Earnhardt and Gordon names inseparable in Talladega history


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 Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.



Drivers to watch at World Wide Technology Raceway


After the fireworks from the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR heads to World Wide Technology Raceway, a 1.25-mile speedway just outside of St. Louis. Sunday’s race (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1) marks the second time the Cup Series has raced at this track.

Much is at stake. The race to win the regular season championship has intensified. Tempers are high. The pressure to make the playoffs builds. Ten drivers have wins this season. Twelve races remain in the regular season.


Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 11th
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Richmond, Martinsville)
  • Past at WWTR: 12th last year

While a driver coming off back-to-back finishes of 20th or worse might not seem like a frontrunner, it actually does make Larson one. His topsy-turvy season has seen him place outside the top 10 in back-to-back races four times. In the three previous times he had consecutive finishes outside the top 10, he came back to finish second, first and second. Can he keep that streak going this weekend?

Bubba Wallace

  • Points position: 15th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Las Vegas I, Kansas I, Coca-Cola 600)
  • Past at WWTR: 26th last year

Wallace has scored three consecutive top-five finishes, his best streak in his Cup career. He has climbed from 21st to 15th in the standings during this run.

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best finish this season: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I, Darlington I)
  • Past at WWTR: 19th last year

Byron has finished no worse than seventh in the last five races. He’s led nearly 20% of the laps run during that time. Byron has averaged nearly 47 points a race during that streak.


Corey LaJoie

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best finish this season: 4th (Atlanta I)
  • Past at WWTR: 36th last season

NASCAR’s one-race suspension to Chase Elliott gives LaJoie the chance to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car for the first time. This will be the best car LaJoie has driven in his career. Many eyes will be on him to see how he does.

Ross Chastain

Chastain has finished 29th and 22nd in the last two points races. He’s not gone more than three races without a top-10 finish this season. After his struggles last weekend at Charlotte, Chastain saw his lead cut to one point over Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney in the standings. Five drivers are within 17 points of Chastain in the season standings.

Aric Almirola

  • Points position: 26th
  • Best finish this season: 6th (Martinsville I)
  • Past at WWTR: 5th last year

Almirola has finished 13th or worse in all but one race this season for Stewart-Haas Racing. In the five races since placing sixth at Martinsville, Almirola has finished an average of 21.0.