2011-04-21 / Sports

Johnson Gets Close Win At ‘Dega


Jimmie Johnson Jimmie Johnson By Gerald Hodges

THE RACING REPORTER

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Jimmie Johnson, pushed by teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove low as the field neared the finish line to edge out Clint Bowyer, by two-thousandths of a second, in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 Cup race.

“I thought we were in trouble,” said Johnson. “Junior and I got disconnected with two to go. I talked with him on the radio and finally we got back together.”

“He helped me win it. He made the decision that my car was the fastest to lead with and told me to stay in front of him.”

Bowyer came oh so close, but had to settle for second.

“We did everything we could do,” said Bowyer. “It was just circumstances. I saw them coming. If I had tried to block them it would have been hell.”

Jeff Gordon finished third.

Johnson handed Earnhardt, who finished fourth, the checkered flag after his win.

“Well, I was more concerned about pushing him,” said Earnhardt. “We couldn’t stay together when I was leading, so as a teammate, I felt like it was better for me to push him.”

“I told him to not to let off, let’s give it all we’ve got.”

Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, David Gilliland and Joey Logano were the remaining top-10 finishers.

The first 90 laps were run with just one caution flag for Brian Vickers’ spin on Lap 28. But the first big crash erupted on Lap 90 when a huge puff of smoke erupted from David Ragan’s car and then Kurt Busch tapped teammate Brad Keselowski, sending Keselowski spinning in a big pack of traffic and slamming into Marcos Ambrose.

Kurt Busch caused two different cars to spin out.

Kyle Busch spun out during Lap 142. As he slid down the track, he collected the No. 17 Ford driven by Matt Kenseth.

“I’m not sure what happened,” said Kenseth. “The 18 car came down on us and hit us in the side. That ended our day.”

Top-12 Chase contenders after 8 of 36: 1. Edwards-295, 2. Johnson-290, 3. Earnhardt- 276, 4. Harvick-268, 5. Kurt Busch-267, 6. Kyle Busch- 257, 7. Newman- 253, 8. Kenseth-252, 9. Montoya-246, 10. Bowyer-245, 11. Menard- 242, 12. Stewart-240

Logano pushes Busch across stripe

In a wild ending that had Mike Wallace’s Chevrolet spinning upside down and landing on its roof, Kyle Busch won Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 Nationwide Series race at Talladega Superspeedway when a caution flag on Lap 124 froze the field.

Busch got the win on the second attempt at a greenwhite checkered-flag finish that took the race seven laps past its scheduled distance at the 2.66- mile track. Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Joey Logano, had just pushed Busch to the lead when Wallace’s wreck brought out the record 11th caution of the race.

“I got hit like three times on the left side and I thought it was killed. I said it was killed,” Busch remarked. “These guys did a great job putting it back together. The car doesn’t look the best, but it was certainly the best right there at the end, especially with the guy that was pushing me.”

Logano was credited with second place, followed by Joe Nemechek, Brad Keselowski and polesitter Elliott Sadler.

Trevor Bayne, Justin Allgaier, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Reed Sorenson and Aric Almirola were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Top-10 leaders after 7 of 34: 1. Leffler-233, 2. Allgaier- 231, 3. Sadler-228, 4. Stenhouse 225, 5. Sorenson-224, 6. Almirola-222, 7. Bayne-221, 8. Scott-206, 9. K. Wallace- 184, 10. Nemechek-169

A huge 21-car chain-reaction crash on the backstretch after a Lap 88 restart thinned the field and collected several of the strongest cars, among them the No. 18 of Busch, the No. 1 of Jamie McMurray and the No. 66 of Steve Wallace.

Contact between Busch and Clint Bowyer started a spin that collected Michael Waltrip and sent half the field sliding and spinning out of control.

Waltrip blamed Sadler and McMurray, who were separated on the track but were trying to hook up together in a two-car draft.

“It happened on the radio before the restart,” Waltrip said. “The 2 (Sadler) decided that he would manipulate the restart so that the 1 could get behind him, and they could work together like they had before.”

“It’s the way you race, but the 1 and the 2 messing around got me crashed.”

McMurray agreed that he and Sadler were trying to get back together.

“I really don’t know what happened,” McMurray said. “I was obviously trying to get back to Eliiott—we worked together really well all day. Elliott was trying to get away from the 99 (Waltrip) so that I could get hooked up with him.”

Dale Jr. speaks out on Talladega racing

Dale Earnhardt Jr. loves Talladega Superspeedway, but he hates the current twocar drafting.

“Y’all don’t look at it and think it’s strange?” he asked

“I’m hoping this kind of racing goes away fast so we don’t have to talk about this no more. This is a mess. This is a bunch of crap.”

“I think everybody thinks it’s cool now because it’s new and it’s neat. Everybody’s getting a big kick out of it. But over the long haul, man, it’s not the best. It’s not as good as 40 dudes in one pack, racing like hell, trying to get to the front. It’s nowhere near as good as that.

“Give me that any day over this. Over the long haul, people will realize that. Once the newness of this wears off, how interesting this is and how unique it is, I think people will start to see.”

Two- car drafting has been used at Talladega since it was repaved, but not to the extent it has been used this year. However, the tandem racing proved to be the way to race in February’s Daytona 500, and in Saturday’s Nationwide race.

“Look at the guys who’s won here in the last couple of trips,” Earnhardt continued. “They’re good. They’re talented. They won because they’re talented. Nine times out of 10, that’s going to be the case. Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500. He’s got enough talent to do it. He was smart and used his head and did what he needed to do.”

“Anybody who wins, you’ve got to do something right to make it happen. It’s not just a buffoon riding around there. You can’t discredit what anybody’s ever done to win a race, no matter what track it is or where it’s at.”

“I think NASCAR’s doing what they think is right, and I don’t want to say what they’re doing is wrong, because I don’t know. I don’t know whether I’m right or wrong. I just know what I prefer and what I like. It’s my opinion. I’m entitled to one. Everybody’s got one. I don’t know what’s right or wrong.”

Yesterday’s Moments: Construction began on Talladega Superspeedway (it was then known as the Alabama International Motor Speedway) on May 23, 1968.

Weekend racing: It is the Easter Weekend. NASCAR does not race on Easter Sunday. There will be Nationwide and Truck racing at Nashville on Friday and Saturday. The Cup teams are off until April 30.

Friday, April 22, Camping World Truck race, 5 of 24, starting time: 8 p.m.; TV: Speed.

Saturday, April 23, Nationwide Series race 8 of 34, starting time: 3 p.m.; TV: ESPN.

Racing trivia question: Where is Trevor Bayne’s hometown?

Last week’s question: Which Cup team does Martin Truex drive for? He drives the No. 56 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at hodges@race500.com.

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