TALLADEGA, Ala. - Chad Blount has two career starts at the Talladega Superspeedway, but none in a Nextel Cup Series car.
Although today's EA Sports 500 will be his first main event at the 2.66-mile speedway, the driver from Walkerton, Ind., knows no other track rewards one-hit wonders like Talladega.
"This is going to be my biggest weekend ever," Blount said. "I couldn't sleep (Friday), and I guarantee you I won't sleep (Saturday), either."
Blount will be in a fourth entry out of Penske South Racing, which means his Dodge should be good enough to win at Talladega. Hermie Sadler, another driver trying to earn instant success at Talladega, will be in a Ford leased from Robert Yates Racing, which should put him on equal footing with most of the other front-runners.
"If I have a chance to win - anything can happen at these racetracks - I'll certainly try to take advantage of that," Sadler said. "But my goal is to get some experience, run a lot, and help my other two teammates."
Sadler and Blount both have marching orders for today's race (1:30 p.m., NBC-Ch. 26). Sadler's job is to help Yates teammates Elliott Sadler, his brother, in the Chase for the Championship and Dale Jarrett in his quest to finish 11th in the series standings. Blount has to watch for Penske teammate Ryan Newman and his bid to win the Chase, as well as Rusty Wallace and Brendan Gaughan.
At the same time, both drivers know there are very few opportunities like Talladega to win.
Seven drivers won their first - and only NASCAR race - at Talladega. The four-lane-wide pavement, 33-degree banking and NASCAR-mandated restrictor plates create massive traffic jams at nearly 200 mph, and that allows long shots to shoot from the logjam to improbable victories.
"This racetrack creates situations," said Donnie Allison, a two-time winner at Talladega. "It all depends on what situation you're in. Some of those guys who won their only race at Talladega had fast cars. Some were flukes. It all depends on if you're at the right place at the right time."
Restrictor plates became necessary after the 1987 season when Bobby Allison's car got airborne and nearly crashed into the main grandstands. The plates restrict the flow of air and gasoline into the engines, reducing speeds by about 35 mph. Since the cars are so under-powered, they rely on the aerodynamic phenomenon known as the draft to create speed. The draft, in simple terms, are cars running nose-to-tail to divide wind resistance.
The draft also allows slower cars to run in the same pack as fast cars, as well as setting up the possibility of a 20-car crash.
"I'm just going to try to stay in the back and make laps," Blount said. "When it comes time and they start handing out paychecks, we'll be there if everything goes as planned. We're going to bring our A game (today)."
To win today, Blount and Sadler must deal with the recent domination of restrictor-plate races by Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Hendrick Motorsports. DEI cars have won five of the last six races at Talladega, while Hendrick's Jeff Gordon has won the past two restrictor plate races this year.
Hermie Sadler qualified 11th at 189.477; Blount is 31st at 188.082.
"I've got a little bit of seat time here," Blount said. "We finished second here in the ARCA race in 2002. We'd like to do better than that (today). We're going to have to be able to hang in the draft and maneuver and turn down and do whatever you want to do."
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