Some of Dale Earnhardt Jr's greatest days have come at Talladega Superspeedway - he has five Cup Series wins and another in the Nationwide Series - but a win in Saturday's Aaron's 312 would give him a victory like no other.
Driving the #5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet at the 2.66-mile track, he'll be chasing a first victory in a car from his own stable having finished seventh, fifth and 20th in three rounds so far this season.
“I'd love to win in my own car,” Earnhardt admitted, “That's a big goal of mine, and it's certainly something we can achieve at Talladega.”
Earnhardt has high hopes for Talladega, having finished sixth in last year's Aaron's 312 and with JR Motorsports' primary car - the #88 driven by Brad Keselowski - currently fifth in the point standings, but he's also realistic. knowing the perils of restrictor-plate racing where 'the big one' can take a car out of a race in a flash, regardless of how well it's running.
“It's one of my favourite tracks, and I enjoy racing in front of the fans there,” he said, “They've always been good to me, and we've always been able to give them a show, but you just have to be lucky. I've avoided [the big accidents] and I've been in them - there's no method into it, so I prefer directing our focus to getting our car driving right. That's most important.”
Among those Earnhardt will be watching as potential deflators of his dream are David Ragan, whose #6 sits third in points with five top tens in the first seven races; Jason Leffler, currently fourth in points and with a knack of making it to the chequer at Talladega, and JR team-mate Keselowski, who continued his Nationwide surge with a third straight third-place finish last week. He finished 23rd in his first race at Talladega last year, but led three times for nine laps before getting caught in 'the big one'.
"It's a type of racing where you have to be pretty aggressive but, at the same time, you have to be cautious, especially early on," Leffler confirmed, "You don't want to be the guy that causes the 20-car pile-up 15 laps into the race. On the other hand, when you get to the end of the race, it's pretty much a wide-open free-for-all and you have to take chances.”
by Bill Marx
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service