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Sunday, October 5
Stewart Emerges With Win From Wild Talladega Race
TALLADEGA, ALA (October 5, 2008) - Tony Stewart survived a couple of huge wrecks and a record number of leaders to win the AMP Energy 500 here Sunday at a track that produces excitement by the barrel.
Stewart held off hard-charging rookie Regan Smith, who made a last-lap daredevil pass below the yellow line in trying to beat the two-time champion.
NASCAR rules prohibit passing below the yellow line that separates the racing track from the apron.
|Regan Smith beat Tony Stewart to the finish line but lost what would have been his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win when
NASCAR ruled Smith's pass below the yellow line was a violation of their rules. The call saw Smith further penalized with an
18th-place finish. While it appeared Stewart forced Smith below the yellow line by moving down on the track when the two came off turn four for the checkered flag,
NASCAR didn't see it that way, hence the penalty.
It was Stewart's first win ever at Talladega Superspeedway and came at the end of a wham-bam day in which many of the top contenders were knocked from contention in a wild and wooly wreck just 14 laps from the end.
The accident was triggered when Carl Edwards' Ford lost grip, creating a chain reaction that had cars spinning all over the place, including Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship contenders Edwards, teammate Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and a host of others not involved in the Chase.
Sidelined or seriously damaged in the accident also were race contenders Juan Pablo Montoya, Travis Kvapil, Dave Blaney, Michael Waltrip, and Reed Sorensen.
The race produced an all-time record number of leaders with 27.
Smith's teammate Paul Menard was second. Smith was moved back to 18th for his rule violation after officials reviewed the finish.
David Ragan was third, Burton was fourth, Bowyer fifth, Bobby Labonte finished six, Scott Riggs seventh, Robby Gordon eighth, Jimmie Johnson ninth and Elliott Sadler tenth.
Johnson's finish was unusual since he lost a lap early and was never fully competitive, even though he did lead at one point.
Kyle Busch, another leader, was 15th but never ultra-competitive. Harvick wound up 20th after being a serious contender.
Before a cheering Talladega crowd which typically watches on its tiptoes, NASCAR's best drivers gave them what they came for, side-by-side, bumper-to-bumper action right from the git-go.
Pole winner Kvapil led a lap, then Vickers led, then Edwards, back and forth, forwards, backwards, race cars jockeying for position like Big Brown down the stretch at the Kentucky Derby.
For example, Montoya was running second on Lap 11 and dropped to 24th by the 13th lap. Rookie Aric Almirola jumped up front to lead lap 15. Just a lap or two later, Ragan took the lead with a shove from Kvapil.
The crowd erupted with cheering and shouting on Lap 25 when Earnhardt took the lead for the first time. "Junior Nation" roared its approval. Johnson's day was not going nearly so well as he lost a lap when his Chevy had possible engine problems. Kvapil went back in front on Lap 30. The lead was changing so fast, it was hard to keep up with who was leading when. The first caution of the beautiful afternoon fell on Lap 34 with Earnhardt out front. The crowd was still on its feet.
Following pit stops, Gordon was the first car back on track, leader of the snarling pack with 37 of 188 laps complete. Truex, Jr., was second, Burton third, Mike Wallace fourth, Earnhardt fifth and Busch sixth.
Burton quickly went to the front but was passed by Kenseth. Vickers got a huge shove from Johnson, fighting to get his lap back, and the Toyota driver led for a lap. Sadler roared to the front and then Mears led a lap.
Another debris caution slowed the field on Lap 45 with Mears ahead. The crowd was still standing.
Sadler was the leader when the green flag fell at Lap 49. Ryan Newman's afternoon ended with a sick engine at this point and Kyle Busch streaked to the front with a push from teammate Hamlin.
Kurt Busch went out just before Gordon and David Reutimann spun on the 52nd lap. Jon Wood was also in the accident on the backstretch. Johnson's luck might have turned better during the accident as he barely missed this one after getting back on the lead lap by virtue of the "lucky dog" award.
During this caution period, Kurt Busch's crew raised the hood on his car and eventually took the Penske Dodge behind the wall.
Reutimann apparently cut a tire that triggered the accident.
Vickers went back out front on the 59th lap restart with Kvapil, Mike Skinner, Kyle Busch and Sorensen behind.
Kahne went to the front with McMurray in tow, then, lined up three abreast, Sorensen led, then Truex, Jr., tried to lead before Jamie McMurray took the top spot.
All of a sudden it was McMurray all alone before Earnhardt shoved Truex ahead.
If anyone took their eyes off the pack, you ran the risk of missing a lead change. Earnhardt went ahead, then Montoya and before you could blink an eye,
Talladega mayhem took over on Lap 68. Vickers cut a tire, sending his Toyota sideways into McMurray and triggering a domino-effect wreck that damaged several cars besides Vickers’ and McMurray's. Terry Labonte was involved, as was Almirola, Truex, Skinner, Kahne, Tony Raines and David Gilliland.
NASCAR officials red-flagged the race to clean up the debris.
After a 20-minute delay, action continued with Earnhardt leading, Paul Menard second and Burton third when the green flag waved on Lap 71.
On the next lap, Hamlin took the front spot. Once again, the lead changed hands several times each lap. Johnson led for the first time before Earnhardt returned to the front. Then, it was Johnson again. Stewart went out front on Lap 80 with Mike Wallace in his draft.
Another tire problem, this time for a failure on Mike Wallace's right rear, brought out the caution on Lap 81. Pieces of Wallace's tire tore up the front of Michael Waltrip's NAPA Toyota and his crew had to make repairs before he continued.
When the green waved on Lap 86, it was Kyle Busch ahead of Earnhardt and Montoya up front.
Busch and Stewart maintained the lead. before Earnhardt was pushed to the front by Almirola.
It was probably one of the best lap-by-lap races in the history of the 2.6-mile superspeedway.
Complete Race Results click here
Post-Race Driver Point Standings click here
The Race: AMP Energy 500
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
The Track: 2.66-mile tri-oval
The Distance: 500 miles/188 laps
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS Satellite
2007 Winner: Jeff Gordon
2007 Polesitter: Michael Waltrip
Pre-Race Day Schedule (all times local / CT): Friday—Practice, 1-2:15 p.m. and 2:45-3:30 p.m. Saturday—Qualifying, 11:15 a.m.
Year-To-Date Race Results & Driver Point Standings click here
TV Broadcast Times - AT*
Practice: Friday Oct 3 at 3 p.m. (SPEED)
Final Practice: Friday Oct 3 at 4:30 p.m. (SPEED)
Qualifying: Saturday Oct 4 at 2 p.m. (SPEED - same day delay)
RaceDay: Sunday Oct 5 at Noon (SPEED)
Pre-Race: Sunday Oct 5 at 2 p.m. (ABC)
Race: Sunday Oct 5 at 3 p.m. (ABC)
*AT is one hour ahead of ET, i.e. if it's 2 p.m./AT - it's 1 p.m./ET...
Qualifying Notes & Starting Lineup
Travis Kvapil won the Coors Light Pole Award for the AMP Energy 500 with a lap of 51.109 seconds,
Complete Starting Lineup click here
- This is his first pole in 100 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
- This is his first pole and first top-10 start in 2008.
- This is his first pole in five races at Talladega Superspeedway.
- Casey Mears (second) posted his fifth top-10 start of 2008 and his fourth in 12 races at Talladega
- Aric Almirola (third) posted his first top-10 start at Talladega Superspeedway. It is his third in 10 races
- Regan Smith (fourth) was the fastest qualifying rookie.
Qualifying Order click here
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will go to a backup car for Sunday's race after wrecking his primary car during a multi-car crash in Friday afternoon's practice session
at Talladega. The melee started when Jr. blew a right rear tire on his No. 88 racecar. Others involved include Tony Stewart, David
Gilliland, Kasey Kahne, David Reutimann and Clint Bowyer. Gilliland and Kahne also went to backup cars; the rest were able to
fix their primary cars.
Friday Morning Speed Chart click here
Friday Afternoon Speed Chart click here
Click here to read an interview with Dale Jr. following the crash.
- All Bets Are Off, As Chase Makes Annual Stop At Talladega...In days gone by, Talladega Superspeedway’s second race each NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season was held in late July, with impressive competition meeting oppressive heat. Seeking to enhance the first but lose the second, NASCAR moved the event to October.
Then, starting in 2004, things got hotter than ever.
Credit the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR’s playoff-style championship-deciding format that encompasses the last 10 races of the season. When the format was instituted in ‘04 it placed tempestuous Talladega in the middle of the mix.
Sunday’s AMP Energy 500 is Race 4 in the 2008 “Chase.” As always, the only thing predictable about Talladega is the track’s unpredictability.
Credit the banking of 33 degrees in the turns.
Or maybe the overall track length of 2.66 miles, conducive to serious speed.
And don’t forget the close-quarters racing resulting from carburetor restrictor plates that reduce horsepower and put a premium on handling, drafting — and teamwork. Or in lieu of teamwork, cooperation between non-teammates.
Talladega’s tough — particularly on drivers who roll into town leading the Chase standings. In the four years of the Chase thus far, only once has the leader coming into Talladega been the leader leaving town — Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet) in 2006. And that was a close call; Burton’s lead was sliced to six points after a 27th-place race finish. He ended up a disappointing seventh in the final point standings.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet) has five Talladega wins to his credit. Earnhardt, eighth in points and in need of a late-season rally, isn’t convinced a big points shake-up is inevitable this week.
But that’s not to say he would be surprised.
“[This race] has the potential to do that,” Earnhardt said.
“It’s going to be tough to gain on everyone in this race. It will be tough for it to really jumble up the points. I think you just have to try to win the race.
“The only way to really gain points on anybody right now, for anybody who's outside of the top five in points, is to be first when the checkered flag falls.”
Earnhardt’s five Talladega wins happened between 2001-04, part of an overwhelming Chevrolet dominance at the track this decade. Since the start of the 2000 season Chevrolet drivers have won 15 of 17 races there. The two exceptions: Dale Jarrett’s victory in a Ford, in the 2005 fall race and Kyle Busch’s win in the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota this past April.
Current series points leader Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Chevrolet) has one of those Chevrolet victories since 2000 — in the spring 2006 race.
The two drivers immediately behind him in the points — second-place Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford) and Greg Biffle (No. 16 DISH Network Ford) — have average Talladega finishes of 24th and 25th, respectively.
- Gordon ‘Hanging Around’ In Chase Battle, Looking For Late-Season Surge...Jeff Gordon seems to be in the same high-banked boat as Dale Earnhardt Jr. this week. Like Earnhardt, Gordon needs to rally quickly if he is to have a viable chance at winning the series championship.
And like Earnhardt, he has history on his side.
Gordon has won six times at Talladega, including a sweep of last season’s two events there. That victory total is second all-time behind the 10 wins posted by the late Dale Earnhardt.
While Earnhardt seems reluctant to predict a serious points shake-up Sunday, Gordon sounds like he’s planning on it.
A lot can happen points-wise in this race,” said Gordon. “Hopefully, there are no big accidents, and if there are, we are able to avoid them.
“I feel this is a race we can win. We just need to be in a position at the end to challenge for the victory.”
Leading is the best way to avoid trouble at Talladega, Gordon said, adding, “if you get shuffled out of the lead, you have to survey the situation and make the best decision at that time. If there are plenty of laps left, do you try and stay in the lead pack to draft back up to the front? Or do you clear yourself of the main pack and just ride around until the closing stages to make your move? Last year in this race, I hung back away from the big pack for much of the day and was still able to win. While I hate that strategy, it worked in that instance.”
- Closing In On Cale; Johnson Has ‘Threepeat’ In His Sights...We’ve seen this before.
A late-season lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points belongs to Jimmie Johnson, a driver who has developed a decided knack for “closing the deal” when presented with the opportunity to win the series championship.
This is Johnson’s time of year. Consider:
In 2006, he finished the season with six consecutive top-10 finishes. Included was a five-race stretch in which he had four second-place finishes and a victory at Martinsville.
In 2007, he won four consecutive races during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup to win the title going away.
This year, he has rallied again. Pre-Chase victories at California and Richmond secured the Chase’s second seed. In the three Chase races thus far he has a second, a fifth and, this past Sunday, a victory at Kansas.
And as a result, he now has the series points lead. Once again.
Johnson is trying to become only the second driver in history to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship three consecutive years. Cale Yarborough did so from 1976-78.
Only five drivers have won the title three or more times: Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip (3), Jeff Gordon (4), Richard Petty (7) and Dale Earnhardt (7).
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet will be adorned with 73,000 signatures this weekend, as part of a “Ride With Dale Jr.” promotion. One lucky fan, Dewayne Bennett of Pickens, S.C., will be the last signature on the car. Bennett will sign just before Earnhardt’s qualifying laps
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