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?
On lap 16, Tony Stewart attempted to change lanes and make a move on race leader Matt Kenseth. While he wasn’t cleared by his spotter, Stewart chose to shift down low which resulted in his left rear corner making contact with the right front of Marcos Ambrose. Stewart’s car got out of shape, made contact with the apron and sent a shower of sparks over several cars that were pursuing him. Jimmie Johnson checked up in the high line, which caused Denny Hamlin to make contact with the five-time champ, turning him down in front of the oncoming pack and ultimately taking out one-third of the field. The accident eliminated defending champion Kyle Busch, two-time Unlimited champion Jeff Gordon, 2006 winner Denny Hamlin and 1999 winner Mark Martin. Just like that, the field was reduced by one-third, many contenders sat idle in the garage and the drafting – along with the racing – became a shell of its former self.
Any of his six wins looked awful good, but the high point of the season for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came on a night where the No. 6 team didn’t visit victory lane.
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.
Although Marcos Ambrose and Brad Keselowski were making the last lap at Watkins Glen one for the ages, another driver was quietly posting his team’s second top-five run of the year. Sam Hornish Jr. followed up his third-place finish in the Nationwide Series race on Saturday with a fifth-place run on Sunday. But the numbers don’t tell the whole tale. Because Hornish has an open wheel background, it’s often assumed that he has extensive road-course experience. But he doesn’t; Hornish’s three IZOD IndyCar Series titles came when the series ran almost exclusively on oval tracks. Hornish had just 11 road-course starts under his belt when he made the move to NASCAR.
If there was a prize for the best firesuit, Joey Logano would have it hands down after sporting a suit styled to look like… well, a suit, complete with jacket and tie. Logano, who was also strong in Sprint Cup practice on Saturday, looked to have the car to beat early, but a two-tire strategy later in the race proved to be the wrong one, and Logano was never able to claw his way back to the front. Instead, he was forced to settle for sixth, but if his early run is any indication, Logano could be looking at a much-needed top 10 in the Cup race.
Make it four-for-four by NASCAR Nationwide Series regulars, and make it history. Using the pit strategy that took him to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory at Bristol in 2001, Elliott Sadler stayed out on the final caution to win the Ford EcoBoost 300 by 1.159 seconds over Kasey Kahne. Brad Keselowski, polesitter Joey Logano and …
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the drivers’ championship in the Nationwide Series, beating out series regular and teammate Trevor Bayne, who finished 11th.
Despite the best efforts of Kyle Busch to run him down, Carl Edwards topped a dominant evening with his 35th career Nationwide Series win Saturday night in front of a stellar crowd at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top 5.
Though Edwards led 101 of the 195 laps led en route to victory, side-by-side racing at the front of the field proved plentiful, with each of the drivers in the top 5 taking turns at the front. Goodyear seemed to get the tire situation under control after fielding rocks at Bristol a week ago, with the rubber proving to wear on the abrasive Atlanta service. Drivers throughout the field were seen visibly wrestling with loose race cars throughout the 300 miles.
Joey Logano was so close to victory he could smell it, and it smelled a lot like rain on a humid summer day. Unfortunately for Logano, who had grabbed his third career pole on Saturday, the rains let up, the race ran its complete distance, and the third-year driver faded to a disappointing 26th. For Logano, who is breathing a sigh of relief now that Edwards is no longer a threat for his ride, Silly Season isn’t quite over until other potential replacements like Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers and Mark Martin have contracts somewhere else. Good finishes still have extra importance for the No. 20 right now.