The talk so far this season, in my opinion, has been about Kyle Busch and Dale Jr. Both drivers moved from their prospective teams to new teams this season. Both of the moves were interrelated to one another. Kyle was let go at HMS to make room for Dale Jr., who became quite the free agent after deciding to leave his father’s team DEI after the 2007 season. Kyle landed on his feet over at JGR which made a big move from Chevy to Toyota. The expectations placed on these drivers was already high coming into the 2008 season. How would Dale Jr. perform under HMS? Would Busch find success under JGR and a new manufacturer? And finally, at the end of the season, who will be judged as the driver who made the better move?
In this race fan’s opinion, both drivers have performed outstanding. And here is a little comparison, if you don’t believe me.
- 1 win (Atlanta)
- 4 Top 5s
- 5 Top 10s
- 11.0 avg finish
- 2nd in the points standings
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
- 0 wins
- 3 Top 5s
- 6 Top 10s
- 10.5 avg finish
- 3rd in the points standings
Now, this weekend I believe will be a whole other ballgame for the two. I think this is the weekend, Dale has the biggest chance to come away with his first win of the season and his first win since the spring race at Richmand in 2006. Last year, just wasn’t his year. With all that was going on with DEI and the media scruntiny, one can’t blame him for having a rough year. But this year is a different story. Just look at where he was this time last…15th in the points. He is now sitting 3rd behind Kyle Busch and points leader Jeff Burton. Now speaking of this race weekend…Dale Jr. has not only the definite edge over Kyle, but I think the rest of the field.
Dale has 7 wins, 14 Top 5s, and 20 Top 10s at Talladega. He has an average finish of 16.4. The last couple of years at Talladega has been rough for him. In 2007, he finished outside the top 20 in both races. The spring race was due to engine issues. In 2006, he finished 27th and 33rd, and in 2005, 20th and 36th. He has not won at Talladega in a Cup race since the spring race in 2003.
Kyle on the other hand hasn’t faired so well at Talladega. He has had zero wins, zero top 5s, and zero top 10s. His average finish is 31.7. The highest he has ever finished at Talladega is 11th and that was back at the spring race in 2006. Will that all change this year? I am not sure. The way he has been driving he might be able to tame Talladega and finish in the top 10, but Talladega is a different beast all together.
Kyle has been known to overdrive his car and not be there at the end of the race when it matters the most. With Talladega, it’s all about staying out of the big one and putting yourself in position to make a challenge for the win in the closing laps. It’s also about drafting partners too. Dale will definitely have more drafting partners this year with Jimmie, Jeff, and Casey. Plus there is always Tony who Dale likes to team up with on occasion. Since Kyle is now teammates with Tony and Junior with the HMS guys, it will definitely be interesting to see how all the drafting dancing will work out this weekend. But as we all know, we it comes down to the last few laps, all bets are off and it’s every driver for himself. Hell, I’d even draft with Jimmie if it meant I could win!
And of course….
Plus you have The Big One which can take out many an experienced driver (This if from 10/7/07).