The Final Word – Talladega may have been smokin’, but expect Johnson to smoke the field at Martinsville

We waited with anticipation for the action, and Talladega once again delivered. Once again, we watched the cars (and trucks for those watching on Saturday) go flying around inches apart in aircraft formation, in wonder that they could pull this off lap after lap without it all going up in smoke and torn sheet metal. In the end, they could not avoid the unavoidable.

Dale Earnhardt Jr was pondering his final lap move to get by leader Jamie McMurray when the third running Austin Dillon got spun, then rear ended into the sky in what he described as “a cool roller coaster ride.” That allowed Ole Dimples to keep Junior behind him when the caution came out to claim his first win in more than three years.

If that was not wild enough for you, Saturday saw Matt Crafton solidify his strangle hold in the Camping World series while pushing team mate Johnny Sauter to victory. Sauter crossed the line all by his lonesome as our top eight became a top five which became Mr. Sauter doing a solo by the time they all quit wrecking coming to the line. What was left of Crafton’s truck backed across the line in ninth, leaving him an entire race and a bit ahead of Ty Dillon in their standings.

As for the Cup boys, neither Jimmie Johnson or Matt Kenseth finished in the Top Ten. Yet, by finishing seven spots ahead of his rival (13th vs 20th) and by leading the most laps, Johnson earned enough to vault ahead to take over by four points going into Martinsville. Their company got slightly closer, but by finishing fifth the best Kyle Busch could do is tie Kevin Harvick for third in the standings, both still 26 points away. They remain close should disaster hit the leaders, but until such time disaster strikes both will remain simply interested observers.

Rating Talladega – 9/10 – The action kept you on the edge of your seats, drivers could move from the back to the front, and you even had your dose of carnage. What else could you ask for?

So, the track on steroids is now behind us as we return to “normal” racing. With his seven career wins at Martinsville, Jeff Gordon might look good but for two small facts. One, he trails Johnson by 34 points. Second, Jimmie has won eight times himself at this venue.

Five Time won there in the spring, and he won there last fall. His worst finish was on his first attempt in 2002, when he came home 35th. Since then, his worst finish is 12th, to go with an 11th, to go with 16 Top Fives, 20 Top Tens, in 23 Martinsville starts. As for Kenseth, he goes in 0 for 27, with just eight Top Tens in his career.

Game four of the World Series goes Sunday night as St. Louis hosts Boston. That could wind up a closer contest than what we might see out of Virginia. It is not over, but I think somebody just knocked on the Fat Lady’s dressing room door. Enjoy the week, for it appears the odds favor Johnson enjoying his Sunday afternoon.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Thornton
Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.

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