No team seems to have Talladega Superspeedway figured out better than Richard Childress Racing. A year ago, Kevin Harvick won the spring race at Talladega, and teammate Clint Bowyer beat Harvick for a 1-2 finish in the fall race. Little wonder RCR drivers, including Paul Menard and Jeff Burton, like their chances Sunday in the Sprint Cup Aaron's 499 at the 2.66-mile oval. Bowyer won October's restrictor-plate race by passing Harvick as the caution flag waved on the final lap.
"I really did think when the caution came out that I was ahead of him, and I was," Bowyer said. " … When you're sitting in the equipment that we get to sit in at those superspeedways, it doesn't surprise me that I was racing a teammate for the win."
Harvick is the only two-time Cup winner this season and is ninth in points, but he blew an engine 22 laps into the first restrictor-plate race of the year at Daytona.
"In all of the practices and races leading up to the race in Daytona, our cars were fast, and then the bottom fell out, and we had a little problem with the engine," he said. "Those things are going to happen. I think we should be good at Talladega."
Bowyer led 31 laps at Daytona before he was collected in a wreck with four laps left.
"You have to be conscious of your surroundings," said Bowyer, who is 12th in the standings after consecutive top-five finishes, including second last week at Texas. "You can't put yourself in a bad situation. If they're racing hard in front of you, and you don't think you should be around, get out of there."
Menard is 11th in points and was second, his career best in the series, at Talladega in fall 2008. Burton won a 150-mile qualifying race at Daytona but has yet to win at Talladega in his 18-year Cup career.
"I feel like we have cars that can win races, run in the front," said Burton, who has gone 84 races since his last Cup win, in fall 2008 at Charlotte. "We have to miss the wreck. What happened in both of last year's races was me minding my own business, and the next thing you know I'm in a wreck."
The drivers are bracing for a repeat of Daytona and its two-car drafts.
"I think the two-car draft is something that everyone is going to try to use at Talladega, no question," Burton said. "The doors are open, and the only way to shut it is to change some rules. I don't even know how you can change the rules to make it so you can shut it. You would have to do something pretty radical."