gained ground on Johnson last week and that he has won the last two restrictor plate races. But here’s what really has driven him to a chance: motivation. I know earlier in the chase, I had an attitude about how he had a hangover of conservative “oh, I’m 300 markers ahead, nobody can catch me” finishes that turned over into the chase. I was wrong. It wasn’t a total rethink that he needed, just a simple tweak of the wrench, and as the other chase drivers started to wreck out, Harvick stayed strong. Although he hasn’t gotten the finishes he needs to completely unmask the two favorites, Harvick did one thing the other nine behind him didn’t, and that was not to get too excited. Now, we are coming to a place where he can attack the best. I say, keep the strategy from April, and don’t get too over your head. That’s why Jamie Mac couldn’t get it past two. With a little luck, he may very well find himself in the picture when we pack up on Monday.

  • Finished 3rd in Martinsville
  • 20.80 Average finish in Talladega since Feb. 2008 (23rd among active drivers)
  • 15.47 Career average in Talladega (7th among active drivers)
  • 0 DNF’s in COT era
  • Must finish 20 spots better than Hamlin and 22 spots better than Johnson for lead


After we settle the Legend of “Hallowdega,” the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be three races away form crowning a champion, and the final stretch begins in Texas, for the first time in a while not sponsored by Dickies. Regardless of the sponsor of the race, however, I’ll still see you out on the track!