The Final Word – Talladega was awesome, even if the finish was bloody awful

There is a single word that I dearly would like to begin this article with. One word. However, due to my raising and the fact there are some rules that prohibit me from using that one word, I shall have to come up with a compromise.


Close enough. Sadly, for Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans, close does not cut it, even an inch or two. Joey Logano was just out in front at Talladega by a hair when a caution came out on the green-white-checkered restart to claim the sweep of this round of the Chase. He is in. Junior needed to win to continue his hunt but did not.


Junior had the dominant car and was the story throughout. He led, he smoked the tires coming in. Instead of two, he needed four. Later, he comes in, smokes the tires, and again needed four. When he managed to do it right, a crewman went over the wall too early. Instead of first, he was 27th. Back to the front he comes, comes in for a little gas and go, smokes the damn tires one more time, to sit fourth. He got to second, got close, closer than those tiny hairs atop my shiny bald pate, in fact, but close would not cut it at Talladega.


Now there is speculation that Kevin Harvick is the new Clint Bowyer. With his car doubtful if it could survive another two laps as its engine went south, Harvick checked his mirror as they re-started that final time. He no doubt saw Trevor Bayne go to the outside, then turned right. It was not a full turn, one that would have seen him actually change lanes, but rather just enough to catch the rear corner of that passing car, turning him into the fence, causing the wreck that ended the race. With the caution out, all Harvick had to do was slowly make the laps and secure his continuation in the Chase.


If NASCAR had held off throwing the caution on the 2.66-mile track for another mile, even half a mile, the result could have been different. They did not, waving it as they got into the first turn. Two miles to go before they returned to the scene of the carnage. Time and space to let them race, at least a little longer, but they did not allow that.


So, Martin Truex Jr. advances for Furniture Row. Jeff Gordon is the lone standard bearer for Rick Hendrick with Junior’s elimination. Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch has Joe Gibbs still with a pair, with Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin now both out. Logano and Brad Keselowski advance for Team Penske. I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I am. I really can’t. As for Stewart-Haas, Kurt Busch and Right-Turn Harvick go forth to Martinsville with dreams of a championship still dancing in their heads.


But let us leave the final word to Denny Hamlin. You know, the guy who came to Talladega with the biggest cushion over his Chase rivals. The guy with the roof hatch latch that broke, that tried to give him some Red Bull wings, so that his crew brought him in more than once to tape it down. If only they had added a few extra pieces that first time to the repair that failed and that sent him right back to the pits for another round and another lap. Hamlin’s day was so far up in flames it was apropos the car burned briefly after that G-W-C wreck. I was not in the car, I did not hear his radio, but I am betting his summation of the race went something like this…

“Fudge! Fudge! Fudge!”

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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