October 23, 2011
Bowyer wins wreck-filled race
By Dean McNulty, QMI Agency
TALLADEGA, ALA. - The only thing missing at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Good Sam 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday was Noah directing traffic.
For 500 miles the best stock car drivers in the world lined up in two-car tandems, back to front, before Clint Bowyer moved out from behind his Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton to win in the No. 33 Chevrolet in a race that was marred with several multi-car wrecks.
But more than the victory for Bowyer, the race all but ended one of professional sports’ most prolific winning streaks — Jimmie Johnson’s five-year reign as Sprint Cup champion.
Johnson’s 26th-place finish combined with Chase for the Championship points leader Carl Edwards’ 11th- place result, put the margin between the two at 50 points, more than one full race worth of points with just four events left in the 2011 schedule.
Not an impossibility, mind you, but it would certainly rate as a comeback of historic proportions should Johnson and the No. 48 Chevrolet team recover over the next four weeks to claim a sixth Sprint Cup at Homestead Miami Speedway.
“We’ll just keep fighting,” Johnosn said. “If it isn’t the championship, I want to finish as high as I can possibly finish. So we’re going to keep fighting hard and see what we can do.”
Johnson had a deal to hook up with Hendrick Motorsports garage mate Dale Earnhardt Jr. and for most of the afternoon it woSPO-TORAUTO-rked to perfection with each of them leading laps.
But when three quick cautions came out in the final 25 laps there wasn’t time for Earnhardt to push Johnson to the front as he had in the spring race at Talladega.
“At the end, we had a lot of cautions late, we wanted to try to work our way toward the front in the last 20 laps but the cautions kept coming out and we just didn’t have the track position at the end to make a run with two laps to go,” Earnhardt said.
Also effectively eliminated from the Chase picture was Kurt Busch, who finished 36th in the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge after he was wrecked in a violent collision with the No. 47 Toyota of Bobby Labonte on Lap 173 of the 188-lap race.
That leaves the 2005 champion an all but insurmountable 54 points down.
“We were doing good all day,” Busch said. “(Labonte) went low, we went high, and he was starting to come back up when I was zigging and zagging. Our championship hopes are done just because of this two-car Talladega draft.”
On the cusp of being out of the race for the Cup is Kyle Busch, who dropped to sixth place, 40 points back of Edwards after his finish of 34th in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
The biggest winner of the day was Edwards, who bumped his lead over Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth to 14 points after finishing 11th with an assist from his RFR teammate Greg Biffle.
“I’ve never been so happy with an 11th-place finish in my life,” Edwards said. “Greg did an unbelievable job of sticking with me and we get to come out of here extending our points lead, which is good.”
Also moving up in the standings was Brad Keselowski in the No. 2 Penske Dodge who is now only 18 points back.
Kevin Harvick, who came into Talladega second behind Edwards, fell three positions to fifth — 26 points back — after being involved in a couple of on-track incidents to finish 32nd, nine laps down to the winner.
Dave Blaney, pushed by Keselowski, ran third, with Keselowski fourth.
Brian Vickers rounded out the top five.
Ireland’s Mark Winterbottom and Richard Lyons gave Ford its first win of the 2011 Australian V8 Supercars Championship in the No. 5 Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon at the Armor All Gold Coast 600. Winterbottom out-braked No. 88 Team Vodafone Holden Commodore of Jamie Whincup and Sebastien Bourdais with eight laps left. ... Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch announced at Talladega that he will start his own Nationwide team next season to go with his Camping World Truck Series team. No driver announcement other than the team will run all of the NNS events, including Montreal in August, and that Busch will do some of the races himself. ... Could there have been any happier winner than Mike Wallace on Saturday when he drove the No. 33 Kevin Harvick Incorporated Silverado to victory in the Coca-Cola 250?