We have run eight races so far in 2010. Five were with the old wing and now the last three have been with the rear spoiler. The thing that is exciting to me is that we have not had a bad race yet.
Now, as I tell you every time we roll in there, Talladega is an animal all of its own. It's one of the two restrictor plate tracks on the circuit. It will be the first time we have run this car on a restrictor plate track with the new rear spoiler. So, like last weekend going into Texas, there is plenty of anticipation and several questions going into Sunday's race.
When they did the test session with the rear spoiler and the cars were out there by themselves, the speeds were right where NASCAR wanted them. However, when they went out in drafting practice, the cars where hitting 210 mph. That won't work. Contrary to what some believe, we simply can't have cars running that fast. It has taken some time to figure out what these cars need. That's why you didn't see NASCAR making the switch to the spoiler before the Daytona 500 back in February.
As I always say, with Talladega you can have the fastest, best-handling car. You can have the best strategy and flawless pit stops all day long, but that might not be enough. It probably comes down to the split-second decision your driver makes on the latter part of the last lap. If he can get himself in the right position coming out of turn four heading into the tri-oval, he will have a chance to win that race.
Your driver could be leading the race when he takes the white flag for the last lap and pick the wrong line and come back around to finish the race in 15th position. That's the reason Talladega has a history of generating surprise winners. For proof, go back to last year. How many people do you think put money on Brad Kesolowski to win the spring race and Jamie McMurray to win the fall race? It's all but impossible to predict who is going to win there because there are just so many things that have to line up just right.
You could probably use the "survival mode" phrase to describe racing at Talladega. It's all about staying out of trouble all day long and then being at the right place at the right time come that last part of the last lap. You also have to dodge the Big One that we tend to have there on a pretty regular basis and be there at the end.
When you look at the favorite teams, you have to start with the Hendrick cars. If you want to narrow it down to just one of those, then you obviously should go with the No. 88. This is the race that Jr. Nation probably looks the most forward to. Dale Earnhardt Jr. runs well there. He always has. He simply loves the place. Just like his dad, he understands Talladega, so he's clearly one of the favorites.
Somebody I like a lot is Kurt Busch. He really runs well at Daytona and Talladega. You also have to consider the guy that has won the last two restrictor plate races in two different cars for two different teams, Jamie McMurray. He won the fall Talladega race for Roush-Fenway Racing, and then the 2010 Daytona 500 for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing.
Kevin Harvick is another one to keep your eye on. He is so due to get to Victory Lane. Winning a race could be exactly what that race team needs for a lot of reasons. It could attract sponsorship to replace Shell/Pennzoil, which announced earlier this week its plan to leave the No. 29 car next year. Winning could help in trying to convince Harvick to stay there as his contract is up.
But again, this is the one track where everyone really is the favorite. Talladega is so unpredictable. That's the only thing that is predictable is its unpredictability.