The Key Moment: A ten car wreck on the white flag lap drew a caution and sealed the win for Kyle Busch just as the outside line was mounting a challenge.
In a Nutshell: It’s contrived excitement, but you just can’t look away.
Dramatic Moment: The last thirty laps of the race were all nailbiters.
The 20 and 88 car tangled to set off the customary Talladega smoking pig pile of a wreck on lap 173.
Had Tony Stewart not been able to keep his car up against the wall after cutting down a tire on lap 143 while leading, he almost certainly would have triggered a wreck that would have eliminated most of the field.
What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week
Was Kyle Busch’s winning pass made with two tires beneath the yellow line? If so, was he forced out of bounds?
Dario Franchitti’s fractured ankle once again highlights the other side of the equation for the Buschwhackers. It’s tough to explain to your Cup sponsors why you can’t race on Sunday after getting hurt in the Little League race on Saturday. In Franchitti’s case — while he can use all the laps he can get in a stock car trying to hasten his learning curve — the two plate tracks shouldn’t be part of his schedule on Saturdays.
With three Cup wins this season, Carl Edwards has become NASCAR’s head cheerleader for the new Fat Car. But other drivers are seemingly far less enamored of these pigs. Ryan Newman speculated this weekend that Michael McDowell’s barrel roll crash at Texas was a result of the new car’s higher center of gravity. When asked why he chose to run in the Nationwide Series races, Tony Stewart was typically blunt. “They’re designed to handle good,” he explained, “So for at least for 50 percent of the weekend, you get to drive a car that feels like a race car instead of a car that feels like a dump truck. “
If you want some clue as to why Tony Stewart is posturing as if getting ready to leave Joe Gibbs racing, review the video of Stewart in Victory Lane. While he thanked the Old Spice people, he once again failed to mention Toyota. And yes, Tony Stewart fans, I too was touched by his interaction with that Make-A-Wish child. He isn’t all bad.
With Stewart, Newman, Biffle, Truex, and Edwards all considering their options, it looks like this year’s Silly Season game of musical chairs could get as interesting as last year’s Battle of the Earnhardts.
Today’s obscene gas prices seem to be cutting into ticket sales at most tracks. Perhaps that explains the uptick in the TV ratings this year? NASCAR’s not alone in facing the challenge of rising fuel prices. Despite spectacular weather, the crowd at the Carlisle Swap meet I attended last week was the thinnest I recall in decades. Friday and Saturday’s crowds seemed about the same as last year, in part due to the auction, but the number of RVs parked in and around the fairgrounds also seemed to have declined dramatically.
For those of you keeping score at home, Joe Gibbs-prepared Toyotas have now won six of the ten Nationwide series events this season, including the last four consecutive races. There is no challenge so large that throwing cubic acres of cash at it can’t solve.
Is Jeff Gordon ever going to win one of these things again? Think Rick Hendrick is beginning to think a Busch in hand is worth two in the bird?
What was the point of FOX’s “All You Can Eat” segment with one of their production assistants? Was anybody else waiting to see the fat man hurl? FOX with an extra half-hour to fill in a prerace program is more dangerous than a toddler with an automatic weapon.
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked poised to finally win a race again until he got run over from behind.
Michael Waltrip went from leading the race with four to go to a 27th place finish.
Carl Edwards was plagued by right front tire issues all day, and finally managed to hit the wall. Combined with his hard crash on Saturday, it was a pretty lousy weekend for the young man.
Matt Kenseth’s race had barely begun before a tire problem put him into the wall.
Tony Stewart cut down a tire, triggered the big wreck, and ended the day in the garage.
Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon lost seemingly solid shots at a Top 10 finish in the final laps of the race.
The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune
Winner Kyle Busch had an eventful day, losing a lap after problems getting to his pit and barely hanging onto his car after hard contact with the No. 26 car got both of them sideways.
Travis Kvapil showed up at Talladega with a new sponsor and managed a decent sixth place finish to show for it.
Casey Mears got off to a rough start this season, but managed a decent seventh place finish Sunday ahead of all three of his teammates, who had been considered among the favorites going into the race.
Last year, Brian Vickers was struggling just to qualify for races. Sunday he might have had a shot at a win had the race ended under the green flag.
While the weather forecast looked pretty dire on Friday, NASCAR managed to get both races in at Talladega with no delays or interruptions.
When Juan Pablo Montoya tangled with Paul Mernard, sending the No. 15 car spinning, he was able to drive on with only a stern warning from NASCAR to a second place finish.
- Kyle Busch scored his seventh win in NASCAR’s top three touring divisions this year.
- Juan Pablo Montoya’s second place finish matches his best Cup result on an oval course. Montoya also finished second in last year’s Brickyard 400.
- Denny Hamlin (3rd) has now strung together five consecutive Top 10 finishes. He’s averaging a 3.6 average finish in those five races.
- David Ragan (4th) scored the second best finish of his brief Cup career.
- Brian Vickers (5th) scored his first Top 5 since last year’s Coca Cola 600.
- Travis Kvapil (6th) managed his best Cup finish of 2008.
- Casey Mears’ seventh place finish matches his best of this year.
- Jeff Gordon (19th) has gone three straight races without posting a Top 10 finish. That hasn’t happened to him since Michigan, Bristol, and Fontana last summer.
- Paul Menard (14th) enjoyed his best Cup finish of 2008 despite his tangle with Montoya. So did Scott Riggs (16th without the Montoya contact).
- Greg Biffle has finished 18th or worse in three of the last four Cup races. Matt Kenseth is in an even tougher slump, with three finishes of 30th or worse in those same four races. For Kenseth, Talladega was his first DNF (41st) since Charlotte last fall.
- The Top 10 finishers at Talladega drove three Toyotas, two Fords, two Dodges, and three Chevys.
- Regan Smith in 21st posted the best finish by a rookie at Talladega.
- Sunday’s race was only the second time since 1999 a Chevrolet driver failed to win a Cup event at Talladega.
What’s the Points?
Jeff Burton maintains the points lead but Kyle Busch has narrowed the gap to just 22 points. Dale Earnhardt Jr. remains third, 79 out of the lead while Jimmie Johnson remains fourth, 102 points behind.
Kasey Kahne had the worst day in the points, falling two positions out of the Top 12 to 13th after finishing 23rd.
Five drivers in the Top 12 advanced at least one spot today; Denny Hamlin (now fourth), Clint Bowyer (now seventh), Greg Biffle (now eighth), and Ryan Newman (now eleventh).
Three drivers in the Top 12 lost at least one spot today: Kevin Harvick (now sixth), Tony Stewart (now ninth), and Carl Edwards (now tenth).
Drivers of note making progress in the points include Juan Pablo Montoya (up five spots to twelfth, now clinging to the final spot in the Chase by a point), Brian Vickers (up three spots to 15th), David Ragan (up three spots to 16th), and David Gilliland (up three spots to 18th).
Drivers riding the downbound train after Talladega include Matt Kenseth (down four more spots to 19th), Kurt Busch (down four spots to 20th), and Martin Truex, Jr. (down a further three spots to 17th).
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic): We’ll give this one four well dented and worn out cans of generic stuff with a flaming Jack chaser. At least no one got hurt on Sunday.
Next Up: It’s Saturday night under the lights at Richmond, the first of four straight night races on the Cup schedule.
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