NASCAR & Auto Racing

Why the Alabama impound?

A little more to consider on a Talladega Sunday:

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle find themselves out in front of the rest of the Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders, and all three are looking to get through the Talladega weekend without that changing. Can they dodge danger Sunday?

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost a tire Friday and set off a wreck in practice. Then several cars blew tires in the Automobile Racing Club of America event. The ARCA cars were on Hoosier tires, but that's still something worth keeping an eye on when the race starts.

3. Kyle Busch hasn't had anything go right for him in the Chase so far, but he has won the past two restrictor-plate races, including a victory here earlier this season. He may be in a deep hole in the championship battle, but he could easily still win Sunday.

OBSERVATIONS

Dale Earnhardt Inc. has four cars in the top 35 in the car owner standings but as of right now only three drivers and - more importantly - one sponsor signed for 2009. DEI officials lament the company suffers from an image problem, feeling that people don't think it has as much going for it as it actually does.

The problem is, of course, that the person who ought to be selling the DEI story refuses to talk publicly to anybody. Teresa Earnhardt needs to come out of hiding more now than ever before.

There's no reason Talladega should be an impound race. With two practices on Friday, the weekend isn't shortened by having qualifying on Saturday. Forcing the go-or-go home cars to set up for qualifying and then start the race in a configuration that all but dooms them to an early struggle isn't right.

If the weekend works better for qualifying to be on Saturday with no practice afterward, then so be it. NASCAR should still let the teams work on their cars before they take the green flag Sunday.

JUST THE FACTS

What: Amp Energy 500.

Where: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

Track type: 2.66-mile trioval with 33-degree banking in the turns and 16.5 degrees of banking in the trioval.

Race distance: 500 miles (188 laps).

When: 2 p.m. Sunday.

Weather: Sunny and in the mid-80s.

TV: ABC.

Radio: Motor Racing Network.

OBSERVER PICKS

DAVID POOLE

Jeff Gordon won at Talladega and Charlotte last fall and had a fifth championship in his sights. But Jimmie Johnson won the next four races and took the 2007 title and Gordon hasn't won a race since. Until Sunday.

Winner: Jeff Gordon.

JIM UTTER

While they have not racked up a large number of wins, Richard Childress Racing cars have performed consistently well over the last couple seasons at NASCAR's restrictor-plate tracks. This time, the organization will find victory lane.

Winner: Kevin Harvick.

NOTES

Kvapil's pole his first in Cup Series

It didn't come until his 100th try, but Travis Kvapil will start from a Sprint Cup race from the pole for this first time in Sunday's Amp Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Kvapil's lap at 187.364 mph in Saturday's qualifying gave Doug Yates his first pole as owner of the team his father, Robert, started in 1989. It's the eighth time a Yates-owned Ford has won a Talladega pole and the 14th time it has won a pole for a restrictor-plate race.

"We worked a little harder in qualifying yesterday than some of the other teams in the top 35 because we knew we had a shot at the pole and we wanted to take advantage of that," said Kvapil, whose previous best starting spot in 99 Cup races was third. "It's just huge for our team."

Yates Racing is fielding two cars this year - Kvapil's No. 28 and the No. 38 driven by David Gilliland, who will start 41st in a backup car after being involved in a wreck here on Friday.

It was announced earlier this week that Paul Menard will join the team in 2009, bringing the Menard's sponsorship with him. Sponsorship for Kvapil and Gilliland for next year is still being sought.

"We've had a bunch of interest," Kvapil said. "But when it comes to going out and get those deals wrapped up, running up front makes it a lot easier."

For now, though, putting the No. 28 Ford on the pole for a race here is its own reward. Alabama race fans still remember their favorite son, Davey Allison, racing that car. So does Kvapil.

"Having the 28 with the Alabama gang up front here is awfully special," Kvapil said. "There are a lot of 28 fans in this area and it's pretty cool to give them something cheer about."

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