The 2006 Nextel Cup Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Super-Speedway
In the last five years, Dale Jr. has won five of the last 10 races held at Talladega, and Jeff Gordon has won it twice in that timeframe, both of which in the Aaron’s 499 in 2004 and 2005. No other drivers on the list have won it more than once in the last 10 years. The track itself is a 2.66-mile tri-oval, which makes it the biggest in NASCAR. This race historically favors drivers who have good drafting skills, as it’s a track that features a 4100-foot straight backstretch. Once called Alabama International Motor Speedway, the Super-Speedway was originally constructed in 1969, right before the birth of the Plymouth Superbird and Dodge Charger Daytona, and also features a grandstand capacity of 143,231 seats. It hosts two races on the NASCAR schedule each year: the Aaron’s 499 and the UAW-Ford 500.
In a minimum of 10 races at Talladega, five racers who are in the Top Ten in points also carry an average finish of below 20th position: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (7.2), Tony Stewart (9.5), Kevin Harvick (13.5), Jeff Gordon (15.1), and points leader Matt Kenseth (17.9). In the last five races of this 2006 season, Dale Jr., Stewart, Harvick, and Kenseth are also in the top six in average finishing position—with the high nod going to Tony Stewart at 4.6, and the sixth position going to Kevin Harvick at 10.8. Chevrolet has also been very dominant at Talladega, with the exception of last year’s UAW-Ford 500 won by Ford driver Elliott Sadler. Chevrolet won 13 races in a row at Talladega disabled dating back from when Dale Earnhardt, Sr. won the Die Hard 500 back in 1999 until 2005 when Jeff Gordon won the last Aaron’s 499. Chevrolet also is the manufacturer of Dale Jr., Stewart, Harvick, and Gordon race cars.
Team DEI will be introducing a special paint scheme to their cars in tribute to their fallen founder and father of Dale Jr., Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Along with Dale Jr.’s car, the cars of Martin Truex, Jr. and Paul Menard will be adorned in a paint scheme that is similar to that of Dale Sr.’s old number 3 Bush Series car. There will be many heavy hearts in the DEI pits, although I don’t believe it will negatively affect Dale Jr.’s chances to win the race, he is just too good at Talladega.
My pick to win is Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who seems to have a mastery of Talladega and restrictor plate racing. It’s hard to go against his five wins in the last 10 races at Talladega and Chevrolet’s ability to produce a great car for the high-speed tri-oval. If the numbers stack up in anyone’s favor, it sure seems like they do in his.
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