Talladega Weekend Preview: Dale Earnhardt Jr. goes for first win of season

TALLADEGA, AL - MAY 03: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

No active driver boasts more wins at Talladega Superspeedway wins than Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s six.

In fact, only one competitor claims more victories at the 2.66-mile behemoth overall – his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt, who amassed 10 victories there.

Earnhardt has struggled this season with only one top-10 showing in the first nine races, so Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega (2 p.m. ET at FOX) couldn’t be coming at a better time.

“We haven’t done anything to make our fans too happy here lately, so we’ll try to change that at Talladega,” Earnhardt said.

In addition to his six wins, the Hendrick Motorsports driver has 12 top fives, 16 top 10s and a 15.4 average finish at the Alabama track. Among active drivers, he claims the second-best driver rating (92.0) and third-best average running position (14.4).

Earnhardt, who has also won four times at Daytona International Speedway, is considered the top restrictor-plate racer on the planet. He ranks 24th in the series standings following his slow start – 257 points behind leader Kyle Larson.

“(No. 88 team crew chief) Greg (Ives) told me last week that we aren’t going to look at points anymore, we’re just going to try to go win a race,” said Earnhardt. “We had a great car in Daytona, just had some bad luck when we were leading, so we’re looking forward to Talladega.”

Wallace tries to continue strong start at Talladega

Darrell Wallace Jr. really likes the number six.

(Getty Images)

One, he’s the No. 6 Ford driver. Two, he’s finished sixth in six of his eight starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series this season. Three, he’s finished sixth in his last two races at Talladega Superspeedway – the site of Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 (1 p.m. ET on FOX) – where Wallace will attempt to post his first top-five result of the season.

Wallace’s sixth-place showings have helped him record an average finish of 12.8 this year and have vaulted him to fifth in the XFINITY Series points standings. The Roush Fenway Racing driver ranks fifth in the series points standings – 84 markers below leader Elliott Sadler.

In the first restrictor-plate race of the season at Daytona, Wallace placed 33rd following a crash on the 29th lap.

“I’m ready to hit the track this weekend in Talladega,” Wallace said. “It’s a place where anything can happen. We had a really fast car in February at Daytona and I know that Roush Fenway always brings a strong superspeedway car to the track.”

Race Weekend Guide

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Race: GEICO 500

Place: Talladega Superspeedway

Date and Time: Sunday, May 7 at 2 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 500.08 miles (188 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 55), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 110), Final Stage (Ends on lap 188)

What To Watch For: Dale Earnhardt Jr., who leads active drivers with six wins at Talladega, tries to visit victory lane at the Alabama track for the first time since spring of 2015. … Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski will be favorites in Sunday’s GEICO 500. They swept the Talladega races last year and have won four of the last five contests there. … Austin Dillon looks poised for a strong finish after placing third and ninth in the two Talladega races last season. … Last year’s GEICO 500 featured 213 passes for the lead (not just counting lead changes at the Start/Finish line) throughout the contest – tops among all 2016 races.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Race: Sparks Energy 300

Place: Talladega Superspeedway

Date and Time: Saturday, May 6 at 1 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 300.58 miles (113 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 25), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 50), Final Stage (Ends on lap 113)

What To Watch For: Points leader Elliott Sadler attempts to defend his 2016 Talladega win. He sits 41 points ahead of second-place Justin Allgaier in the standings. … Daniel Hemric goes for his third consecutive top-five finish. He placed a career-best third last weekend at Richmond. … NASCAR Next alum Ben Kennedy makes his Xfinity Series season debut with Richard Childress Racing. … Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola and Kasey Kahne will compete in Saturday’s race.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.