Danger awaits at Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. --- The moment Carl Edwards heard the words "Talladega Superspeedway" last Sunday, his mood shifted. One minute, he was celebrating a second-place finish to Jimmie Johnson at Kansas; the next, he was despondent.

Talladega does that to drivers.

The 2.66-mile racetrack, site of Sunday's AMP Energy 500, sparks more apprehension and fear than any other track. With traffic running 200 mph in three-wide, 10-deep packs, little mistakes quickly turn into big accidents. And for drivers fighting for a championship, those little mistakes can be a lot more costly than a wrecked race car.

A year ago, six of 12 drivers in the Chase for the Championship either blew an engine or were in a multicar crash at Talladega. None of them was a factor in the Chase.

Johnson leads Edwards by 10 points heading to Talladega this year. Greg Biffle is 30 points back in third place. All three have finished among the top five in the first three Chase races, but each would gladly accept anything on the lead lap on Sunday.

Edwards expects all three points leaders to stick together during the race. That way, none of the three will gain an advantage.

"I'll probably be glued to Jimmie, no matter where he's at," Edwards said. "... If I'm running fifth and Jimmie falls back to 40th to ride around and watch some action, I will probably be following him back there, and vice-versa."

In the four years of the playoffs, the champion has made his biggest move at Talladega. Johnson finished second there a year ago; Tony Stewart was second in 2005 and Kurt Busch fifth in 2004.

Biffle has bad memories from Talladega. In the past four years, he's crashed there three times during the Chase. The one time he didn't, he still wound up 25th.

Although Talladega has been pivotal in both of Johnson's championships, he doesn't think it should be part of the 10-race playoffs. Biffle and Edwards agree.

"We do not like Talladega in the Chase," Johnson said. "We love Talladega. Talladega is a blast in the spring. But this time of the year, for those 12 guys, there isn't a worse track to put on the schedule for us and our mental stability."

Reach Don Coble at don.coble@morris.com.

AMP ENERGY 500


(RACE NO. 30 OF 36)


WHERE: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway


WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday


TRACK DIMENSIONS: 2.66-mile tri-oval with 33-degree banking


BROADCAST: Television -- 1 p.m. ABC-Ch. 6; Radio -- 1:15 p.m., Motor Racing Network, Sirius Satellite Radio 128


LAST YEAR'S WINNER: Jeff Gordon


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