Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton managed to spend much of the day paired up in the “Talladega Tango,” otherwise known as tandem drafting. But on the last lap, thanks to the power of the “slingshot,” it was the Emporia, Kansas native edging by Burton by 0.018 seconds to repeat as the fall winner at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday afternoon to give Richard Childress Racing its 100th career NASCAR victory.
“Things played out just as we planned.” a triumphant Bowyer said post-race.
The day had been billed as a “wild card” affair for the Chase contenders and it did not disappoint. Kyle Busch had a long afternoon, first with a drafting miscue with teammate Joey Logano after the slowing car of Trevor Bayne was attempting to get on pit road. Busch would send Logano spinning, losing his dance partner for the time being. But things got worse for the Las Vegas, Nevada native, as he was collected in a multi-car pile up on lap 104 triggered by the spinning car of A.J. Allmendinger and was relegated to a 33rd-place finish.
That multi-car pile up also threw a curveball in the championship chase of Kevin Harvick, who caved in the front of his car and cracked his oil pan in the process, knocking him down to a 32nd-place finish, nine laps off the pace, and dropping him from second in the points to fifth, twenty-six markers back behind Carl Edwards.
Jimmie Johnson’s hopes of rebounding from a disastrous Charlotte race and perhaps winning a sixth consecutive Sprint Cup championship took another blow, after a combination of contact from a late race incident involving Andy Lally and Terry Labonte and losing the draft in the final shuffle to the finish would leave the El Cajon, California native with a disappointing 26th-place finish, now knocking him 50 markers out of the lead in seventh place with four races to go in the season.
Fellow Chase contender Kurt Busch would also see his Chase hopes perhaps all but vanish when he rammed into the spinning car of Bobby Labonte on lap 173, caving in his front end and leaving him with a 36th-place finish. This finish leaves the elder Busch brother in eighth in the championship standings, 52 points away from the lead.
After the final caution of the day came out for Regan Smith’s frightening head-on hit into the turn 1 wall on lap 180, the race would have a two lap dash to the finish with Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer checking out on the field. Burton would lead the field to the white flag, but in dramatic fashion in the final turn, Bowyer took advantage of the famous sling-shot maneuver, edging past Burton for the win.
“I told him (Richard Childress), this is Chevrolet’s 100th Anniversary, what an awesome paint scheme, so proud of the paint scheme, this is Richard’s 100th race that he has won in the Cup series, so I told him congratulations, I guess I am going to have to race his ass for the 101st (laughs), but just thank you to Cheerios, Hamburger Helper, everybody involved with this car, BB&T, they have been a long supporter of ours, it meant a lot to me to get all these guys back in victory lane before we cap off this season.” Bowyer exclaimed.
Burton was happy after the race for Bowyer, but still a bit dejected that he could not get back to Victory Lane.
“Well, I mean that is plate racing, we put ourselves in position to win the race and Clint (Bowyer) did a great job, I thought he made his move a little too early and as it turned out he did it perfect. We had a great day, part of me wants to cry and part of me wants to cheer, anytime you leave here and the car is in one piece you should be happy; but to come that close after the year we have had is pretty disappointing,” Burton said post-race.
Dave Blaney matched his career-best finish in third place, which also allows for up to two kids to eat free today at Golden Corral if an adult brings the results of Sunday’s race to a location, with help from fourth-place Brad Keselowski.
“It was interesting the whole race. Our Miller Lite Dodge was fast all day. I worked really hard with Dave Blaney all day. He was a great, great helper and I owe a lot of credit to him. We stayed smart and brought it up front at the end.” Keselowski said.
Brian Vickers rounded out the top-5. Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Michael Waltrip, and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-10.
Carl Edwards finished 11th and now holds a 14 point lead over second place in the Chase in Matt Kenseth, who finished 18th, with four races remaining in the season.
“That was a heck of a day for teamwork. Greg (Biffle) did an unbelievable job of sticking with me and we get to come out of here extending our points lead, which is good. It is good for Ford and good for Subway and everybody. I am pleased that we are able to get out of here with the points lead intact because you just never know what can happen here and to extend it is just great,” Edwards said.
The average speed of the race was 143.404 mph and was slowed by nine cautions for 38 laps. There were 72 lead changes among 26 drivers and the race took 3 hours, 29 minutes, and 14 seconds to complete with a listed attendance at 105,000 fans.
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