By: Billy Tewes
The script was played out exactly how we expected it for the entire course of the Aarons 499 at the Talladega Super Speedway. There was a wreck, two of them actually, that destroyed over half of the fields chances at winning. There was a leader who looked as if he had a death grip on Talladega and was not going to let go. And then, there was a surprise winner.
Enter Front Row Motorsports. The two cars of David Ragan and David Gilliand paired up to mount a final charge for the ages that put Front Row 1 and 2 as they crossed the start finish line. This race saw two rain delays that lasted well over 3 hours and pitted drivers against damp conditions as well as a disappearing sun. The 2.56 mile track does not have lights around it, so time was of the essence as the sun faded.
Once again, the dominant car at a restrictor plate track did not win the race. Matt Kenseth led 142 laps and was poised to get his third victory of the season until the final major pileup forced a green white checkered finish. Kenseth would get passed by Carl Edwards with one to go and would try to follow him into turn one where David Ragan and David Gilliand were beginning to mount their charge. Kenseth slipped to the high side believing he would latch onto Edwards draft and try to pass him by himself. Kenseth stated in his interview that he felt that if he blocked Ragan, he would have wrecked the entire field. Ragan and Gilliland jettisoned into the lead down the backstretch and never looked back.
Those two driver for Front Row Motorsports which is one of the underfunded “small” teams in Nascar. They managed to stay out of two wrecks after hanging out in the back of the pack most of the day and chose the right time to make their final push. Ragan won his second Cup series race and first since he was pushed to victory at the summer Daytona night race a few years ago.
The first of two major pileups would be caused by Kyle Busch when he fanned out to the high side and thought he could pass the 5 car of Kasey Kahne. What ensued was Busch clipping Kahne, sending him into the wall and collecting drivers like Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and many others.
Kurt Busch Flipping Over On Top of Ryan Newman
The real controversy surrounding this race came in part to the final giant pileup that saw Kurt Busch flip his car on top of the car of Ryan Newman. Both Newman and Busch were very critical of the conditions they were racing in, especially the darkness. I was quite surprised that Nascar did not shorten the race at least 15 laps after the second rain delay. They put drivers in a compromising situation. Here is what Newman had to say about the race conditions:
“I wanted to make sure I get that point across. Y’all can figure out who ‘they’ is. That’s no way to end a race. Our car was much better than that. That’s just poor judgment in restarting the race, poor judgment. I mean, you got what you wanted, but poor judgment and running in the dark and running in the rain.”
I completely agree with Newman. It was foolish for Nascar to keep racing after they knew how dark it would get. They ran into the same situation with the nationwide race the night before as that race was also delayed due to rain and had to be shortened. Nascar dropped the ball. I think the perfect compromise as I just mentioned would be to shorten it from 60 laps to 45 and that gives drivers about 15 more minutes of sunlight to work with as opposed to it being too dark. When it comes to driver safety, I can’t believe Nascar compromised driver safety to satisfy whatever remaining fans that stayed through all of the rain delays.
Next week the cup boys head to the “Lady In Black” at Darlington. Darlington has been known to eat up drivers as it is incredibly diffcult to navigate the 1.5 mile track. The turns are different lengths and the banking makes it difficult to enter the corners, thus drivers end up smacking the wall. The walls are painted white, but by the time all of the races are done, it will be marred with hundreds of different color combinations. Last year, the Furniture Row racing driver Regan Smith (who was on older tires) shocked the Nascar world and held off Carl Edwards to win his first career Sprint Cup Series race. I don’t think there will be the same magic this weekend. It is so hard to predict races this year especially one at Darlington where anything can happen. If I had a choice, I would say Matt Kenseth and here is why. He is so fired up after leading the most laps in the past two weeks and not winning that he will not only lead the most laps at Dralington, but he will win his third race of the year! Enjoy the carnage that Darlington brings and I will be back with a post race wrap up of all the action!
Texas Terry Labonte’s Final Career Victory At Darlington in 2003