Today: a tussle at Talladega!

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 2, 2005

Have the troubles that plagued Dale Earnhardt, Inc. early in the year been solved? This week’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega will go a long way in answering that question, but there is no question that the performances of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Michael Waltrip over the last few weeks show some indications of a turnaround.

Both drivers finished in the top five at Phoenix last week and have moved up considerably in the championship points standings in the last month. A superspeedway race could not come at a better time for these guys. Both need a top-five finish, if not a victory.

Currently, Junior is in 12th position and Waltrip sits 18th and within the 400 point window to compete in the chase for the championship.

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In 10 career races at Talladega, Junior has won five, has seven top-fives and eight top-tens. I don’t bet against Junior at this track, so he is my pick to win this weekend.

My only hope is that Junior can control his mouth in victory lane if he does win the race. Remember what happened in October last year? Those 25 points that Junior lost would have come in handy toward the end of the season.

Speaking of DEI, Friday, April 29 would have been Dale Earnhardt’s 54th birthday.

Kurt Busch drove a smart and patient race last week in Phoenix and earned his first victory of the year and pushed himself into second place in the points standings. Even though Jimmie Johnson’s top-ten streak ended after 13 races, he remained at the top of the standings. Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, and Elliott Sadler round out the top five. Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Sterling Marlin, and Rusty Wallace sit in position six through ten.

On the business side of NASCAR, the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis recently became the last race on the circuit to add corporate sponsorship. Gone is the Brickyard 400 and welcome the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. The powers that be at Indy held out as long as they could before joining every other race and sold the naming rights to the August race.

The future of Martin Truex, Jr. has been a hot topic of conversation lately. The whispers that he may bolt DEI for another team have become louder and louder.

There is no doubt that Truex will be racing on the cup circuit next year. In what car and for what team have yet to be determined.

Truex and Dale, Jr. are close friends and have much success in the Busch ranks, but Truex is not under contract for 2006 and he is being pursued by other team owners. At the forefront of that pursuit are Robert Yates and Ray Evernham. Both are looking to add third teams next year and have Truex in their sights. If DEI and Chevrolet let Truex get away, shame on them. This guy is the next big thing and will win races for someone.

Get ready for one of the most entertaining races of year Sunday. Pre-race coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. and the green flag drops at 1, all on FOX. Enjoy the race.

Jeff Findley is publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald in Ahoskie, N.C. His racing column appears in several newspapers in the Southeast. He can be reached at