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Hendrick Motorsports Talladega Preview

TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 30, 2010) – The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for the final restrictor-plate race of the 2010 season. The race will be televised on ESPN starting at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Here are the stats on Hendrick Motorsports, which owns 10 wins, 42 top-five finishes and 61 top-10s in 55 Cup races (166 entries) at Talladega Superspeedway. The organization’s 10 wins are tied for most all time with Richard Childress Racing and its top-fives, top-10s and laps led (1,941 laps) are the most for any team all-time in the Sprint Cup Series at the Alabama Superspeedway. Hendrick most recently visited Victory Lane at Talladega in October 2007 when Jeff Gordon led teammate Jimmie Johnson across the finish line after only leading the final lap of the event.

No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet: Qualified 30th.

Last time:

Mark Martin started 10th and led one lap before finishing fifth in the most recent event at Talladega in April, which marked his first top-five finish at a superspeedway since he finished fourth at the Alabama racetrack in April 2001. In this event last November, Martin started on the outside pole position and led seven laps before being involved in the “big one” on the final lap of the event. Martin was flipped upside down and ended up finishing 28th, which set him back 184 points behind then points leader and teammate Johnson.

Track stats:

Martin is a two-time winner at Talladega. In April 1995, he started third and beat current teammate Gordon across the finish line. Two years later, Martin started 18th and beat Dale Earnhardt to the checkered flag. Along with his two wins, Martin has earned 11 top-five finishes and 23 top-10s in 45 Cup starts at the 2.66-mile racetrack. In the last 10 races at Talladega, Martin is tied for third with Terry Labonte and Bill Elliot for the most wins, he ranks third in top-fives, he is tied for first with Labonte for the most top-10s, has led the fifth most laps (323 laps) and has the first best average start (13.9) among active drivers. Martin has made 96 Sprint Cup starts in his career at superspeedways—Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Talladega. He has two wins, 20 top-fives, 40 top-10s and has led 579 laps at the speedways combined.

This time:

Coming off his best finish of the 2010 Cup season last weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Martin will start 30th in Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-577 in Sunday’s event. This is a brand new chassis that has never been raced or tested.

Martin:

“Talladega—everyone knows how I feel about this racetrack. It’s a total crap shoot. A clench-the-steering-wheel-and-hope-for-the-best mentality, because you can either win or end up upside down, like we did last year in a split second. It’s madness. Controlled at times, and sometimes not. I just want to get through it. I want to get a good finish for this race team. We finished fifth here in the spring, and that, to me, is like winning at Talladega. We’ve got a good restrictor-plate program and fast race cars. So we’ll just try to stay out of trouble and cross the finish line with a clean race car and hopefully a good finish.”

No. 24 DuPont/National Guard Chevrolet: Qualified 31st.

Last time:

Most recently in April at Talladega, Jeff Gordon started fifth and finished 22nd in the 200-lap event. Gordon started third and crossed the finish line 20th after leading 12 laps in this event last November at Talladega.

Track stats:

In 35 Cup starts at Talladega, Gordon has posted six wins, 13 top-five finishes,16 top-10s and has led 821 laps. Gordon is ranked second all-time in wins at Talladega behind Dale Earnhardt, who has posted 10 wins, and first among active drivers. In the last 10 races at Talladega, Gordon is ranked first in wins, second in top-fives, third in top-10s, first in laps led, and third in average start (11.9). According to NASCAR’s loop data which is compiled during the last 11 races at the superspeedway, Gordon ranks first in laps led (821), seventh in driver rating (86) and seventh in laps spent inside the top 10 (1,138 laps) among drivers during that time period.

This time:

Gordon enters this weekend fifth in the championship standings, 203 points behind leader and teammate Johnson. Gordon will roll off the grid 31st in Chassis No. 24-576, which will have a National Guard paint scheme, in Sunday’s event.

Gordon:

“It’s been a great relationship. I’ve learned so much about the National Guard and what great opportunities they present to so many, like job opportunities, work skills and the opportunity of representing and protecting our country. It’s also been a fantastic relationship from meeting Guardsmen and women, to going to Special Forces training and the Boy Scout Jamboree—that was so cool. They’ve been able to really open my eyes up to what the military is all about and those men and women that represent them.”

No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet: Qualified 19th.

Last time:

Earlier this year in April, Jimmie Johnson started from the pole position for the second race in a row and led nine laps before being caught up in two-car accident on Lap 195. Johnson brought the No. 48 Chevrolet home in the 31st position. In this event last November, Johnson started from the pole position and finished sixth, increasing his lead in the championship standings to 184 points over teammate Martin.

Track stats:

Johnson has tallied one win, four top-fives, seven top-10s and has led 201 laps in 17 Cup starts at Talladega. Johnson took his trip to Victory Lane at Talladega in May 2006 after starting 16th and leading three laps. Johnson’s average start of 9.7 is ranked first among active drivers in the last 10 races at the 2.5-mile racetrack. He has completed 95.9 percent of all laps he’s attempted (3,092 laps of 3,225 total) at the superspeedway. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics over the last 11 races at Talladega, Johnson’s average finish (15.4) is fourth-best, his laps spent in the top 15 (1,127 laps) is ninth-best and his driver rating (83.6) is ranked 11th-best among drivers during that time period. 

This time:

Since the creation of NASCAR’s playoff system in 2004, Johnson’s average start of 11.3 is ranked first among his current Chase competitors in the last six fall races at Talladega. He enters Sunday’s 500-mile event first in the championship standings, his fourth weekend in a row as the points leader, he is just six points ahead of second-place Denny Hamlin. Johnson will start 19th in this weekend’s race at Talladega.

Johnson:

“I feel like I am in a really good place where some guys are fighting for their first championship, there is so much on it. I have been there, so I know exactly what those feelings are like. I feel like it’s helpful for me to be this relaxed and to come in and not obsess over things during the week and to come into the track with a fresh mind and a ton of energy and go to work. So I really hope that the experience gives me an upper hand through the championship battle.”

No. 88 The Legend of Hallowdega AMP Energy Juice/National Guard Chevrolet: Qualified sixth.

Last time:

In the most recent event at Talladega in April, Dale Earnhardt Jr. started seventh and finished 13th after leading eight laps during the event. In this event last November, Earnhardt started 24th and led nine laps before crossing the finish line 11th.

Track stats:

Earnhardt has tallied five wins, eight top-five finishes, 11 top-10s and led 672 laps in 21 Cup events. Earnhardt’s five wins are ranked third on the all-time win list, his top-fives are ranked sixth-best, his laps led are second-best and is average finish (14.0) is ranked third-best during the last 10 races at the superspeedway. Earnhardt scored a record-setting four consecutive wins at the 2.66-mile oval from October 2001 to April 2003. The 36-year-old driver has only led more laps during his Cup career at Martinsville (848 laps) and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (743 laps) and his five wins are the most for him at any track on the Cup circuit. Earnhardt’s eight top-fives match his personal best at a racetrack. He also has eight top-fives at Daytona, Martinsville, Richmond (Va.) International Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. According to NASCAR’s loop data statistics during the last 11 races at Talladega, Earnhardt is fifth or better in 10 categories, most notably: first in laps inside the top 15 (1,386 laps), second in driver rating (93.3), second in green-flag passes (3,706), third in average running position (14.027) and fourth in laps led (183 laps) among drivers during that time period.

This time:

This weekend, Earnhardt will showcase a specially painted No. 88 The Legend of Hallowdega AMP Energy Juice/National Guard Chevrolet. “The Legend of Hallowdega” is a short film directed by award-winning filmmaker Terry Gilliam and will star David Arquette and Justin Kirk. Earnhardt will start Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-563 sixth in this Sunday’s event. Earnhardt finished second in this year’s Daytona 500 in this chassis. 

Earnhardt:

“I just look forward to going back to Talladega and always enjoy racing there. We’ve always been good and fast there. I hope we can get up front, lead a lot of laps and be there at the end. I want to be in position to make a move for the win. We haven’t really been in position at the end of these races like we need to, so we’ll try to be a little more aggressive throughout the race and try to keep ourselves in that position.”

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