Looking for the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How behind Sunday’s race? Amy Henderson has you covered with each week with the answers to six race-day questions, covering all five Ws and even the H… the Big Six. Who… gets my shoutout of the race? It shouldn’t have been unexpected. Anyone who didn’t think Dale …
NASCAR 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.
What is there to say that’s positive about a type of racing where one driver makes a small mistake and a dozen or more others pay the price? Talladega, along with Daytona, is the epitome of what racing should not be: artificially restricted power that allows no throttle response, huge crashes that destroy a dozen or more innocent bystanders, drivers not racing for most of the race because it doesn’t matter until the last few laps. Yes, the finishes are close, but is a close finish worth watching a race just waiting for the inevitable Big One and wondering who will get taken out this time?
Brian Vickers spun in turn three on lap 396 to bring out the final caution flag of the night. It brought most of the field to the pits, scrambling the running order and cost Juan Pablo Montoya his first win on an oval.
The thing about Brad Keselowski that makes him a threat every place on the circuit is that he doesn’t let any racetrack beat him. You can’t look at past finishes and think, “Hey, a rival could really have a great day, because Keselowski isn’t that good here.” No sooner will the thought be formed than Keselowski will go out and prove it to be wrong by posting a stronger finish than he’s ever had before. That, really, is what makes him scary good, and a threat to win every time out. Sure, he’ll have his bad luck, but that rarely indicates a trend. Prior to his back-to-back Bristol wins (fall ’11 and spring ’12), Keselowski hadn’t even cracked the top 10 in three Cup races there, posting a best finish of 13th. Now, he’s a top pick. And he can do that anywhere.
For possibly the first time ever, Dale Earnhardt Jr. snuck up for a good finish. Usually, it’s impossible for Earnhardt to fly under the radar in a race. But this week, with the spotlight on his teammate and his former employee running for the Cup, Earnhardt did just that, finishing 10th after running mid-pack for most of the day.
Jeff Gordon was among the drivers who pitted on a quick caution on lap 155. In the end, it resulted in the No. 24 having enough fuel to make it to the finish when Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. had to pit from the front of the field. Gordon ended the night taking the first win for Hendrick Motorsports at Homestead-Miami Speedway while his teammate Jimmie Johnson sat in his car in the garage, having lost the championship due to a faulty rear end.
Jeff Gordon intentionally wrecked Clint Bowyer, collecting Joey Logano and Aric Almirola as the field was coming to the white flag. The result was a green-white-checkered finish, one that saw Danica Patrick wreck on the first of two laps, lay down a large amount of oil on the track, then cause a complete melee on the front straight as the cars came to the checkered flag. The final wreck tore up over half-a-dozen race cars while the incident between Gordon and Bowyer set off a rumble in the garage, one reminiscent of the Tide team vs. the Kodiak crew at the 1989 Winston.
Dale Jarrett said it best: as much as everyone wanted to see the race end, and as close as some teams were on fuel mileage, there needed to be a caution for Danica Patrick on the green-white-checkered attempt. NASCAR’s failure to throw the yellow was costly. As Harvick took the checkers, several cars sustained heavy damage as their drivers raced for position coming to the finish line, only to realize that there was fluid on the track from Patrick’s limping car. Menard slammed into the back end of Patrick’s slower car so hard that the No. 10 was thrown into the air. Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Menard and Brad Keselowski all suffered damage. Kurt Busch’s car was destroyed and on fire.
During the seventh caution flag of the night, Brad Keselowski took two tires on his pit stop to regain lost track position while Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch took four. That got Kes the lead, for a series of restarts but kept what was likely the fastest car from having the speed to pull away. While Busch faded into the background, that decision would ultimately result in Johnson and Keselowski finishing first and second.