It’s a common phrase used when describing NASCAR restrictor-plate races – “checkers or wreckers.” The driver and his racecar either take the checkered flag and head to victory lane, or the racecar ends up on a wrecker, having been collected in whatever late-race chaos that typically occurs at these tracks.
Johnson is most familiar with the “wreckers” scenario of late, having failed to finish a points-paying plate race last year. In addition, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, where the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads next for Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 restrictor-plate race, ranks as Johnson’s worst track in the NASCAR driver rating system.
There is a bright side for the five-time champion, who also has two wins (April 2006 and 2011) at the 2.66 mile superspeedway. He also scored a victory in this year’s season opening Daytona 500, the sport’s biggest race of the year. Another good sign is Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus enjoys the Alabama track. The Illinois native worked for Stanley Smith just down the road in Chelsea early in his career.
But a little luck never hurts at Talladega, where attrition is high. In last year’s October race there, Johnson had a shot to finish his first restrictor-plate race of the year in his fourth attempt when a last-lap accident derailed his efforts.
With good fortune already having struck for him at a restrictor-plate track, could Johnson reverse his 2012 results and go from wreckers to checkers this weekend? Stranger things have happened at Talladega, for sure.