(WOMR file photo)
I just returned back to my hometown after witnessing a very exciting finish to the Good Sam’s 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway last weekend. As the staff there at the track says , “SIZE DOES MATTER”! After all it is not just another race track, this is Talladega!
The weather started out on the cool side for the Sprint Cup practice and session on Friday. The weather on Saturday for the Cup qualifying and the Camping World Trucks race was a little warmer. However, on Sunday the weather was superb!
As the green flag was dropped, there were two strategies that unfolded throughout the race. One strategy was to run up front all day and race hard for the lead. The other strategy, and not a strategy that I would use if I were racing at Talladega, was to fall back to the back of the pack to try to avoid “the big one”. The latter strategy has some validity, nevertheless, you are at the mercy of the tempo of the race. Laying back in the back of the pack, you are held hostage to the tempo of the race, ie., yellow flags, close proximity to probable wrecks, and ultimately the ability to weave your way to the front when “it is time to go”.
All four of the Hendrick Motorsports race car teams choose to “lay back” and make their charge to the front in the very late stages of the race. Unfortunately, all four teams were caught back in the pack when three wrecks happened in the final 20 laps.
The pairing of Junior and Johnson led only a combined two laps Sunday, spending much of the race in the rear of the field in an attempt to avoid trouble. Johnson suffered a scare with about 25 laps remaining when Andy Lally caromed off his car and up into the wall, but the damage to his vehicle was minor. The real problems came at the end, when the drivers dealt with their own individual difficulties, and a flurry of cautions didn’t provide them enough of an opportunity to climb back up through the field.
“Whenever we thought they were getting a little bit crazy, we’d move into the safe areas and we rode there most of the day with a lot of other people doing the same thing,” Earnhardt said. “Then at the end, we had a lot of cautions late. We wanted to try to work our way toward the front in the last 20 laps. The cautions kept coming out, and we ran over some debris and we had to come to pit road. We just didn’t have the track position at the end to make a run with two laps to go. Just not enough time.”
It didn’t help that the water in Johnson’s engine-cooling system climbed perilously high. NASCAR lowered pressure-relief valve settings in the cars this week in a tacit attempt to break up some of the two-car drafting. Push for too long, and risk engine overheating and failure. Johnson found himself trying to play the role of pusher while also dealing with debris on his car’s front end — a recipe for overheating.
“We planned our strategy like we had hoped to,” Johnson said. “And on that last restart at the end, we had some issues with my car overheating. That last caution that came out, I got some trash and grass and stuff on the grille of the car. We were out of sequence the way we were lined up. I was going to push Junior, and I had to be in the lead the way we had the debris on the grille. And then as we went to make our switch, the pack was organized and with the [final-laps] situation, there’s not a lot of time to get organized, and we lost our momentum there, and got to the outside and kind of stalled out up on the top, and finished far worse than we had hoped to.”
Clint Bowyer surged past Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton through the tri-oval on the final lap at Talladega Superspeedway to win Sunday’s Good Sam Club 500. Bowyer, who will leave RCR for Michael Waltrip Racing next season, beat Burton to the start/finish line by .018 seconds to record his first victory of the season and the fifth of his career. The win was the 100th in the Sprint Cup Series for team owner Richard Childress.
On a two-lap run to the finish that followed the ninth caution of the race, Bowyer, the defending winner of the race, pushed Burton to a lead of more than 20 car lengths over the pack that was chasing them. That gave Bowyer the luxury of a slingshot move past Burton in the tri-oval. Bowyer nosed ahead 1,200 feet from the finish line and held on?barely.
“Whenever you leave here not wrecked, you ought to be happy, but at the same time, I’m heartbroke we didn’t win the race,” said Burton, who recorded his first top-five finish in more than a year. “Having said all of that, I don’t know what I would have done different.
“Honestly, I thought he made his move too early. I kind of gave him the bottom, because you tend to be able to pull them back to you better when you’re on their right rear quarter panel. He made his move really early, I thought. I thought I’d be able to pull back to him, but he had a lot of momentum when he made the move.”
Bowyer realized he was taking his shot early but decided to seize the moment when Burton gave him the inside line.
“He kind of moved up off of [Turn] 4, and I knew it was too early to go, but it was going to be a drag race, and it would give us both a shot at it,” Bowyer said. “He worked so well with me all day long. You hate that it comes down to that, but it is what it is, and you owe it to your team and your sponsors to go out and win the race.
“Unfortunately, it came down to that situation, but — trust me — I was prepared to push him to the win, no matter what the cost was, if we’d have had people breathing down our necks. It just wasn’t meant to be for him. He’s been a great teammate, and I’ve learned a lot from him — but he’s already won a lot of races , and I’ve only won five.”
Dave Blaney, pushed by Brad Keselowski, ran third, with Keselowski taking the flag in fourth in a race that saw only five drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup finish in the top 24. Keselowski gained three positions to third in the Chase standings.
Red Bull Racing teammates Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne finished fifth and six, followed by Chase drivers Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin. Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Michael Waltrip and Martin Truex Jr. completed the top 10.
Here is the unofficial results of the Good Sam’s 500 from Talladega Superspeedway.
Here is the Chase standings following the Good Sam’s 500.
Twelve drivers, now four races, one championship, who will be the last man standing?
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!