Long: Three thoughts on Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway

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1 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. becomes the fourth member of Hendrick Motorsports or Stewart-Haas Racing to claim a Chase spot with Sunday’s win, joining Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson. Last year, six of the eight drivers between the two organizations made the Chase. With 16 races until the Chase field is set, it seems a good bet those teams at least will match that total and could have even more in the Chase this year. While there are some other strong cars, might the championship be settled among these two organizations?

2 – Jeff Gordon has only two more restrictor-plate races left and I’m sure he’s glad. After winning the pole for the Daytona 500, he was collected in a last-lap crash and finished 33rd. He won the pole for this weekend at Talladega but crashed on the last lap and finished 31st. Gordon likely won’t be too disappointed that he’ll never drive another restrictor-plate race after this season.

3 – Talladega’s grandstands looked full Sunday, perhaps the fullest they have been in years. That’a good sign, but one has to understand this came after the track removed the backstretch grandstands in 2013 as part of a downsizing. Still, where perception often is viewed as reality, the image of full grandstands was something good for the sport even if it was a smaller crowd than the last time Earnhardt won a Cup race at this track in 2004.