By the numbers: The 2013 Chasers at Talladega

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Hold your breath. Cross your fingers. Talladega has arrived.

The 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders will look to keep their cars and championship hopes intact in Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 500 – the sixth race in this year’s postseason – at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway.

Chaos is always just a heartbeat away at this track thanks to the pack racing created by the speed-robbing restrictor plates, and it makes for a race that is marked by both excitement and dread. It wouldn’t be surprising to see more than one Chaser’s title bid end in that patented Talladega mega-crash – “The Big One.”

But the wild card nature of Talladega also can lend itself to stunning upsets. Take Sprint Cup’s last visit to Talladega in May, which ended with Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan getting a push from teammate David Gilliland on the final lap to win in a green-white-checkered finish.

Of course, that G-W-C finale was set up by a Big One with six laps to go, triggered by contact involving J.J. Yeley and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. down the backstretch. Adding to the spectacle, Kurt Busch was hit by a wayward Yeley and flipped onto the roof of Ryan Newman.

As provided by NASCAR, here are statistics on how each Chase contender has done results-wise at ‘Dega in their careers. But don’t bother trying to use these numbers to predict who wins on Sunday, because, time and again, this track has proven how unpredictable it can be.

Matt Kenseth (LEADER, 2,225 points)
· One win, five Top-5s, nine Top-10s
· Average Finish: 17.6 in 27 races
· Series-best Average Running Position of 14.1

Jimmie Johnson (Second, -4 points)
· Two wins, six Top-5s, 10 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 17.1 in 23 races
· Average Running Position: 17.5, 11th-best

Kevin Harvick (Third, -29 points)
· One win, Top-5s, 10 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 16.4 in 25 races
· Average Running Position: 19.0, 21st-best

Jeff Gordon (Fourth, -36 points)
· Six wins, 15 Top-5s, 19 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 16.3 in 41 races
· Average Running Position: 18.4, 18th-best

Kyle Busch (Fifth, -37 points)
· One win, three Top-5s, four Top-10s
· Average Finish: 22.9 in 17 races
· Average Running Position: 19.1, 22nd-best

Greg Biffle (Sixth, -58 points)
· Two Top-5s, five Top-10s
· Average Finish: 19.9 in 21 races
· Average Running Position: 21.4, 28th-best

Kurt Busch (Seventh, -59 points)
· Six Top-5s, 13 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 16.7 in 25 races
· Average Running Position: 15.1, third-best

Clint Bowyer (Eighth, -63 points)
· Two wins, four Top-5s, seven Top-10s
· Average Finish: 16.3 in 15 races
· Average Running Position: 21.2, 27th-best

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Ninth, -66 points)
· Five wins, nine Top-5s, 13 Top-10s
· Average Finish: 15.1 in 27 races
· Average Running Position: 15.1, second-best

Carl Edwards (10th, -67 points)
· Two Top-5s, five Top-10s
· Average Finish: 20.8 in 18 races
· Average Running Position: 24.0, 39th-best

Joey Logano (11th, -75 points)
· Two Top-5s, four Top-10s
· Average Finish: 20.0 in nine races
· Average Running Position: 17.8, 14th-best

Ryan Newman (12th, -78 points)
· Four Top-5s, eight Top-10s
· Average Finish: 22.2 in 23 races
· Average Running Position: 21.6, 30th-best

Kasey Kahne (13th, -81 points)
· Three Top-5s, four Top-10s
· Average Finish: 21.5 in 19 races
· Average Running Position: 21.1, 26th-best

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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