Can Austin Dillon pull off an encore at Talladega?

When Austin Dillon drove his No. 3 Richard Children Racing Chevrolet to victory in the season-opening Daytona 500, he broke a string of three Ford wins at the Birthplace of Speed.

At Talladega Superspeedway, site of Sunday’s GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Ford drivers have won five straight races. That’s another streak Dillon would like to end.

But he knows he’ll have plenty of competition, in part because teams have made progress with the no-ride-height rules package for restrictor-plate tracks.

“Yeah, I think people have gotten better since Daytona,” Dillon said. “I feel like people have figured out the package probably more than they have since Daytona.”

In Friday’s practice, however, Dillon couldn’t get a solid gauge on the performance of his car because drafting partners were sparse.

“The runs, the packs never got big enough today to really feel the runs,” Dillon said. “I had one run (with) the No. 31 (Ryan Newman) and No. 43 (Darrell ‘Bubba’ Wallace, Jr.) down the backstretch and it seemed to push me pretty far out in front of the group. So I think there will be some big runs come Sunday.

“I think it will be another one of those races where what do you decide to do? Do you decide to be aggressive and race, or do you make it to the end? Strategy will play a big part of it, but I think there will be quite a few cars that will swap for the lead.

“It seems like there’s a wide variety of fast cars. I saw the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) and No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) – they looked pretty good. The No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) looked fast. There are a lot of different guys that seem to have speed. The No. 43 had some speed, too. There will be some guys there come Sunday swapping for it for sure.”

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