Earnhardt and Gordon names inseparable in Talladega history

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The 2007 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, held on April 29th, will be remembered as the day “Wonder Boy” passed the “Intimidator.”

After starting from the pole, four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon won his 77th career NSACAR Sprint Cup race, breaking a tie with the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. on what was Earnhardt’s birthday.

That explained the boos and beer cans directed at Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet as it coasted past the crowd.

“I just didn’t think we’d get (win No.) 77 here,” Gordon said afterward, adding many Earnhardt fans probably that didn’t want to see Gordon pass Earnhardt’s win total of 76. “But what are you going to do? We’re here to win.”

That’s just one of many events in the last 25 years at Talladega Superspeedway that have been associated with the last names of Earnhardt and Gordon.

When Gordon, in his final Sprint Cup season, takes the green flag Sunday in the Geico 500 at Talladega, it will mark his 45th career start at the 2.66-mile track.

It also will break a tie with Earnhardt Sr. for career starts at the restrictor-plate track.

A look at the NASCAR record book shows the drivers’ names often dovetail in comparing their careers at the track.

From his first career start in the Talladega 500 on Aug. 6, 1978, to his last on Oct. 15, 2000, in the Winston 500, Earnhardt ruled the Alabama oval and posted records that Gordon won’t be able to match in his final two starts there this year.

Through 44 races:

Victories: Earnhardt Sr. – 10; Gordon – six

Top-five finishes: Earnhardt Sr. – 23; Gordon – 15

Top 10’s: Earnhardt Sr. – 27; Gordon – 19

Laps led: Earnhardt Sr. – 1, 377; Gordon – 847

Gordon can claim the most lead-lap finishes at Talladega with 31.

The Earnhardt legacy started with his first win in his 10th start there, in the 1983 Talladega 500.

Seventeen years later, he had 10. Three times he won consecutive races. Gordon did that once. Earnhardt’s final victory there and in the series came when he went from 18th to first in the last five laps to win.

Afterward, Earnhardt admitted, “I don’t know how I won it.”

Gordon’s first win there came in the July 1996 Die Hard 500, and was overshadowed by a 13-car wreck where Earnhardt suffered a broken sternum and collarbone.

Gordon’s opportunity to dominate Talladega wouldn’t come until after Earnhardt’s death in the 2001 Daytona 500 and five straight wins by Dale Earnhardt Inc. drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip.

Gordon put an end to the dominance by winning the 2004 Aaron’s 499, his third Talladega victory, in the midst of  a controversial caution that put the Hendrick driver ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., his future teammate. NASCAR was unable to restart the race, allowing Gordon to win under caution.

The crowd believed Dale Jr. had been leading at the time and showed its displeasure by tossing debris thrown on the track as Gordon performed a burnout.

Controversy came calling again three years later when Gordon passed Earnhardt’s career win total. Gordon would claim his sixth Talladega win the fall after win No. 77. But since then the names of Earnhardt and Gordon have been absent from Talladega’s Victory Lane.

One could try to make the argument that restrictor plate racing is a young man’s game.

At 40, Dale Jr. has not won at Talladega since 2004 and has finished in the top five just three times. But he did win the 2014 Daytona 500 and he goes into this weekend’s Talladega race with best average driver rating (90.7) among those who have competed in the last 20 races at the track.

Jeff Gordon’s (79.1) is sixth best.

At 43, Gordon is in his final season, and in the 14 Talladega races since his last win he’s only finished in the top five twice. None of his 12 Cup victories since have been at Talladega or Daytona.

At Talladega since 2010, there have been eight winners in 10 races and all were under the age of 40 at the time.

Any talk of age and Talladega glory ends with Earnhardt Sr. His last five Talladega wins came after turning 42.

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick still No. 1 after quiet Vegas

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Kevin Harvick didn’t have a flashy night Sunday in Las Vegas, but it didn’t keep him from retaining the No. 1 spot in this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings.

After winning the Bristol night race, Harvick finished in the top 10 in the first two stages in Vegas before placing 10th at race’s end.

Kurt Busch’s win at his home track vaulted him into the top 10 as 12 drivers received votes.

More: Playoff standings after Las Vegas

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): In the last eight races he’s won three times and finished outside the top 10 only twice.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 5): Placed fourth for his 11th top-five finish in the last 14 races.

3. Alex Bowman (Last week unranked): Finished fifth for his second top five and fifth top-10 finish in the last six races.

4. Denny Hamlin (Last week unranked): Left Vegas with a third-place finish to snap a three-race streak of finishing outside the top 10.

5. Kurt Busch (Last week unranked): Snapped a 46-race winless streak with his victory and advanced to the Round of 8.

6. Kyle Busch (Last week No. 3): Finished sixth after a “dismal” night. He has four consecutive top 10s.

7. Brad Keselowski (Last week No. 5): Finished 13th to give him two finishes outside the top 10 since he won at Richmond.

8. Chase Briscoe (Last week unranked): Opened the Xfinity playoffs with his second consecutive win.

8. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 2): Led 73 laps, but had to settle for a 22nd-place finish in Vegas.

8. Joey Logano (Last week No. 3): Finished 14th for his second straight finish outside the top 10.

Also receiving votes: Erik Jones and Chris Buescher.

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

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Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

 

Xfinity Series playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Chase Briscoe opened the Xfinity Series playoffs by earning his second consecutive win.

His victory Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gives him 57 playoff points and an automatic spot in the Round of 8.

Harrison Burton holds the final transfer spot. He has a two-point advantage over Ross Chastain.

Behind Chastain below the cutline are Michael Annett (-10 points), Riley Herbst (-14) and Brandon Brown (-20).

Below is the full Xfinity Series playoff standings going into Saturday’s race at Talladega (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance. Drivers in yellow are in the remaining playoff spots.

Xfinity Series playoff standings

Cup playoff standings after Las Vegas

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Kurt Busch flipped the script on the Cup playoff standings with his win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings, but is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.

Replacing Busch in the bottom spot of the playoff standings is Austin Dillon. He is 32 points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final cutoff spot.

Behind Bowman is Kyle Busch (-9 points), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Dillon.

“Obviously, the 1 car (Kurt Busch) was not a car that we needed to win a race,” Clint Bowyer said after Sunday’s race. “It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. (Kurt Busch) winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out.”

Here is the full playoff standings entering Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance to the Round of 8. Drivers in yellow hold the remaining available playoff spots.

Cup playoff standings