It’s been 10 years since Dale Jr. won Talladega, and he needs one now (VIDEO)


Ten years ago, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the October race at Talladega. No real surprise at the time, mind you, because he’d won four straight Talladegas from 2001 to 2003, then finished second in the next two before returning to victory lane for the fifth time in October 2004.

The place Dale Jr. once owned now is his last stand to make the Chase in 2014.

Talladega, surprisingly, has been a challenging track for Dale Jr. since his last win those 10 years ago. Since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, he has only three top-five finishes (second in spring 2009, fourth in spring 2011 and second this race last year), while posting four finishes of 25th or worse in the same time frame.

He needs a win to advance, unless the drivers in front of him in points have issues to set them back.

Still, whether he advances or not won’t change what’s been a refreshing season overall for Jr. and the 88 team.

My colleague Jerry Bonkowski touched on this in the immediate aftermath of the Charlotte race last Saturday night, but what had been the “dream season” for Dale Jr. and the 88 crew is one race away from ending up no different than any other of Jr.’s seasons, dating to his rookie year in 2000: without a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. So he’s used to that.

In a longer form piece for NBC’s SportsWorld by Joe Posnanski, he writes of a happier, more at piece Junior, now 40, and content with his circumstances. Older, wiser, yet driving better than he has in years, Junior isn’t at a make-or-break situation if he fails to win Sunday and thus, likely, fails to advance through to the Eliminator round of the new Chase format.

A win would be clutch, but it isn’t necessarily the be-all, end-all for his 2014 season. But a win would tie a nice bow on the ten-year mark since his last Talladega win in a season that’s featured so many dream moments.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E

Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.