Second-place Kyle Busch spun Dale Earnhardt Jr. out of the lead, but it was Clint Bowyer who drove through the carnage to eventually assume the win as the yellow flag flew.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. stood despondent by his car Saturday night, watching in vain as another car, another driver pushed its way to Victory Lane. After weeks of coming oh-so-close, the newest member of the Hendrick Motorsports stable found himself four laps from returning to the very same spot in which he’d celebrated career win No. 17: Richmond International Raceway’s Victory Lane. The rubber stamp performance was within reach; the checkered flag that would quiet the critics, stop the clock, and throw the monkey off his back, all in one full swoop. Instead, what many distraught Junior might call “a well-trained monkey” named Kyle Busch – who also doubles as the hottest driver in NASCAR these days – collided with Junior’s No. 88 rear quarterpanel going into turn 3. The physical force was all too real, the results merciless for the driver to control; three seconds later, Junior’s car was in the wall, Busch’s car was leaving the crime scene, and Clint Bowyer was busy taking the trophy from them both.
Friends, Romans, and countrymen, lend me your ears. It’s time to put an end to this restrictor-plate madness at last, before some other driver pays the ultimate price. It has been nearly two decades since NASCAR implemented the plate rules as a “temporary fix” at Talladega and Daytona. Tuesday would have been Dale Earnhardt’s 57th birthday were it not for the last lap tragedy at Daytona in 2001; let’s ensure that we learn something from that death, and those of many others.
In the last 10 Richmond races, the winner has started within the top 10; so, pay special attention to qualifying if you have the opportunity to build your team on Saturday. With that in mind, which drivers will help you get over the fantasy hangover from Talladega, and which ones will leave you reaching for more aspirin? Read this week’s Picks ‘N’ Pans to find out how you should put the Band-Aids together to allow the restrictor-plate wounds sufficient time – and points – to heal.
While the “out-of-bounds” rule was designed to make racing safer on restrictor plate tracks, enforcement of the rule has been a crapshoot at best. In fact, many complained that Kyle Busch’s winning pass came with two wheels below the yellow line, although definitive video and photos have not yet surfaced. Is there a way to make this rule work consistently, or does it need to be scrapped completely?
When push does come to shove, a lot of how Talladega turns out is pretty much a crapshoot more than anything else. So, while putting together the Top 15 this week, some staff voters gave drivers credit for their efforts on the plate track… while others seemed to discount the luck involved in finishing up front. Read on to see if you agree or disagree with their latest choices in the Frontstretch Power Rankings below.
Anything can – and as we saw Sunday – will happen at Talladega. The new car provided exciting racing for the fans and good runs for some drivers, but provided plenty of headaches for others. Wheelmen like Juan Pablo Montoya and Travis Kvapil had surprisingly strong finishes, while Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards’s days ended early with tire problems, more evidence that the superspeedway is more of a crapshoot than anything else. With that in mind, come in and see who survived to stay on this week’s HOT list, as well as who could really go for a good run at Richmond this weekend.
Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Sprint Cup race, capturing the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find: the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members, and the car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
1. Aye, Aye… Captain! – The United States Navy has announced the formation of an 88-person Boot Camp as a recruiting gimmick dubbed the “Dale Jr. Division,” in conjunction with the Navy’s sponsorship of the sport’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his JR Motorsports NASCAR Nationwide team. Dale Jr. will drive the No. 83 JR Motorsports NASCAR Nationwide series Chevrolet at Lowe’s Motor Speedway on May 24th to kick off the recruiting campaign; selected recruits will then be sent to Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois in August, at which time Earnhardt Jr. will commission the division. Following the completion of the seven-to-eight week course, Earnhardt Jr. will again visit “his” recruits.
The Cup stars head to northern Alabama this weekend to the longest and fastest track on the schedule, the Talladega Superspeedway. It’s the first time that the series comes back to a plate track, having run at Talladega last fall in the new CoT configuration. That car, along with a newly-paved track, resulted in a very long single-file run last year; but expect to see a more competitive race this time around now that the drivers have a better idea of how the car will react in the packs that result from plate racing. Read on to see what the experts have to say in order for you to navigate the waters of tricky Talladega…