The Frontstretch: Frontstretch Breakdown: Aaron's 312 by Toni Montgomery -- Sunday April 30, 2006

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Frontstretch Breakdown: Aaron's 312

Toni Montgomery · Sunday April 30, 2006

 

In A Nutshell: Defending Busch Series champion Martin Truex, Jr. has run in only one race this season… but he has a perfect record to show for it. Truex played the three and four wide, slicing and dicing Talladega chess game to perfection and took the win in Saturday’s Aaron’s 312. The win marked Truex, Jr.’s third consecutive victory at the track. A late caution set up a three lap shootout to the finish, with Truex leading and a bevy of teammates poised to challenge him…but none of them were able to coordinate their efforts for a serious charge. Kyle Busch came home second, followed by Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers, and Clint Bowyer rounding out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: Martin Truex, Jr. A number of guys took turns at the top, which is normal at a restrictor plate track, but was there ever any doubt Truex would prevail as long as he was still out front at the end? Truex learned from Dale Earnhardt, Jr., a master of the draft, but in case you’ve never noticed, when it comes down to it at the end of the race and those two are at the head of the pack, Truex has been the one coming out on top more often than not, at least on the Busch side of the fence. The fact that he has now won three races in a row at Talladega should tell you something; don’t think the other drivers don’t know about Truex’s talent, either. Truex should have been a sitting duck in a shootout finish, but the other drivers all knew it wasn’t going to be as easy as it appeared. It simply took the other drivers too long to figure out how they were going to try and beat Truex, giving him all the time he needed to mount an effective defense.

Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend:
1) Did the Buschwhackers get the message about rough driving?

There was a distinct lack of Busch regulars getting run over by Cup drivers this week. NASCAR sent the message, and the drivers got it loud and clear.

2) Does the Busch Series actually have the better restrictor plate track package?

The Busch Series currently runs the plate track package with the wicker bills and roof blades that was removed from the Nextel Cup cars after the death of Dale Earnhardt due to safety concerns. Notice that the Busch Series race featured no large wrecks, and the two that did happen in the middle of the pack were limited to one or two cars. It was also a close and competitive race. From what I saw, there didn’t seem to be any safety concerns, and it was just the sort of race you’d think fans would want to see.

3) Where was Tony Stewart’s spotter?

For those who didn’t see it, Tony Stewart gets the "Wild Ride of the Race" award for his aerobatic maneuvers on the frontstretch. Stewart tried to fill into a hole in the low line that wasn’t quite big enough and got turned off the front end of Kenny Wallace’s No. 22 AutoZone Ford, sending him airborne in front of traffic.

Unfortunately for Stewart, his spotter was doing his job there. There’s no way anyone could have cleared Stewart to move down into that hole in front of Kenny Wallace with most of Wallace’s front end still in the spot. Even Stewart admitted Wallace had nowhere to go to avoid the 33 car with a pack of cars stacked right behind them.

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle:
A big shoutout to Kertus Davis this week. Davis did a phenomenal job in qualifying, earning a tenth place starting spot and outqualifying a number of the big guns. It didn’t end there, either. When the green flag fell, Davis hung on to the lead draft, running with cars with far better equipment and finances than his underfunded effort. Unfortunately, his nice run came to an end when a flat tire sent him to the pits under green, but he still came home with his best finish of the season in 32nd, building momentum for Richmond and beyond.

Kudos to those drivers not involved in what could have been a major crash with Tony Stewart. Stewart ended up sliding down the track on his roof after his contact with Wallace, and all but Danny O’Quinn were able to avoid hitting him. Another shoutout to Johnny Sauter, who made a nice move to avoid Stewart’s car and fell out of the sky directly in his path.

The highest finishing Busch regular and the Raybestos Rookie of the Race were the same driver this week, as Mark McFarland takes both honors with a nice seventh place result. This guy drives for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Does anyone else besides me think there might be something to that?

Kevin Harvick added another ten points to his lead, and now holds a margin of 299 over second place Clint Bowyer. However, Harvick’s car failed post-race inspection, as the car was measured as too low…possible fines and points penalties will be announced this week. Stay tuned!

Behind Harvick and Bowyer, Carl Edwards advanced two more spots to third and trails the leader by 372 markers, while Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley each slid back one spot to fourth and fifth.

Paul Menard scored another Top 10 finish and held on to sixth in points, but everything behind him was up for grabs. Kyle Busch moved up one more spot to seventh and Greg Biffle improved two places to eighth in the standings, even though Biffle has only run in eight of ten races so far this season. Jon Wood slipped two spots down to ninth in points, while Johnny Sauter reentered the Top 10, taking the final spot.

Buschwhacker Watch:
Buschwhackers in this race: 15
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 146 of 430
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10: 7
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10 YTD: 75 of 100
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 10
Buschwhackers ranked in Top 10 of Busch Series points standings: 7

Quotable:
"Couple of Hendrick cars, couple of Childress cars, couple of Roush cars and little old me all by myself." Martin Truex, Jr. on his view at the end of the race

"All I saw was Stewart upside down coming down on my hood. I didn’t really have anywhere to go. It’s just one of those deals." Danny O’Quinn

"Well, I had the best coach on the pit box, (Dale) Junior. He said, "˜Stay in the middle lane and don’t get out of it’ and it paid off. I’m more worn out in this superspeedway racing than short tracks." Mark McFarland

"It’s like going down the interstate. If a hole opens up, you go for it." John Andretti

"In all honesty, when the 33 was upside down and flying, I was looking up at him to make sure that he wasn’t going to land on me and I was making sure that I was far enough to the outside to miss him and I just got the outside wall a little bit." Todd Kluever

"We had better than a 23rd-place car today, for sure. The Curb Agajanian crew did a great job giving me a great car for qualifying and the race. The problem with these restrictor plate races is that you just can’t do it alone. Maybe I’m too new at this for anyone to have enough confidence in me to work with me. We can always second-guess ourselves for sliding back into the pack and cruising around until the end. I think it was the right thing to do, even though the “Big One” never happened. You can never count on anything around here. Maybe if we would’ve tried to stay up front and show everybody what a great car we had, they would’ve been more inclined to work with us." Aaron Fike

Next Up: Proving that variety is a good thing, we go from the wide open, restrictor plate, Big One breeding Talladega to the tight, fast, and exciting short track in Richmond, VA for the Circuit City 250. It will be a Friday night under the lights as television coverage starts at 7:30 PM ET on FX.

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