Talladega – the track where winning streaks come to die

TALLADEGA, AL - APRIL 27: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Flavor Vote Toyota, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 27, 2018 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Riding the crest of a three-race winning streak, Kyle Busch comes to Talladega with a chance to join elite company.

In NASCAR’s modern era (1972 to present), only eight drivers have managed to win four straight events in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

With a victory in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Busch would equal the four-victory streaks of Cale Yarborough (1976), Darrell Waltrip (1981), Dale Earnhardt Sr. (1987), Harry Gant (1991), Bill Elliott (1992), Mark Martin (1993), Jeff Gordon (1998) and Jimmie Johnson (2007).

Given the random nature of restrictor-plate racing, however, Busch faces a formidable challenge. And he’s also fighting history.

Only three times in the modern era has a driver come to Talladega on a streak of three straight victories or more. Bobby Allison had won at Bristol, Trenton and Atlanta in 1972, but he finished third behind race winner James Hylton at NASCAR’s longest oval.

Earnhardt had a four-race string intact – with victories at Darlington, North Wilkesboro, Bristol and Martinsville – when he came to Talladega in 1987. There, the streak ended when Davey Allison won the race, with Earnhardt finishing fourth.

Rusty Wallace had three straight short-track wins under his belt, at Bristol, North Wilkesboro and Martinsville, when he came to Talladega in 1993. But Wallace had to settle for sixth place in a race won by Ernie Irvan.

Busch, who won at Talladega in 2008, will be the next to try.

“It’s obviously a great opportunity to try to go race for four in a row, but definitely a different circumstance that we’re coming to Talladega,” Busch said on Friday between practices. “I’ve kind of heard some of the rumblings through the week about some of the guys that have been on streaks of three in a row or four in a row – whatever they’ve been on, they’ve never gone through a plate race, to the best of my knowledge.

“It makes for a more challenging time to be able to get that fourth in a row, but also we’ll know how much more rewarding it is when we do get it.”

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