What to watch for The spring race at Talladega is the last time Alabama will have a chance to see the current stock car. The fall race will debut the Car of Tomorrow for plate racing.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won five of the last 11 races at Talladega. But Junior has been cold the past two years after winning 5-of-7 between October 2001 and October 2004. Second-year DEI teammate Martin Truex Jr. has won three straight Busch races at Talladega, and he added a fifth-place finish in his last Cup run on the track. A little Shake 'n' Bake slingshot action could be in order for Earnhardt and Truex.
But the top pick for Talladega has to be Tony Stewart, especially when factoring the COT into the equation. Stewart could win driving a shoebox on roller skates, so a new car that resembles just that shouldn't be a problem for the two-time Cup champ. Although Stewart has never won here, he was runner-up to Jimmie Johnson in May last year, to Dale Jarrett in October 2005 and to Jeff Gordon in May 2005. Plus, Joe Gibbs' top driver has led at least one lap in each of the past six races.
Last year's winners, Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers, have proven their ability in the past. Now the question is, can they do it in the Car of Tomorrow? Before winning in October, Vickers had a third and sixth in his prior two runs.
Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray have shown promise at Talladega. Edwards has recorded top-10 finishes in his last three races. McMurray has been hit-or-miss, with a crash and two top 5s in three of his last four runs.
Keep an eye on... Kurt Busch -- Busch has no restrictor plate wins to his credit, but it's only a matter of time. He finished third and seventh here last season after runs of seventh and eighth the year before.
Jeff Gordon -- A four-time winner in Alabama, Gordon is always a threat when the circuit bolts on the plates. He led 62 laps in the spring event last season before getting shuffled back to 15th in the closing laps.
Kevin Harvick -- Like Busch, he has no plate wins, but he always seems to be in contention. He had a sixth at Talladega last season and a ninth at Daytona.