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The Talladega 500 Pre-race report: How much will Jimmie Johnson have to step it up?

  Carl Edwards, on a record-setting pace in this year's NASCAR championship playoffs (Photo: Autostock)


   By Mike Mulhern


   The Sunday morning pre-race report…and some interesting angles to consider:

   At the midpoint of the 10-race NASCAR playoffs, how do the 12 title contenders shape up?

   Three men are head-and-shoulders above the rest, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth.
   But let's look at how well all 12 have performed over the first five chase races…or rather not performed, because a lot of these guys have made too many mistakes already.
   Considering the long-standing benchmark of Best Average Finish, this is how they stack up:

   Carl Edwards             4.6
   Kevin Harvick             7.2
   Matt Kenseth             7.4
   Brad Keselowski        9.2
   Tony Stewart             10.0
   Kyle Busch               10.4  
   Kurt Busch                11.0
   Jimmie Johnson         13.0
   Dale Earnhardt Jr.       15.4
   Ryan Newman            16.8
   Jeff Gordon                 19.0
   Denny Hamlin             20.6

   Now what might all that mean?
   Well, consider Jimmie Johnson's Best Average Finishes in his five title runs:

   2006 – 10.8
   2007 – 5.0
   2008 – 5.7
   2009 – 6.8
   2010 – 6.2

   And note that if that Texas crash (and 38th) is dropped from the 2009 equation, Johnson in the other nine chase races that season averaged a sizzling 3.3 finish.

   Another look at Jimmie Johnson in the clutch -- how well has he performed in the tour's last five races the past five seasons:
   In 2006 he won once and averaged a 3.2 finish;
   in 2007 he won four of the last five and averaged a 2.2 finish;
   in 2008 he won twice and averaged a 6.8 finish;
   in 2009 he won once and (including that 38th at Texas) averaged a 10.4 finish;
   and in 2010 he didn't win any of the final five but averaged a 5.6 finish.


  Hoping Carl Edwards won't have to run across the finish line in Sunday's Talladega 500, as he had to do here in 2009:   http://bit.ly/94vNMw   (Photo: Autostock)

   The death of Dan Wheldon, and the memorial services for the Indianapolis 500 winner, killed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, continues to reverberate through the racing world.

   The New York Times has a take of the issue:  http://nyti.ms/o5krnc

   The AP's Jenna Fryer has had this take:    http://bit.ly/q6VwtW

   There has been reflection on how NASCAR, in the days and weeks following Dale Earnhardt's death, handled that situation and the investigation, and how Formula 1 handled things surrounding Ayrton Senna's 1994 death ( http://bit.ly/kPiGhU ).

    And today another Talladega 500, at a track famous for wild crashes, like this one involving Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace in 1993:   http://bit.ly/oQi3wC



 Clint Bowyer on his roof, crossing the Daytona 500 finish line, in the 2007 race with that controversial 'slow' caution that allowed Kevin Harvick to beat Mark Martin for the win, amidst a big last lap crash. Carl Edwards, in this Sunday's pre-race drivers' meeting, asked specifically about such a last lap crash and how NASCAR planned to handle it. NASCAR has typically let drivers race to the finish line at Daytona and Talladega, even in event of a last lap crash, as long as the track ahead of the leaders appears clear. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Get the A1 sauce out, he's

Get the A1 sauce out, he's done.......

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