10. No. 24: “Junior bumped me, Junior bumped me, Junior bumped me, Junior bumped me, Junior bumped me again. Tell NASCAR to make Junior stop bumping me, If Junior bumps me again, I’m telling!”
Brian Vickers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jimmie Johnson. Talladega. Discuss.
All the post-race attention was on Brian Vickers’s uber-controversial last-lap punt of Chase contenders Jimmie Johnson and Earnhardt — and understandably so. But Gordon and Earnhardt lit a few fireworks of their own when Jeff accused Junior of excessively rough bump-drafting.
Last Friday at Talladega, Mark Martin announced his future racing plans, raising more than a few eyebrows with his intentions. As you’ve likely already heard by now, Martin will leave Roush Racing to drive the No. 01 Chevrolet presently driven by Joe Nemechek and owned by MB2 Motorsports in 2007. The arrangement is reported to have Martin compete in 20 Nextel Cup races, as well as the Bud Shootout and the All-Star Challenge; rookie Regan Smith will finish out the schedule, driving the other 16 events.
Other than Jeff Gordon’s early exit, the Chase picture wasn’t altered much until the final 10 laps of the race. That’s when all heck broke loose: Jeff Burton had to pit under green with a flat tire, then Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. became involved in their infamous last lap crash. In those final 30 miles of racing, the entire points picture changed: Burton went from widening his point lead even more to having it cut down to only six, as by the end of the day, everyone but Gordon had gained on him. A race that had produced clear championship favorites the past two seasons now found itself responsible for tightening the points race.
What I need to write about after the race at Talladega – is how NASCAR needs to prepare for a future that is less than bright. NASCAR has made the same three mistakes (or variations on the theme anyway) for far too long, and as the sanctioning body of one of the most popular sports in the country, they must learn from these mistakes for the good of the sport – and now, rather than later, before enough fans start leaving your house as fast as I can run.
While this is NOT real racing, it is sure an exciting event! This year featured over 60 lead changes, with 40 of them legitimate green flag passes on the track. Now, if we can just get NASCAR to not play GOD with the results… we will be OK.
0 – the number of drivers, crew chiefs, and team members that were happy about the post-practice restrictor plate change at Talladega this weekend.
One final lap on NASCAR’s fastest superspeedway. That’s all that stood between a jubilant Jimmie Johnson and Victory Lane Sunday, a signature win destined to get him back in the championship Chase. For Brian Vickers running behind him, he could have seen an opportunity lying ahead, too – a chance to perhaps write his name on a Nextel Cup trophy for the first time in 107 starts. Either way, it looked like nothing could go wrong as the Hendrick cars, ranked second and third, barreled down the back straightaway at 200 mph, both with runs that would push them in front of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and clearly win the race for one of them.
While attempting to make the pass on Junior for the lead, Brian Vickers bumped Jimmie Johnson from behind a little too hard and in the wrong place, clipping the No. 48 car in the right rear corner and sending Johnson straight into the No. 8 Chevrolet. Both cars spun out of harm’s way down the back straightaway into Turn 3 while Vickers streaked by to take the checkered flag, his first Cup win in 107 career starts. Kasey Kahne streaked past the melee to take second, with Kurt Busch third, Matt Kenseth fourth, and Martin Truex Jr. collecting his first career top-five finish in fifth.