April 17, 2011
What a win for Johnson!
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
TALLADEGA, Ala. — For all the excitement that was the final lap in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday there was 498 laps of mind-numbing tag team racing.
Jimmie Johnson won the race in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in spectacular fashion getting in front of Clint Bowyer and the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing at the wire by just 2/1000ths of a second.
But for more than three hours before that, Johnson was content to drive in the back with his buddy and HMS teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., away from the wreck-inducing packs that define restrictor plate racing these days at NASCAR’s two biggest race tracks — Daytona and Talladega.
Johnson went so far as to hand the winner’s checkered flag to Earnhardt in recognition for his part in the victory.
The question, of course, is whether it is really racing.
Even Johnson admitted that once the two cars hooked up the way he and Earnhardt did, there would be no chance that the pusher — in this case Earnhardt — would attempt to do anything but finish second.
And Jeff Gordon, who finished third behind Johnson and Bowyer said that Sunday’s event was basically a 50-mile race.
“Let’s be honest: In my opinion, Talladega has always been about a 15 to 25-lap race, and the rest is just trying to get to the end. And that’s basically what we have now,” he said.
“If you want to survive and you want to make it to the finish, you know, you have to either choose to try to push to stay up front, or ride in the back.”
And without a doubt riding in the back is what got Johnson the win.
Gordon said that it just makes sense because you avoid the wrecks that took out contenders like Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth on Sunday.
“I think that — and I’ve always felt this, that even with the old car and the way we were all bunched together, I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that we were out there pushing and shoving and running three- and four-wide, at lap 40,” Gordon said.
Fair enough, but please explain to the fan who paid upwards of a $100 a ticket to be at Talladega why he shouldn’t get a refund because there was only 15 to 25 laps of real racing.
The Chinese Grand Prix was without a doubt the most compelling Formula One race in recent memory, mostly because there was actual passing on the race track, including Lewis Hamilton’s spectacular overtaking of Sebastian Vettel with five laps remaining.
The passing began right from the time the lights went out at the start-finish line when both Hamilton and Jenson Button got past Vettel.
That forced Red Bull to go to a two-stop pit strategy as the only hope of re-taking the lead.
But after the race Vettel questioned the wisdom of Red Bull’s plan.
“We probably tried too hard staying on two stops ... it shows that one race when you try something a bit different, you do mistakes,” he said.
Vettel knows very well, however, that if Red Bull had stayed with its original plan of a three-stop race it would never have recovered to get in front of Hamilton to begin with.
The two-stop call was the right one, Vettel just couldn’t keep Hamilton behind him.
A lot of NASCAR drivers may be sick and tired of restrictor plate racing, but Jeff Gordon really was sick during the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega. Gordon said he was “sick as a dog” for the most of the weekend but carried on to finish third. ... Canadian Robert Wickens ended his first weekend in the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 Series in second place in the championship points after a pole and a second-place finish Saturday and a fifth place finish Sunday at Spain’s Motorland Aragon Circuit. Wickens is driving for the UK-based Carlin Racing team. ... Was there anything more impressive Sunday that Mark Webber’s march from 18th on the grid to a podium finish in Shanghai?