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You’ve got to like Dale Jr. Sunday at Talladega

If there is a track on the schedule that suits Jr., it’s Talladega, after all, five of his eighteen “Cup” career wins have come at the Alabama Super Speedway. He added two more restrictor plate track wins at Daytona. Ok, his last win at Talladega was the fall race in 2004. Yes, I know it’s now been 100 Cup races since he has visited victory lane, but this is Talladega. The restrictor plate tracks have always been his thing. Just to show he hasn’t lost the knack at the circuit’s two giant Super Speedways, Jr. won the

Nationwide Race at Daytona last July.

Dale Jr. is off to a solid start this season with a pole, a second place at Martinsville, and in four of the seven races so far this season he has finished in the top ten. Nobody is dominating the show, and Jr. is hardly the only highly regarded driver with a long dry spell.

Matt Kenseth, the 2003 Champion, who by the way narrowly beat out Dale Jr. for “Rookie of the Year” honors in 2000, had a 76 race winless streak going until last Saturday night’s win at Texas. Jeff Gordon had gone 0 for 66 races until he won again this February at Phoenix.

It’s looking like Dale Jr. and his latest crew chief Steve Letarte have began to turn the corner. A win or two would do worlds of good for the young man’s confidence and self esteem. No doubt if he keeps hanging in the top ten consistently, the wins will come. The next one may very well be this weekend.

Talladega, this weekend, shapes up to be a pretty big deal. In addition to the race, singer Gretchen Wilson, whose big hit was “Redneck Woman,” is performing in concert in the Talladega infield Saturday night. I remember an interview Ms. Wilson did for “60 Minutes” with Barbara Walters or some such TV show star where she spoke of her days before she hit it big in the music business. Seems she was a bar maid in a pretty tough roadhouse. There was a male bartender/bouncer who took care of any problems with male patrons who got a bit out of hand. Ms. Wilson handled the situation if a lady customer over indulged. I loved her line, “Don’t make me take off my earrings and come out from behind this bar.” Seems about right for the Talladega infield crowd.

In addition to the race and concert, a black-tie induction ceremony for the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, which is located on the grounds of the Speedway, will be held this Thursday, April 14. This year’s class is a diverse group that older fans will certainly appreciate even though some of the names younger fans may not recognize.

This year’s class is John Holman, one of the principals of the famed Holman and Moody Ford factory race team of the 1960’s, and the late Jan Opperman, the original “Outlaw” on the sprint car circuits of the nation; Maurice Petty, Richard Petty’s brother and the engine builder Petty Enterprises throughout the team’s glory days; Brian Redman, who made his mark on the international sports car circuits during the 1960’s and seventies, and Rex White, the 1960 NASCAR champion of what was then called the Grand National Series, now the Sprint Cup. White retired in 1964 with 28 career wins.

With seven races and six different winners the season is off to an interesting start. It’s been interesting to see some of the mistakes made by several of the top drivers. Jimmie Johnson’s speeding penalty in the pits at Martinsville was very unlike the five-time champion’s usually calm efficient manner.

Then there was Tony Stewart’s speeding penalty in the pits last Saturday night at Texas. Just when we thought Stewart and crew chief Darion Grubb had snookered the whole field and Tony would have one less pit stop than everybody else, he gets caught speeding in the pits. That was bad enough, but Stewart nearly overcame the penalty when he worked his way back to third position, only to run out of gas on the last lap.

You may reach Pete Barber at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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