The Callahan Report: High NASCAR Excitement at Talladega
8 October 1997
TALLADEGA, AL: It's time for the NASCAR drivers to go back to high gear, high speed, high banks and high excitement. Many of NASCAR's stars hate racing at Talladega because of restrictor plate rules required by the sanctioning body. Fans on the other hand, love the shows at this enormous Alabama facility.
Dale Earnhardt is ready to end all the talk of his losing streak. Talladega could be the place. This is the track that bit him last year, sending him home broken and battered. Earnhardt has finished second (twice) and third in the last three races. The black number 3 is knocking at the door. It may be opened on Sunday. Earnhardt has won seven times at Talladega.
Mark Martin, who is chasing Jeff Gordon for the Winston Cup, should love his chances. Martin won the race held earlier this year at Talladega. He won it with a record speed of 188.354 mph. Martin is 125 points behind Gordon. He closed the gap by ten points this past weekend at Charlotte. He will have to do better than that if he is to win the championship. There are only four races remaining on the 1997 schedule.
As good as Martin's chances are, Jeff Gordon is the defending champion of the Diehard 500. Gordon knows how to win at this track. He may not be going for the victory. Gordon drove conservatively at Charlotte last weekend. When he was in traffic, he didn't take any chances. He drove a consistent, patient race. Gordon will drive Talladega the same way. If he is in the top five with a lap to go, and within striking distance of the leader, he may go for the win. If Charlotte is any indication, he will try to maintain his spot in the top five.
Another driver to watch for this weekend will be Jeremy Mayfield. The driver of the Kmart car was the polesitter here last year. He is a proven superspeedway driver and he is overdue for his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory. Mayfield fell to 16th here last year.
Dale Jarrett will once again be a factor at Talladega. Jarrett won for the sixth time this season last weekend at Charlotte. He finished second to Gordon in last year's Diehard 500. He was in the hunt the entire race. He started from the third spot. Jarrett, who is third in the points race, needs for Gordon and Martin to have some bad luck if he hopes to have a shot at the 1997 Winston Cup title.
Ernie Irvan, stable mate to Jarrett, is also good at Talladega. Irvan finished fourth here in last year's fall outing. Irvan is winding up his ride in the number 28 Texaco Havoline Thunderbird. He is capable of making it to victory lane in anything Robert Yates Racing puts underneath him.
The dark horse at Talladega is Jimmy Spencer. He had a top five finish here last year. Spencer got a big confidence boost last weekend in the Busch Grand National race. Spencer held on to win the All Pro 300 at Charlotte last Saturday. He was running good in the cup race on Sunday before being caught up in a crash. Spencer won this race in 1994.
The race will air at 1:00 P.M. (ET) this Sunday on CBS. In car audio will be provided by The Auto Channel on the net. The drivers will run 188 laps on the 2.66 mile banked superspeedway. The expected purse is $1.9 million.