In the final race of the Contender round and with the elimination of four more drivers, here is what was surprising and not surprising from the CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Surprising: There were four surprising words at the end of this Talladega race and they were, “Let’s go to the videotape.” After what many thought was the one attempt at the green, the true attempt then ensued with another wreck and so much confusion that the sanctioning body had to indeed go to the videotape to determine the race winner.
Once the videotape was reviewed, the sanctioning body crowned Joey Logano the victor. This was the driver’s third consecutive race win, moving him into the next round of the championship in dominant style.
“I saw the lights come on when I was still in the lead and I thought we had it,” the driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford said. “It is all about how the timing loops are and the camera to make sure that is what happened.”
“It is such a crazy race. To pull it into victory lane here at Talladega is so cool.”
Not Surprising: Fans of NASCAR’s most popular driver were standing by their man in spite of his failure to win and move into the next round of championship contention. And they were no doubt as proud of how their driver handled that failure as the driver was himself of his team and its performance.
“I just wanted to go out there, whatever happened, put forth a good account of myself, my team,” the driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet said after finishing runner-up. “I’m real proud of what we did today. So I can feel good about that.”
“I’m more proud of the drive I had today than the two wins this year. The two wins came a lot easier than this second place did.”
This was Junior’s 16th top-10 finish in 32 races at Talladega and his 19th top-10 finish for the season.
Surprising: Not many drivers can say that they had fun at Talladega, but four-time champ Jeff Gordon did just that, finishing third.
“I actually had a lot of fun out there,” the driver of the No. 24 3M Chevrolet said. “We had an awesome 3M Chevrolet and it was so much fun battling up front even if we got shuffled back a little bit.”
“Oh my gosh. That was intense. That was wild. That was crazy,” Gordon continued. “I loved my race car today. I had a lot of fun out there. It is fun having a race car that strong. I am so proud of this race team. They never quit, they never give up and I can’t believe we are going to round three. I said all along that if we got to round three, we have an excellent shot to get to Homestead.”
Not Surprising: Not wanting to be ‘that guy’ had a major impact on the race for Greg Biffle. The driver of the No. 16 Cheez-It Ford was leading the race when the caution flag flew and he had to head to the pits for fear of running out in front of the field.
“We were gonna make it if it went green for sure,” Matt Puccia, Biffle’s crew chief said. “We were gonna make it to the end, but we just didn’t need that. I guess the 1 car blew up down the back and oiled the track down. It’s just a shame.”
“We could have possibly made it, but I just didn’t want to be that guy who was gonna wreck the whole field if we didn’t get it going on the restart. It’s unfortunate.”
Surprising: Forget speeding penalties, the most popular penalty at Talladega was the ‘crewmember(s) over the wall too soon’ penalty.
There were four of those penalties, including one for Dale Earnhardt Jr., that no doubt impacted his race results. There were also three of the ‘too many crewmember(s) in contact with pit service area’ penalties as well.
And even more surprising were the number of cautions, which were just three for eighteen laps.
Not Surprising: Michael Waltrip, a driver who may be rusty but always good on plate tracks, scored a top-15 at one of his favorite tracks.
“Our plan today was to get in the pack and stay in the middle of the pack – do the best we could to lead and do the best we could to get to the front so we could celebrate Maxwell House and Toyota sponsoring me in the race,” Waltrip said. “We got up towards the front a few times and finished 13th. I’m proud of my guys and really thankful for the opportunity to race again.”
Surprising: Martin Truex Jr. likened his Talladega run to some time at a local playground.
“I felt like I was on the seesaw today,” the driver of the No. 778 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet said. “My head was under the back of it. It’s crazy how fast things can change and how much is out of your control.”
“We were sitting out there riding a lap down for about 100 laps thinking that we were going to need an act of God to get back on the lead lap and have a fighting chance. We kept fighting and fighting, and had a good sequence of green-flag stops to establish ourselves in that front single-file line ahead of the guys we were racing.”
“Then we got lucky and got a caution. Once we were back in the game, we felt good about it. But it was still nerve-wracking down to the end.”
Not Surprising: The Busch brothers played their own game, one of follow the leader right into the next round of the Chase with Kurt finishing tenth and Kyle finishing eleventh.
“That’s what we pretty much planned all day today was to just race and whatever happened, happened,” Kyle Busch said. “It was crazy the way it always happens here, but I guess that’s what does always happen here. However, it was or is, it’s good if we’re in and we’re moving in. That’s what this team needs and what we need – I guess the farthest I’ve ever gone before.”
“I love all the adjectives and adverbs on how the point system works. Escapes, survived, yeah, we are in position now,” Kurt Busch said. “You’ve got the top eight guys and you’ve got to do really good things in these last four races to win the championship. I feel really good about our Haas Automation Chevrolet team and the way that we have worked through both rounds of this Chase thus far. We’ve got more for them. We will keep going.”
Surprising: Two drivers that were hoping for good runs most likely cannot wait to put Talladega behind them.
During his qualifying attempt, Justin Allgaier was wrecked when the car of Clint Bowyer went reverse instead of forward, causing him to have to start at the back of the pack. The driver of the No. 51 Auto Owners Insurance Chevrolet then ended the race weekend with an engine failure.
Ryan Blaney, who usually runs so well at superspeedways, also had a challenging day with his engine expiring as well.
“We had a good car and we were just starting to make our way toward the front then we lost oil pressure and, unfortunately, it gave up on us,” Blaney said in the garage after retiring. “These guys worked really hard to give me a fast race car and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion was going to be really good today. It was a lot of fun out there for sure. Plate races are always a lot of fun. We’ll go to
Not Surprising: While weird things traditionally happen at Talladega, some of the weirdest occurred at this race, from Denny Hamlin’s roof flap popping out to the very controversial finish at the end of the race with a late race big one and as some would say, the second attempt at a green, white, checkered finish.
Three of the four drivers who failed to move on in the Chase aside from Dale Earnhardt Jr. had some pointed words to share after the race.
When asked about the final restart, Ryan Newman said, ““Which one? The final, final restart? Or, the one where we were only going to have one and not anymore? And then the No. 4 (Kevin Harvick) causing the crash. Which one do you want me to talk about?”
“Well, at the end, the 4 (Kevin Harvick) knew he was blew up and we had the first attempt, but I guess they said it wasn’t an attempt, although they threw the green, so it seems like we attempted the start and there was a wreck,” Matt Kenseth said. “So then they tried it again and the 4 knew he was blew up, so he said he was going to stay in his lane, so the 6 (Trevor Bayne) then went up and outside and he clipped him and caused a wreck because he knew he’d make the Chase that way, so it’s – I got wrecked out two weeks in a row from people doing what they had to do to make the Chase, but call it what you want.”
“4 (Kevin Harvick) could only run about 30 miles per hour so I think he saw people coming and he knew he was going to be 30th, last car on the lead lap so caused the wreck,” Hamlin said. “That’s not here nor there. We had a self-inflicted day, took us four times to get our roof fixed. It’s unfortunate, I feel like I’ve done all I could possibly do to advance in a three-race season. I feel like we could have won next week. I really can’t spin any positive on it right now.”
“It’s tough, we’ll just move on to next year.”