Column By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – TALLADEGA, AL – With the unpredictable nature and high stakes racing that innately exists at NASCAR’s biggest track, Talladega (Alabama) Superspeedway, there is always a lot that goes in to hoisting a trophy there.
For Kyle Busch, racing to his second Talladega win in Sunday’s GEICO 500 (2 p.m., FOX, MRN, SiriusXM Radio) will not just be a sense of season accomplishment – it would mark his fourth consecutive 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race win in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Toyota and absolutely worthy for the sport’s all-time record books.
Only one other driver in the field this weekend – seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson – has accomplished the four-peat. He won four straight races in 2007. It’s happened only 12 times in the sport’s history. And five times the driver to win four straight races did go on to capture the Cup title that season. Johnson being the most recent.
None of the other eight Modern Era drivers that have won four consecutive races, have had Talladega in that span of victory, however.
“That one’s never really always in the driver’s hands,’’ Busch acknowledged of Talladega. “It’s kind of always in fate’s hands. We’ll just take what we can get this weekend at Talladega and see where it gets us.”
Busch acknowledged the unpredictability of competing in the tight packs that characterize restrictor-plate racing on the series’ largest track (2.66-miles). The “Big One” is a common occurrence when one driver’s “slip-up” involves crashing out multiple cars. Being in the right place at the right time is half-strategy and half-luck.
“At Talladega, the physical demand isn’t that big of deal,’’ Busch said. “You can run around there all day long and not break a sweat, really. Once you get down into the nitty-gritty of the race and try to play the chess game at the end of the race, you’ve got to really pick and choose your spots and think all the time if you go here and team up with this guy.
“It really wears on you a little bit, mentally. I would say Talladega is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical, while most other non-restrictor-plate races are 80 percent physical and 20 percent mental. We’re hoping to be in position with our M&M’S Flavor Vote Camry Sunday to give it another shot at the win.”
Busch won the spring race at Talladega in 2007 and has finishes of second and third in the last two years, respectively.
Lights, camera, action: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup racers set for all-driver broadcast
Not only does competition at Talladega Superspeedway pique fans interest for the full speed, high-stakes brand of restrictor-plate racing, this week marks the highly-anticipated all-driver broadcast for the Sparks Energy 300 (3 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Monster Energy Cup drivers Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Brad Keselowski and Darrell Wallace Jr. will participate – going from the driver’s seat to the broadcast booth and pit road.
Harvick will be calling the play-by-play alongside his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer and Penske Racing’s Joey Logano in the booth.
Five-time Talladega Cup winner Keselowski and defending Monster Energy race winner Stenhouse will anchor the Hollywood Hotel and “Bubba” Wallace, Jones, and Blaney will serve as pit road reporters. Interestingly – Blaney’s win at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway last summer happened following a similar all-driver broadcast.
Sadler to try for second consecutive Xfinity Dash 4 Cash win
Veteran championship contender Elliott Sadler will try to win a second consecutive check for $100,000 from series sponsor Xfinity. Sadler, last week’s winner, along with Christopher Bell, Matt Tifft and Austin Cindric will compete for the bonus check Saturday. It’s the first time the NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash program incentive program has included the historic Talladega high banks on its four-race schedule.
Only Xfinity Series regulars will be in the race. This is the first opportunity for the incentive check for 22-year-old Tifft and 19-year-old Cindric. The top four finishers in Saturday’s race will then be eligible to compete for the $100,000 check at Dover International Speedway next week.