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AMP Energy Juice 500
by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush
Location: Talladega, Al.
Distance: 2.66-mile tri-oval (500.1 laps/188 miles)
Banking/Turns: 33 degrees; Banking/Tri-Oval: 18 degrees; Banking/Backstretch: 2 degrees
Race Dates: April 25 (Kevin Harvick) and October 31
From the Spotter’s Stand
It’s not just Will Ferrell who runs around Talladega’s 2.66-mile tri-oval worrying about "The Big One." Many fantasy racing owners shrugged at Brad Keselowski’s win in April 2009, after Carl Edwards went spark-flying into the air and smacked the safety fence in front of the fans in the closing seconds of an exciting Talladega night ... well, afternoon.
Keselowski edged out Dale Earnhardt Jr. — who is third all-time in Talladega history with five wins in 21 races, behind Jeff Gordon (six in 35 starts) and his bumper-sticker-celebrated father (10 in 44 runs) — despite leading only one lap, albeit the most important one of his career.
In November 2009, Jamie McMurray coasted to a victory following — you guessed it — "The Big One," which hit in the form of a 13-car crash out of Turn 4, forcing the fifth caution flag of the race with one lap to go. Ryan Newman landed on the roof of his car to send the race three laps past the scheduled 188 circuits. In a confusing finish, Kasey Kahne attempted a pass but was blocked by McMurray, who earned his first victory at Talladega.
The April 2010 version also came with the customary "Big One" with two laps remaining when Joey Logano turned the snakebit Newman, setting off a nine-car melee. When Newman voiced his displeasure with the parameters of plate racing in a post-accident interview, it drew the ire of NASCAR, which ìsecretlyî fined him — a fact that came out months later.
As for the ending, it was a classic: Kevin Harvick glued the nose of his Chevy to McMurray’s bumper (see a pattern here?) and pushed him away from the field. As the two screamed through the tri-oval with checkers in the air, Harvick made his move, loosening McMurray slightly and slipping low for a .011-second win.
Crew Chief’s Take
"Talladega is the track where you don't have any control, particularly sitting on pit road. So much can happen. The driver’s got to be smart, and there can’t be any lapses. Even if there aren’t, he’s just in the hands of fate out there. They call it a high-speed chess match, and that’s pretty appropriate.
"They changed the restrictor plates last fall (2009), and I think there’s a window of opportunity up front, if two cars work together, to pull away from the pack, but even that’s kind of fleeting because the caution flags tighten the pack right back up. Every ounce of horsepower is precious."
Looking at Checkers: Good luck predicting a winner here, but Jamie McMurray seems to be the newest in a long line of plate aces that factors for two or three years.
Pretty Solid Pick: Dale Earnhardt Jr. has to win somewhere before long, right? Right?
Good Sleeper Pick: Quite a few, including David Ragan, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Scott Speed.
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Mark Martin would rather never visit this place again.
Insider Tip: Finding the right dancing partner at the end is the key to winning. That, and avoiding the 25-car pileup.
Classic Moments in Martinsville
A classic late-afternoon battle on a beautiful October day is the perfect setting to watch Dale Earnhardt win his last race at a track where he won more events than any driver in history. Earnhardt makes one of the most thrilling late-race runs in memory, dodging and weaving from 17th to first in the final four laps of the 2000 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway to claim victory.
As Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mike Skinner pace the 27-car pack, Kenny Wallace glues the nose of his Chevy to Earnhardt’s bumper. The two draft to the front, as Earnhardt takes the lead as the white flag unfurls.
The black Goodwrench Chevy clears the pack down the backstretch and holds off a pair of Andy Petree Racing Chevys in Wallace and Joe Nemechek in an event that witnesses 21 different leaders and a major crash after the field crosses the start/finish line.
November 2009 Race Winner: Jamie McMurray
April 2010 Race Winner: Kevin Harvick
April 2010 Top 10
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Jamie McMurray
3. Juan Pablo Montoya
4. Deny Hamlin
5. Mark Martin
6. David Ragan
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Kurt Busch
9. Kyle Busch
10. Mike Bliss
April 2010 Laps Led
Jeff Burton — 28
Jamie McMurray — 27
Kyle Busch — 22
Denny Hamlin — 17
Brian Vickers — 13
Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano — 9
Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., David Ragan — 8
Kasey Kahne — 6
AJ Allmendinger, David Reutimann — 5
Jeff Gordon, Elliott Sadler, Michael Waltrip — 4
13 drivers led 3 or fewer laps
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