Sunday’s Good Sam Club 500 turned out to be anything but what NASCAR had intended. After the last couple of restrictor plate races produced a majority of two-car drafts, the sanctioning body tweaked the rules in hopes of preventing a repeat of that kind of racing.
That never happened, as what we saw earlier in the season once again played out as drivers were content to find a drafting partner and stay glued to him. It may or may not be the best kind of racing to watch, and that depends on the individual, but it does seem to all but guarantee a great finish.
Sunday was no different as the finish of the race continued a trend of drivers taking the checkered flag by making a last-lap pass. It was the third time in the last four Talladega races that the winner had to make a pass on the while flag lap in order to win the race. This time around, the last lap action came courtesy of Richard Childress Racing’s Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer.
After the ninth caution flag of the day, there were only two laps of racing left when the green flag waved. As soon as the leaders crossed the start/finish line, Bowyer tucked in behind Burton and the two soon built up a 20 car-length lead. When they took the white flag for the final lap, the lead was so large that Bowyer was going to be able to take a shot at the win without jeopardizing a victory for RCR.
Unlike other tracks, Talladega’s start/finish line is not located at the center of the tri-oval, but further down the front-stretch towards turn one. The unique location gives drivers more time after coming out of turn four to make a pass, and that is exactly what Bowyer did.
As the two came out of turn four, Burton moved up the track and opened up the inside for Bowyer. After the race, Bowyer said he knew he made the move sooner than he should have but with the inside open he opted to go ahead. He carried a lot of momentum in the sling shot move to the bottom but Burton was able to stay on the outside of his rear quarter panel.
Burton later said he gave the inside to Bowyer thinking he would be able to slow him down by putting his left front fender along the right rear of Bowyer. The two battled side-by-side until Bowyer was able to move ahead for good just 1,200 feet from the checkered flag as he crossed the finish line .018 seconds ahead of his teammate Burton.
The win was the first of the year and career fifth for Bowyer, and it was probably his last feel-good moment in a RCR ride as he will be leaving to drive for Michael Waltrip Racing. The win was a milestone for RCR — the 100th Cup win for the organization that also has six Cup titles.
The results were not all good for RCR. The organization’s only driver in the Chase, Kevin Harvick, got caught up on in a wreck on lap 104, forcing him to an extended pit stop that left him two laps down to the leaders in a car that was no longer competitive. Harvick finished nine laps off the pace on his way to a 32nd place finish, dropping him from second place just five points from leader Carl Edwards to fifth where he now trails Edwards by 26 points.
CHASE NOTES: Only five drivers in the Chase finished in the Top 24 at Talladega. Carl Edwards’ 11th place finish enabled him to increase his lead to 14 points over teammate Matt Kenseth, who finished 18th but moved up a spot even though he lost seven points to the leader. The biggest move in the points was by fourth place finisher Brad Keselowski, who moved up three spots to third and gained seven points in the standings to now sit third, 18 points from the lead. Tony Stewart (in fourth at -19 pts) and Kevin Harvick (in fifth at -26 pts) are the only other drivers within 40 points of the lead with four races remaining.
Race Preview Event: Tums Bring It On 500 Track: Martinsville Speedway (.526 mile paper clip oval, 12 degrees of banking in the turns) Date: Oct. 30, 2:00 p.m. TV: ESPN Radio: MRN Defending Champion: Denny Hamlin