TALLADEGA, Ala. — Report by Race Chaser Online Northeast Correspondent Kyle Magda — Sean Gardner/Getty Images North America photo —
Drivers always have to expect “The Big One” anytime NASCAR visits Talladega Superspeedway.
It was only a matter of time when the laps of Sunday’s GEICO 500 began to wind down and the intensity increased.
Jimmie Johnson and Paul Menard picked up steam on the outside lane until Kurt Busch hooked Johnson’s left-rear, sending the six-time champ into Menard and the outside retaining wall, triggering a 21-car crash on lap 160.
Johnson hit the infamous spot near Turn 1 and the wreck collected nearly half the field.
“The easier they are to drive compared to Daytona the more aggressive we are going to be,” Johnson said. “The No. 41 was bump drafting me and caused that wreck and just kept hitting me and finally ended up taking me out in the process. That was aggressive there. He got me coming out of the tri-oval. He got me going in and through and I was trying to stay on top of it and finally he got me once too hard and off I went.”
Most of the field went with him, including Austin Dillon who was right in the middle of it. Despite a damaged race car, A. Dillon brought the No. 3 Dow – Energy & Water/Intellifresh Chevrolet home in third after at least 33 cars received some sort of damage.
“Stay in the fuel,” A.Dillon said. “Never give up. My guys, man. It’s a testament to my guys. They work their butts off. They never panicked today. We’ve panicked a lot this year on certain problems and today was smooth and calm and they handled the situations that they were put through and it was a great race for us.”
“My car was actually probably dragging; the No. 1 (Jamie McMurray) could stick to my back bumper and he gave me a heck of a push all the way through (Turns) 3 and 4 and when he did that, I knew we were going to have a shot at it,” Dillon added. “But as soon as I pulled out, it was kind of a parachute but I had to make a shot at it. I wanted to have a shot at the win. If I would have pushed the No. 18 (Kyle Busch), he might have beaten the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski), I don’t know. But hat’s off to these guys.”
“They fought so hard. We pitted 15 times, they said. That’s amazing. The car was killed, and to come home with a third place finish we’ve got to thank the good Lord above.”
Some drivers didn’t have the same luck as the Richard Childress Racing driver. Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano had a close call on the backstretch when Logano bumped Kenseth bellow the yellow line with 15 laps to go. Afterwards, Kenseth gestured to the 25-year-old driver that he was No. 1.
A few laps later, Clint Bowyer bumped Michael McDowell causing a chain-reaction crash and both the No. 20 and 22 cars went spinning down the backstretch.
Logano got tagged by Aric Almirola while Kenseth went barrel-rolling towards the inside retaining wall before coming to a stop as both drivers were checked and released from the infield care center.
The turmoil between the two didn’t stop there as Kenseth had a few words for Logano post-race and pointed his finger after no love lost from last season. Logano laughed and shrugged his shoulders towards the 2003 Cup champ.
“Not much,” Logano said about talking to Kenseth. “It’s unfortunate, we had a pretty decent car. I won’t say it was the fastest car out there. It took us all day to get towards the front, but we positioned ourselves well at the end there around 20 to go on the front row and stay up there in the lead. Proud of what our Shell-Pennzoil team did. We worked hard all day, it didn’t end up as well as we’d like too two days in a row, a couple of big hits. Can’t wait to get out of this place.”
Logano led coming out of Turn 4 in Saturday’s XFINITY race until he tried blocking Elliott Sadler and lost control of the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford with a heavy impact in the tri-oval wall to end the race.
A lot of crash carnage and unhappy drivers leave Talladega Superspeedway and won’t have to run another restrictor-plate until Daytona in July.
About the Writer
Kyle Magda is a Northeast Correspondent for Race Chaser Online and a co-host of both Motorsports Madness and the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show, airing at 7 p.m. ET on Monday and Thursday nights, respectively, on the Performance Motorsports Network. Magda broke into racing in mid-2001 as the sport’s tide was beginning to change towards the current modern-era formula, but still has an affinity for the history of NASCAR’s earlier days.
The 23-year-old is a graduate of Penn State University and can be found traveling to numerous tracks across the country, covering everything from NASCAR and the ARCA Racing Series to the UNOH All-Stars Circuit of Champions and the Super Cup Stock Car Series.
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