Tag: Talladega Superspeedway

Column: Points, Pit Road, Stenhouse, and Kurt

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In this column I take a look at the points situation in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to let you know who will be battling for the title in Homestead. Pit road cost a bunch of teams on Sunday, why was that? Rookie Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. impressed many on Sunday and might have clinched the Rookie of the Year title. And finally could there be trouble brewing between two pseudo teammates who will be teammates for real next season?

With only four races remaining in the Chase there are five drivers still mathematically alive in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Jimmie Johnson leads the points by four over Matt Kenseth, 26 over Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, and Jeff Gordon continues to linger behind by 34 points. Arguments can be made that all five could be in it until the end, but my gut and odds are pointing towards Johnson and Kenseth being the two title contenders. Take Talladega out of it and the duo have been too consistent for anyone else to gain on them. After Martinsville I figure one to two more will drop out of range, and it’ll be a matter of time before it’s mathematically down to Johnson and Kenseth.

Pit road was brutal for a handful of drivers on Sunday. Kyle Busch missed his pit stall on his first stop, which resulted in coming back down pit road and going down a lap. He was the only driver who overcame the issue as he got a caution to get caught back up. Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, and Danica Patrick each got speeding penalties that ruined their days. Patrick was running in the top-10 most of the day before her gaffe on pit road. Without any cautions the second half of the race, until the last lap, no one could gain their lost lap back. Normally it might have been an issue, but with such a clean race, all three will have to think about what could have been.

While most might say Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s great run was trashed by perceived contact with Austin Dillon to end the race, I say that doesn’t matter. Replay shows Stenhosue didn’t touch Dillon’s Chevrolet, instead it was the air movement that got him loose. I was very impressed on how Stenhouse handled himself all day working from the back to the front and vice versa with the poise of a veteran. And he had the respect of the field too, because no one left him out to dry, everyone worked with him. It’ll be hard for him to not win Rookie of the Year this season and he’s building a lot of momentum to bring into 2014. I think our cars are getting better, and everybody at the shop is all hands on, just trying to make our season the best it can be here at the end.  We struggled throughout the first half of the season, definitely more than I thought we should or definitely more than we wanted to.  We’ve learned a lot.  I think we’re getting better as a team, and I’m learning a little bit more about what we need to do from practice to the race to make our car still fast throughout the race,” commented Stenhouse after the race.

With two laps to go, Kurt Busch decided he would step out of line on the high side and help out Kevin Harvick. The move proved disastrous because as soon as Busch moved low, Harvick moved back high. Busch was left to out to dry. Listening to his radio, Busch seemed shocked that Harvick did that, dropping some F bombs. For this season Harvick and Busch are pseudo teammates, with Furniture Row Racing (Busch) and Richard Childress Racing (Harvick) working together with a technical alliance. Next season both will be on the same team, Stewart-Haas Racing, and it’ll be interesting to see if this creates a rift to start the season. “Restrictor plate racing is all about being in the right place at the right time,” said Busch, who led twice for three laps. “We were in the right place for the majority of the race, but when it counted at the end we weren’t there. I tried to make something happen, but couldn’t get there.”

Side note, I was hoping Busch’s Wonder Bread car would have been painted more like Ricky Bobby’s from Talladega Nights, but you can’t win them all.

Dodging The Talladega Bullet

Camping World RV Sales 500

Everyone had this race circled on their calendar as the race that would shake up the Chase standings. As it played out, for the most part everything stayed the same. Positions changed, such as Jimmie Johnson taking the points lead, but it was nothing like the jumps predicated.

The main reason is everyone thought there would be a big wreck that would take out most of the field. That’s a normal occurrence on the restrictor plate tracks of Talladega and Daytona. One year ago such a wreck happened on the final lap and ruined a few drivers’ championship bids.

This year the wreck never happened to the magnitude that is normally expected. For 187 laps the drivers actually drove with respect, allowing for some give and take. It wasn’t until the final lap did Austin Dillon get loose and was run into by Casey Mears. A wreck at a plate track with only two cars involved? That’s nearly unheard of. “I’m OK, but that was strange being in the infield care center with only myself usually there’s about ten of us in there together,” commented Mears after being released from the infield care center.

The chaos that ensued, because drivers where just starting to make their moves forward, allowed Johnson to get by Kenseth by virtue of his 13th place finish versus Kenseth’s 20th place finish.

Without a big Talladega shake up, things have narrowed down to Johnson and Kenseth for the title. There might still be hope for those on the outside looking in, because the tight half mile Martinsville Speedway is next. It could be a place where someone takes out revenge for something that has happened during the season, and knock them out of title contention.

The great part is we don’t know until we get there. The Goody’s Headache Relief 500 gets underway at 1:30 PM EST and can be seen on ESPN.

Another Trip To Talladega Brings Memories Of Davey Allison

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As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series comes to the Talladega Superspeedway this weekend, I for one can’t help but think about Davey Allison. Allison was only 32 years old when he died in a helicopter crash at the facility in 1993. Being part of the Alabama Gang, he had his share of triumphs and tragedies before his death.

Below is a special from 1993 ESPN put together after we lost my hero growing up. I still remember vividly finding out and watching this very special with tears in my eyes.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vCq8GKElLU[/youtube]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2YXGVnYSMk[/youtube]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAy4KKiy_Ig[/youtube]

Column: Keselowski, Debuts, Talladega, MWR, and Irvan Returns

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In this week’s column I take a look at the most recent Sprint Cup Series winner, Brad Keselowski, along with the three drivers who made their Cup debuts Saturday under the lights. My two cents on the Michael Waltrip Racing situation that came out Monday. And to round things out I will touch on what a wildcard Talladega is to the Chase and a former Talladega winner is back involved in NASCAR.

It was a very long time coming for Brad Keselowski, who had not won a Sprint Cup Series race in just over a year. His last win was Kansas of last year during his run for the Sprint Cup championship. It has been a big struggle for him and his team all year long. Luck just has not been on their side, some of their own doing (Texas with penalties) and others were just out of his hands. This team is going for broke during the Chase since they are not in it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they pick up another win or two.

It was Kyle Larson who got most of the media attention heading into Charlotte about making his Sprint Cup Series debut. He did not do it alone as Brian Scott and Blake Koch each made their inaugural Sprint Cup races. Of the trio, Scott produced the best finish coming home in the 27th position. Larson was quick and up near the top-10, but his engine expired after completing 247 of the 334 laps, relegating him to a 37th place finish. Koch was a late add to the #95 Leavine Family Racing Ford and ran 216 laps before retiring with a vibration, he finished 38th. Larson is going to be running full-time in 2014, whereas Scott hopes to run a handful of races next season, and Koch’s plans are still unknown at this time. Each has a bright future, but Larson will be the one who garners all the attention.

It’s down to a five man battle for the Sprint Cup championship this year, although you could argue it’s down to two already with five races to go. That’s good because Talladega is up next and the unpredictability of it will definitely shake things up. In the spring Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, and Matt Kenseth were the only Chase drivers to get a top-10 finish. Heck, David Ragan won the race with David Gilliland pushing him. When we say anything can happen, anything can and will happen in the race. The goal of every Chase driver is to survive and hopefully not lose too many points in the process.

The announcement that Michael Waltrip Racing would be reducing the number of full-time teams it fields from three to two is not surprising. There was no way they could secure funding for a full season in such short notice after NAPA informed them they were leaving. What I don’t like is the number of people who will be out of jobs because of the action of a few inside the organization. You can’t tell me from the top (i.e. Michael Waltrip himself) there was no discussions of manipulating the race if push came to shove out there. For a team that is starving for funds, a bonus for a car making the Chase was worth the risks at the time. Now that they have found out what the risks are, they would probably re-think their approach. I hope that driver Martin Truex, Jr., who did nothing but race his ass off into the Chase only to get kicked out, lands a good ride and can bring some of his former MWR colleagues with him.

Something that might have slipped through the cracks last weekend was Ernie Irvan getting back into racing as a car owner for his son Jared starting in 2014. The 15-year old Irvan will compete full-time in the Pro All Star Series South (PASS) that hits tracks like Hickory, South Boston, and Organ County. History lesson for you all is those were former Nationwide Series tracks back in the day. It’s good to see Ernie getting back into the sport after having such a great, albeit short, career that included 15 victories, the 1991 Daytona 500, and what should have been the 1994 title had he not gotten injured at Michigan.