Of all the racetracks he’s won at, none has been more special to Dale Earnhardt Jr. than Talladega Superspeedway.
Earnhardt has a career-best six wins at the 2.66-mile, high-banked oval.
Sunday’s Alabama 500 will be Earnhardt’s final race as a full-time competitor at ‘Dega. Will he be able to earn a seventh and final win there, beating the 12 remaining playoff drivers?
We discussed that during Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America. Here’s what our experts had to say about Junior’s chances for one last run at glory at ‘Dega:
Nate Ryan: “I’m going to say better than 50-50. If you look at Dale Jr.’s career, he has a penchant for seizing the moment at these really opportune times, like the first race at Daytona after his father’s death, the first race after 9/11. He has a knack of coming out and winning when the stage is at its biggest. But I’ll add the caveat he only has one win at Talladega since 2004. I haven’t seen him race at this track with the same confidence and the same car he had during the 2001-2003 era at DEI. They were unbeatable. I don’t know if he has that type of car at Hendrick. If he has it and can regain some of that confidence, I think he could win.”
Kyle Petty: “I give him 50-50, I’m sorry. There’s that stupid saying that to run up front, you have to run up front. And he hasn’t run up front. … He’s not raced with these guys on a restrictor plate track up front enough for these guys to know what he does or for him to know what some of these knew guys do like Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson. It’s new to Junior when he gets up into that rare air.” … This year, I just don’t see it happening (winning at ‘Dega).”
Brian Vickers: “Junior and Hendrick Motorsports are not firing on all cylinders, they’re not performing at their best. But this track is different and I think you can make things happen. Like Nate pointed out, Junior has an ability to deliver when the pressure is on, and the pressure’s on. He really wants to win in his last season, and there’s no question that he and everyone else knows that this is his best chance at it. It doesn’t mean he can’t win any of the other races, but with his performance, no one is going to hang his hat on that. … Regardless of the way he’s performed the last few years, he’s still an excellent plate racer.”