By: Drew Hierwarter
The only thing predictable about a race at Talladega is that it will be unpredictable. That it is often a four wheeled game of chess played at nearly 200 mph is not a new analogy. Most of the racers spend the first 475 miles of the 500 mile race jockeying for position, testing different drafting strategies, and trying to stay out of trouble, waiting to see just what will develop.
Then, like an old fashioned Oklahoma land rush, the final 25 miles turns cunning into chaos, as plans go out the window and its all skate for the finish. This year’s version of the Talladega Two-Step was no different.
The race was particularly unpredictable for the 12 chase drivers. The first three finishers were all non-chase drivers. Winner Clint Bowyer, second place Jeff Burton, and a surprising third place finish for independent Dave Blaney. Brad Keselowski was the first chase finisher at fourth place. Carl Edwards 11th place finish was still enough to maintain his lead in the points as former second place Harvick who finished 32nd, dropped three spots to fifth in the standings. Jack Roush teammate Matt Kenseth is now in second place, 14 points behind Edwards.
The three Rick Hendrick teams that are in the chase, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson, and Jeff Gordon finished 25th, 26th, and 27th respectively and most think that Johnson’s bid for an unprecedented sixth consecutive championship (-50 points) is over.
This was the first win for Bowyer in 2011 and, ironically, his last win was in this very race last year. His margin of victory over teammate Jeff Burton was a mere .018 seconds as the two raced side by side to the checkered flag. It was the sixth win of the year for Richard Childress Racing and Childress’ 100th win as an owner in the Cup series.
And of course, in keeping with Talladega’s reputation for the bizarre, the small independent team of #78, Furniture Row Racing with driver Regan Smith had a day they would like to forget. First, with only eight laps to go, they endured a wreck that completely destroyed their car, and then the team’s hauler caught fire after the race while some fuel was being transferred into a storage tank. No one was injured and the fire was quickly extinguished, but the truck suffered enough damage that the team had to borrow a tractor from Team Penske to get their trailer home to Denver.
Next the series travels to the scenic little short track in Martinsville, Virginia where maybe, just maybe, things will get back to predictability.