The Frontstretch: Thinkin' Out Loud: Talladega-1 Race Recap by Mike Neff -- Monday May 6, 2013

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Thinkin' Out Loud: Talladega-1 Race Recap

Mike Neff · Monday May 6, 2013


Key MomentNASCAR used all of the tools at their disposal to restart the race and run it to the advertised distance of 499 miles, plus a few more, rather than calling it when the red flag flew for rain on lap 124. That threw out a ho-hum finish, turned it wild and gave the Davids a chance to beat up on Goliath.

In a Nutshell – Talladega once again proved that restrictor plates are the great equalizer as Front Row Motorsports pulled off the improbable. With car owner Bob Jenkins entering the race with just two top-5 finishes, in 403 career starts David Ragan and David Gilliland ended the day 1-2, as if they were born contenders while several Sprint Cup superstars spent the night scratching their heads.

For one shining moment, David Ragan stood above the Sprint Cup field, taking small-time Front Row Motorsports to the top Sunday at Talladega.

Dramatic Moment – During the green-white-checkered finish, Ragan and Gilliland made a powerful move up the center of the three-wide racing on the backstretch to surprise Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth as the two were jockeying for the lead. It was perhaps the biggest moment at any plate track since Phoenix Racing pulled the same feat, winning with an unheralded Brad Keselowski in 2009 while Carl Edwards flipped across the line behind him.

What They’ll be Talking About Around the Water Cooler

Front Row Motorsports won their first race in 406 combined starts. Not only is it their only win, but the final lap was just the 102nd led in the history of the organization. The best result for the team, prior to Sunday this season was a 20th at Richmond for Mr. Ragan. I think he likes this one a whole lot better…

Underdogs, on Sunday had their day, but where does it rank in the 21st Century? Only a handful of victories seem to match FRM’s miracle finish: Phoenix Racing’s aforementioned Talladega trophy, in 2009 with Brad Keselowski and the Wood Brothers’ Daytona 500 triumph with a 20-year-old Trevor Bayne in 2011. Note the other two came on plate tracks, one of the few places nowadays all 43 cars are truly created equal.

Ryan Newman called out NASCAR after spending his final moments on the track underneath Kurt Busch’s car during the second “Big One” of the race. Newman did not mince words. “First of all, to my family and friends, I’m doing this interview to let everybody know that I’m all right,” he said. “They can build safer race cars, they can build SAFER walls, but they can’t get their heads out of their asses far enough to keep them on the race track, and that is pretty disappointing. I wanted to make sure I got that point across. Y’all can figure out who ‘they’ is but that is no way to end a race. Our car was much better than that. It was poor. Poor judgment in restarting the race, you got what you wanted, but poor judgment running in the dark, running in the rain. That’s it, thank you.” With NASCAR’s recent stand on Denny Hamlin’s rant against the sanctioning body, it will be interesting to see if they decide to remove any money from Newman’s bank account. A few years ago, following some choice words at ‘Dega the driver was indeed issued one of those old “secret fines” before the sport was forced by near rebellion to make them public.

Speaking of NASCAR’s struggle with consistency, how ironic was it that they chose to show the 2013 Daytona 500 during the rain delay on FOX? Just Saturday, the caution flag flew with the leaders a couple of hundred yards from the finish line and ripped the win from Kasey Kahne’s hand. The 500 replay showed a wreck exiting turn two on the final lap, yet the caution flag still wasn’t in the air as Jimmie Johnson passed under the flagstand to take the checkers. It makes it hard for competitors to understand what the playing field is when the boundaries change every time out.

Brad Keselowski was none too happy Sunday after claiming David Ragan’s restart ‘mistake’ could have cost him a victory at Talladega.

Brad Keselowski is complaining that Ragan lined up in the wrong lane for the final restart, forcing Keselowski to the bottom lane which he believes put him at a disadvantage. The beef seems to come right before the green, on the backstretch where some random passing behind the pace car caused Keselowski and Ragan to swap positions before NASCAR took control and ordered a last-minute swap. In reality, it might have been Scott Speed out of line; which one of the three was in front of who is clearly debatable, at the time of caution as shown in the 2:42 mark of this clip. My take? Keselowski needs to take a deep breath, relax and realize a change of lanes was no perfect guarantee of future success. You have to wonder, considering the Penske Racing problems with their appeal if the reigning champ simply needed an outlet upon which to vent.

NASCAR is definitely going to be under fire this coming week over both races this weekend running late into the evening. They always claim that they won’t start a race if they don’t think the entire length of the advertised distance can be completed. Well, due to the rain, the Nationwide race was cut short by ten laps before the green-white-checkered added three laps to the modified total. Both series faced such finishes but NASCAR announced the rules would be changed and, instead of the customary three attempts, only one try would be made to complete these events. While it didn’t matter in the end, it was also the end to marathon days that make you wonder how many fans kept the television on for all of it.

Darrell Waltrip has added a few words to the lexicon of racing over the years. The incessant Boogity, boogity, boogity. The restrictor plate centric “coopetition.” This weekend’s latest addition sprang from Juan Pablo Montoya’s failure to fire after the red flag. DW enlightened all of us that the No. 42 was having electronical problems.

The Hindenburg Award for Foul Fortune

Take your pick, as most anyone who was caught up in the “Big Ones” at Talladega can fall into this category. That would include Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, Jr., Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Burton, David Stremme, Kurt Busch, David Reutimann, Casey Mears, Scott Speed, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, JJ Yeley, Danica Patrick, Bobby Labonte, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Michael Waltrip. Of this group, only Speed, Truex, and Waltrip were able to recover, scoring top-10 finishes with Waltrip coming home a surprising fourth.

Matt Kenseth led 142 laps on Sunday before being shuffled out on the final lap. That means Kenseth has led 228 laps in the two restrictor plate races this season and has a 37th and eighth-place result to show for them.

On a day when one of the true underdog organizations in the sport scored their first win, Michael McDowell had an unfortunate right front failure which resulted in a 21st-place finish, one lap down that also ensured Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman would end the day with their cars in pieces.

Trevor Bayne didn’t even have the opportunity to be caught up in one of the Big Ones on Sunday as his engine done blowed up on lap 22. He wound up dead last.

Juan Pablo Montoya was bitten by the bad luck bug again this week as, when the cars fired to life after the red flag, his did not. He was forced to the garage to have the computers diagnose the problem before his ECU was fixed to allow him back into the race, three laps back. He finished 25th.

Kurt Busch, like Mr. Newman wound up with a smile turned upside down as he experienced the first rollover of his stock car racing career. Busch described the moment as “lovely” while explaining there were only four races his mom didn’t attend each year: Daytona and Talladega. The fact his tire landed mere feet from crunching the driver of the No. 39 should give you enough of an answer as to why.

The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

Michael Waltrip was a part of Talladega’s multi-car wrecks yet somehow bounced back for a top-5 result in the No. 55 Toyota.

While Michael Waltrip bounced off the wall during the second Big One of the day, he still managed to bring the No. 55 home in one piece for a fourth-place finish. Considering the carnage that happened around him, that was some very fine fortune indeed.

Regan Smith, once dreaming daily nightmares of a win lost at Talladega had himself a redemption weekend. He was awarded the victory in Saturday’s Nationwide race, based on that caution flag waving before notching a sixth-place finish in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499.

While Front Row Motorsports was claiming the win on Sunday, Leavine Family Racing scored their first top-10 finish when Scott Speed crossed the line ninth once the checkered flag was in the air. Small steps.

Aric Almirola turned in his fourth straight top-10 finish of the season by running 10th at Talladega on Sunday. No one else in Sprint Cup can match that current streak.

Austin Dillon deserves an honorable mention here, despite competing in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race. He had a broken spark plug, lost a lap then spent 74 laps trying to regain it before a very late caution gave him one last chance. Before you could blink, he was leading the event, in the midst of a green-white-checkered finish and wound up with a surprise top 10 (10th).

Worth Noting

  • Six of the last seven Talladega races have ended with a last-lap pass. The track has seen 22 last-lap passes for the win in its history since opening in 1969.
  • This win was David Ragan’s second of his career in 226 Cup series starts. That is 474 fewer starts than Bobby Labonte has in his career. Labonte celebrated his 700th Cup start this weekend at Talladega; he ran 20th, the same position Ragan finished in last Saturday night at Richmond.
  • Sunday marked Ragan’s second straight top 5 and third straight top-10 result at Talladega.
  • David Gilliland came home in second to score his second career top-5 result at Talladega.
  • Carl Edwards (third) scored just his second top 5 at Talladega in his career. For those not paying attention, that’s the same number as Gilliland above.
  • Michael Waltrip (fourth) scored his best NASCAR Cup Series finish since a runner-up performance at Loudon in July, 2008.
  • 30 lead changes during a 500-mile race at Talladega was the fewest since 2002, when there were 26 in a race that was won by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Top 10 finishers by manufacturer at Talladega

Ford – 5
Toyota – 3
Chevrolet – 2

  • A race has never been won by a pole sitter who was awarded the pole when qualifying was rained out.

What’s the Points?

Jimmie Johnson continues to lead the Cup Series standings, losing just two points to Carl Edwards, his closest pursuer. Thanks to Kasey Kahne’s early exit from the race on Sunday, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. climbed one position back to third. Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski also gained one spot each, even though they all lost ground to Johnson. At this point, Edwards is the only driver who is within one race of the top spot, and that is just barely as he is 41 points behind JJ.

Further back, Kahne resides in sixth, barely ahead of Aric Almirola who made a four-spot gain on Sunday to jump into seventh in points. Paul Menard, even though he struggled with a sour powerplant Sunday that resulted in a 26th-place finish, gained two spots in his own right, to eighth. Kyle Busch caused the first Big One (at least, that’s what he said in his post-wreck interview) but returned to the track and put in enough laps to come home 37th. That leaves him hanging on to ninth. Greg Biffle was also turning laps in a wounded race car on Sunday, nursing it home to maintain a spot in the top 10 (just barely).

Matt Kenseth’s strong run gained him two more positions in the standings to 11th. He is one point behind Biffle for the top 10 and, based on the way he’s been running this season, it won’t take more than a race or two for him to be solidly inside the Chase. Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin jumped back into the seat for the start of the Talladega race before giving it up to Brian Vickers. Unfortunately, the best laid plans went South quickly when the No. 11 was in the first Big One. When it was all said and done, Hamlin’s point total has him sitting in 31st position, 76 points behind Kurt Busch who holds down the last spot in the top 20. He has 16 races before the Chase cutoff, which means he needs to score five points more than the person in 20th for all of those races to get inside the cutoff. Assuming he wins a couple of events, possibly three to win the Wild Card, it shouldn’t be hard for him to gain the 76 points.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – While it was hardly 85 lead changes and three-wide all day, there was far more mixing it up at Talladega than many people thought there would be after the parade that was Daytona. Kenseth leading 142 laps put a bit of a damper on things, and a single-file parade out of the red flag was less than edge-of-the-seat competition. But average, at a plate race is nothing to sneeze at. We’ll give it three cans of Budweiser, this time around in honor of the folks in the infield at Talladega who posted pictures of Danica Patrick and Travis Pastrana among the NASCAR celebs who shared time with the loyal fans on Saturday night.

Next Up — The series moves to one of the oldest speedways on the schedule in Darlington, South Carolina. The famous, egg-shaped oval that will leave just about all of the cars with a few layers of missing paint off their right side should provide some of the best racing of the season and, if history repeats itself, some frazzled emotions on pit lane. The race broadcast will be at 6:45 PM ET on Saturday night on FOX along with MRN radio.

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Bill B
05/06/2013 07:02 AM

Another restrictor plate race another crapshoot ending. Lots of wrecked cars. Thankfully no one was hurt.
2 down, 2 to go.

05/06/2013 07:55 AM

be interesting to see if ryan is fined, public or secret fine. i live west of atlanta and when the race was restarted, it was very overcast and the sun was setting. it was dark at my house when they finised. yes talladega is roughly an hour west of where i live and in central time zone, but without lights, and drizzle falling, ryan was right in his comments.

way too much engineering and money is spent on the plate tracks and way too many cars come home wrecked. it seems like g/w/c is normal for ending race at plate tracks, and that’s just a recipe for more wrecks and carnage.

Carl D.
05/06/2013 08:07 AM

How refreshing it was to hear Ryan Newman complain about how someone else ruined his day. I guess boss Tony Stewart was too busy trying to beat Jeff Burton and salvage a 27th place finish to do it himself this week. Someone should send another case of cheese to SHR to go with all that whine. Ryan, if you don’t like late-race restarts at restrictor plate tracks, you know where the entrance to the garage area is, right? Then you can safely watch the end of the race from the comfort of your motorcoach.

I believe it was Mark Knoffler who sang “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.” Kurt Busch was definitely the bug yesterday.

Brad Keselowski is my favorite driver but in this case he should have just kept his trap shut and moved on. One of his strengths has always been his ability to not get distracted by things that are out of his control.

According to Jayski, Martin Truex Jr. won the “Moog Chassis Parts Problem Solver of the Race” award. I did not know that award existed.

05/06/2013 08:29 AM

The only way ‘dega is an “equalizer” is if the 48 is taken out early in the “big one”. Otherwise, what REAL difference does it make? Of course, if that DID happen, Nascar would just go on another fishing exhibition and find something to take away some points with whoever was “guilty”.

All that said, I’m very happy for Front Row.

And well said, Ryan. Hope you can pay the fines coming your way. Oh, and you may find yourself in trouble during the next inspection…just sayin’.

05/06/2013 08:40 AM

I took a nap during the rain delay and watched the last sixty laps only because I knew another “big one” was going to happen. The endings at these plate tracks is so predictable. It will take a driver dying before anything is done about it.

Laidback Racing
05/06/2013 09:12 AM

Under the topic Underdogs, on Sunday had their day, but where does it rank in the 21st Century?

How about David Regan’s win at Darlington in the 78 car? No one lucks into a win at Darlington!

05/06/2013 09:22 AM

i watched after the rain delay expecting a spectacle but hoping for some good racing. also found it interesting that hamlin wouldn’t talk about logano and even more so that he guaranteed another “WOAP” (my new term for wreck of apocalyptic proportions.) we keep joking but it really has become a lowest common denominator entertainment venue like professional wrestling hasn’t it? from the has been or wanna be national anthem performers tip of it’s nose to the manipulated body of it’s work all the way to the tip of it’s toes with a giant money grab at the core of it’s greedy heart.

that said, an underdog team did race their way to a win. even if it was at talladega. some how somewhere there’s still hope for legitimacy and real racing. i hope.

bud sudz
05/06/2013 09:38 AM

Laidback—It was Regan Smith (not “David Regan” aka David Ragan) who won in the 78 car at Darlington. That was a huge upset, however Furniture Row (78) is a little better funded and quite a bit more competitive (Kurt Busch is running that car in the Top 10 every week)than Front Row. To place two cars 1-2, when you only have 2 Top 5 finishes historically in over 400 starts is a big-time upset.

05/06/2013 11:46 AM

i keep waiting to read or hear that the winning car didn’t pass post-race tech. it was great seeing someone different win. for most of the race i thought it was either going to be kenseth or johnson.

05/06/2013 12:00 PM

RP tracks are not “equalizers”, they are simply crapshoot, lucky finishes. Certainly any track where luck is such a big part of the mix should not be included in the last 10 races to determine the championship.

Personally I think they are stupid and frightening to watch and I don’t watch racing for the wrecks. 90% of the race is boring, with 10% scary/exciting.

I was following the race via twitter, trackpass and the radio feed – in between working outside and in the house. If I have the TV on at all, it is with the sound muted and only to see the replays since more than likely Fox was in commercial during the live action.

I found out who won when I got home. No, I didn’t sit around to listen to DW/Mikey & the Fox Fools talk during the red flag. Congrats to the David’s, it was nice to have an underdog win.

05/06/2013 12:11 PM

Let’s see John Middlebrook overturn the Penske and Gibbs penalties.

THAT would be an equalizer.

05/06/2013 12:20 PM

I hope Nascar doesn’t find an illegal part that weighs about equal to two cotton balls in the Front Row Motorsports cars.

I really doubt they will since Front Row Motorsports poses no real challenge and it’s a nice feel-good story for them to win that “race”.

05/06/2013 01:15 PM

On the caution call at the end of the Nationwide race, that is always going to be a judgment call. Race Control has to make a split second decision based on what is happening. I think they should have let the leaders cross the line then throw the caution, but I was happy Regan Smith won. That is a “rock and a hard place” call.

05/06/2013 02:15 PM

Yes we all know a certain driver of the 55 was fortunate to get through all the wreckage. FOX talked about him non stop. I guess falling out of line and losing the draft is “a smart move” according to DW.

Nascar should consider themselves lucky. If Busch’s car didn’t land on Newmans he would have been doing barrel rolls down the track. I’m not a fan of Kurt’s but I’m glad that might not have had a happy ending. Funny how FOX glossed over that, instead choosing to use superlatives at the wreckage.

I don’t blame Newman at all for his comments, considering how many times he has been airborne, cars falling on him etc at plate tracks. Nascar loves all the carnage. It sells tickets. Too bad we have to put the drivers at risk for this kind of entertainment.

05/06/2013 02:20 PM

Correction to my previous post. Should have said:

I’m glad that DID NOT happen as that might not have had a happy ending.

05/06/2013 02:26 PM

can you imagine if they had actually NOT let that race run to completion? Then there would be twice as much whining. The fans and viewers got what the wanted, including me. fast speeds sometimes cause wrecks, sorry. and…CRAPSHOOT? really? who won Daytona? hardly a crapshoot there, who won TDEGA last year? another favorite. King Richard won the infamous Daytona 500 in 79 after another big wreck, I didnt hear all this noise then.

05/06/2013 04:01 PM

Same ol’ restrictor plate BS, with BS wrecks and a BS winner.

On the bright side, the Indycar race in Sau Paulo had was incredibly exciting and had a last-lap pass for the win. The right way.

Moe Foe
05/06/2013 07:23 PM

I agree with Newman’s own. They haven’t put enuf brain sweat on keeping these cars down when going backwards. One thing is to angle that back/ TV panel out at the bottom to get downforce at the point of attack when turned around. That’ll also keep cars from touching, as the following car will be the one losing grip.

They could also make the spoiler a triangle shape to get downforce both ways.

They just ain’t thinking it though. Get that thing in the wind tunnel bolted in backwards and keep bendin’ stuff until the lift goes away.

05/06/2013 09:28 PM

When that first yellow flag for rain came out, you could almost hear the NASCAR control going, “OH SH*T!!”, when they realised that there were FOUR!, count them, FOUR!, Fords at the front, with the “un-chosen one” leading! They had to get that race restarted somehow, no matter what. I’m glad they did get it restarted, and to have it end with three Fords in the first three positions made this race worthy of five ice-cold Rickard’s Reds! But don’t worry NASCAR! Your chosen one, driving the chosen brand, did finish fifth! And Jaws-In-The-Booth was happy that his brother finished fourth. That part sucked!

By the way, for all you Stenhouse haters coming out of the woodwork, I suggest you go back and look at the replay of that second big one. Yeley went down, and when he did, Stenhouse got a run on him and began to pass him. Then, suddenly, when Stenhouse was like half-way passed his rear quarter panel, Yeley suddenly changed his mind and moved back up. Yeley put Stenhouse into the wall! I watched it on RaceHub tonight, and you could see clearly that Yeley started to move down and that opened up a large enough hole so Stenhouse could go for it to pass Yeley! Then, Yeley did a complete about-face and moved back up, crowding Stenhouse and forcing him into the wall. That was Yeley’s fault.

05/06/2013 11:06 PM

@ken WHAT???
low… very low percentage move. a mistake at best.
Stenhouse is a rookie with a lot to learn (if he’s smart enough.. which i doubt (um, he’s “dating” danic…rash )

05/07/2013 11:08 AM


“ It will take a driver dying before anything is done about it”

Does the name Dale Earnhardt ring a bell?

Already happened, still no changes.

05/09/2013 11:47 AM

John, I saw that Sao Paulo race too…it was great, and definitely better than the “single file until the big one” Talladega racing we’ve seen in every event for the last five years.

I watched the tail end of Talladega, the first race I’ve watched all year. Same old.


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