Sunday, October 05, 2008

Live on Type Delay: The Amp Energy 500

Many broadcast personalities refer to the Chase race at Talladega as a "wild card," as the results of the race are not primarily in the hands of the driver, but as Jeff Gordon points out, "every race is a wild card race."

Talladega is NASCAR's largest oval, at 2.66 miles around and with four-story high banking in the turns. The side-by-side and nose to tail racing at nearly 200 mph is tight and sometimes four wide, and like no other racing in the world. This is one of the few venues at which the Sprint Cup car has provided more excitement than the conventional car did.

Travis Kvapil, possibly fighting to keep a ride next year, starts in his first Cup Series career pole position, among other cars and drivers either on the bubble of, or outside the top 35 owners points positions. This should be interesting.

It doesn't matter where you start at Talledega, the move from the back to the front happens quickly and often. That is one of the thrills of 'Dega. Carl Edwards has the highest starting position of the Chasers, starting in twelfth.

Eric Almirola and Paul Menard line up behind Kvapil and Kvapil leads the first lap. The first three cars are in single file, and back in fifteenth they are three wide. The outside lane has moved up by lap 4 and Mike Wallace leads that lane, passing the leaders. Kvapil retakes the lead almost immediately. Now Wallace gets stuck in the middle without help, until Matt Kenseth gets behind him and keeps him from getting shuffled back further. Kvapil, Almirola, Menard, and Nemecheck break away from the field. All the racing is going on from fifth back.

The outside lane has moved up again, on lap six, and Edwards is challenging for the lead, with help from Brian Vickers. But Kvapil's line is faster, and after eight laps maintains the lead.

Whew! These guys are racing as though it were the final laps of the race. Patience is not a virtue today, it seems to be tooth and claw.

Now Edwards has the lead, finally making the top line work. Kvapil has fallen back to seventh. A mere lap later, the top five are single file, and Brian Vickers has taken the lead. Kvapil and the others who prevously led the field are moving back to the front. Aric Almirola takes the lead from Vickers, with Paul Menard just behind him.

Johnson is way in the back, with no drafting help, but the 48 team is not reporting any problems. We know how that works with Johnson's team--they may look like the worst car in the field at first, and things always seem to get turned to the positive for them.

After 20 laps, David Ragan leads, followed by Almirola and Menard. Jeff Gordon is moving up on the outside with help from Tony Stewart, but the outside lane stalls out on the back stretch. Ryan Newman, Stewart's future team mate is just behind them. Three wide for third place, and the movers are David Gilliland and Dale Jr. Jimmie Johnson and Ken Schrader, who finally teamed up are getting lapped. That hooks up Johnson and Junior and Earnhardt, Jr takes the lead on lap 26 with help from his team mate.

It's Earnhardt, Ragan, Almirola, Kvapil, and Paul Menard going around lap 28.

A caution for debris comes out on lap 33, just in time for pit stops, and just as Mike Wallace was challenging Earnhardt for the lead. Jr and Gordon were hooked up, a strong pairing, so if Jr lost the lead it wouldn't have been for long. Pit stops on lap 34. Some cars take only two tires, but most take four. Robby Gordon gets the free pass. Carl Edwards stayed out to lead a lap, then pitted. Smart points play for the 99 team.

Kenny Wallace in the #00 car has to return to pit lane for speeding. It is much better to serve a penalty under caution at Talledega than it is to have to do it under green, so Wallace stays on the lead lap. The debris was from a cut tire on the car of Tony Raines.

Jeff Burton takes the lead at the end of lap 39, after the restart, but the racing up front is intense, and Kyle Busch almost got pushed into the wall. Great save. Jr takes the lead momentarily, but Vickers gets a good shove and he gets the lead. Johnson may be a lap down, but he is a factor, as he becomes the drafting partner for a succession of drivers, including Earnhardt, Mears, and Vickers. He leads the field, although he is a lap down. There is nothing wrong with that car. Caution for debris on lap 45.

Johnson now gets the free pass. Many of the lead lap cars pit for fuel only. Ryan Newman's car stalled in the pits, and they have trouble restarting it. His engine is gone.

We can see damage on some cars already, although there haven't been any wrecks. Of concern is the front splitter on Tony Stewart's car. Deja Vu.

Elliott Saddler has the lead at the restart. Casey Mears is second, and before the end of the lap Kyle Busch with help from Denny Hamlin move up on the outside. Busch takes the lead going into turn 2.

Kurt Busch, with help from Vickers takes the lead on the next lap. Is this the BIG ONE on lap 53? No, only three cars were actually involved. Jeff Gordon hits the wall trying to avoid the spinning David Reutimann, who cut a tire, and heavily damages his car.

Bad day for Penske, now Kurt Busch's team is talking about engine problems.

Skinner takes the lead in the 84 Red Bull Toyota shortly after the restart, then Kasey Kahne gets the lead on the next lap. Bobby Labonte has made several attempts to take the lead, but can't make it stick. Now Reed Sorenson takes the lead from the outside lane. The race for the lead is three wide and continues that way for several laps, with too many lead changes to keep track of. Behind fourth position, they are four-wide. There is plenty of beatin' and bangin' at 200 mph here.

Junior takes the lead with Montoya pushing him, then Montoya gets help from Harvick and challenges for the lead.

Now we get the BIG ONE involving maybe eight cars. Vickers looses the front right tire in the tri-oval and wrecks, Kasey Kahne has wrecked. Aric Almirola and Martin Truex, Jr were also involved. David Gilliland's car is totally messed up. Mike Skinner's car is going to the garage. Jamie McMurray and Tony Raines were involved as well. A lot of cars barely escape disaster, because they were running packed three wide and tight.There were no Chase contenders in the wreck, miraculously. Red flag, the race is stopped to clean up the mess.

Brian Vickers' tire exploded much like Dale Earnhardt, Jr's did during final practice, Friday. Goodyear will probably hear about this.

Earnhardt is the leader, and Montoya is second. Johnson has made it up to sixteenth. No doubt that the 48 team could win this one, a great feat after being a lap down, but a piece of cake for Knaus and Kompany.

Pit stops before the green flies. Kvapil has troubles in the pit stalls with the front left tire, and loses many positions in the pits. Jr takes two tires only and maintains the lead. Restart on lap 72.

Paul Menard, Montoya, Burton and Harvick fill out the top five.

Montoya is racing toward the front on the inside with Hamlin as his drafting partner, and takes the lead on lap 74. Now Hamlin takes the lead. Montoya tries to take the lead again, gets shoved to the infield, but maintains control of the car and its speed, staying in third. Here comes Jr with help from Johnson, and they pass Hamlin like he is standing still. Stewart now comes up on the inside and hooks up with Johnson to take the lead, then Johnson gets the lead, and Stewart with Montoya in tow makes a move on the outside, but can't make it stick. Holy cow, three wide for the lead.

Jr and Ragan are trying to catch Johnson, but there is no drafting help, Johnson blocks his team mate, Jr , aggressively, but gives up the lead to Mike Wallace. This is wild. By lap 79, Johnson controls the lead, Earnhardt, Mike Wallace, Montoya, Stewart fill out the top five, and oh wow, Mike Wallace cuts a tire up there in the lead pack. Somehow, tragedy is averted as Wallace's car is the only one that recieves damage in that incident. Wallace did not actually wreck, and mangages to get some repair and new tires while staying on the lead lap.

The top five off of pit road are Kyle Busch, Earnhardt, Montoya, Stewart and Kenseth. Johnson seems to be having some engine problems. The 48 team removes the rev chip to see if there are other problems. Johnson will restart in 23rd.

Green flag on lap 86. The front five are in line, then Stewart passes Montoya and is side by side with Earnhardt. Three wide for third as Nemecheck leads the outside line toward the front. Busch is first, Stewart is second. Bobby Labonte looks strong in that outside line and gets help from Jr. Now Jr shoves Labonte then moves down to the inside, and we have a three wide race for the lead. Jr moves back up with Labonte, but they fall back some. Busch still leads, and Stewart is second, and Jr moves up again. Busch tries to block, but Jr momentarily takes the lead. This is a side by side race for third now, as Hamlin takes the lead with help from Montoya. Montoya makes a move for the lead, then Jr comes back into the lead, and Aric Almirola is second, after being involved in that earlier wreck. But now Hamlin gets it back, with Busch and Stewart behind him. Now David Ragan pushes Matt Kenseth to the lead on the outside, Jr comes back on the inside, with Montoya in tow, but they get stalled and fall back.

This is incredible three wide racing up front. It is very difficult to keep track of positions, and even the lead, but this sure is fun. The Wow Meter is pegged.

Now Denny Hamlin leads again at the half way point. All four of the manufacturers represented in NASCAR are running strong, though the toll has been heavy on the Dodges. Kyle Busch is second, Tony Stewart third, then Hamlin cuts a tire and hits the wall in turn one, pancaking the right side. and keeping the car against the wall all the way down to the end of the backstretch. He did a great job of not letting the car drop into traffic and causing a big wreck, if that is any consolation.

A bad pit stop for the 88 team causes Jr to lose some positions. Everybody is taking four tires this time, except for Menard who takes two. Now Robby Gordon leads, from staying out while the others pitted. Carl Edwards also stayed out, but now pits on lap 101. It is explained that Edwards is pitting away from the other lead cars to avoid the kind of pit road problems with contact that have plaqued him the past two weekends. He's not taking any chances.

Scott Riggs now leads at the green flag, Paul Menard is second, Almirola third, Kyle Busch is fourth and Stewart is fifth. Kenseth is in sixth.

Menard takes the lead, with Almirola behind him. Now Busch, Stewart, and Kenseth have a line going and catch the leaders. The top seven cars are in single file. Stewart passes Busch, makes contact, but saves it, and moves up to side by side with Menard. He takes the lead on the outside.

Stewart moves up, and Menard takes the lead on the bottom. The top three are now Menard, Almirola and Kyle Busch. 80 laps to go. 49 lead changes so far. This is Racin'!

Stewart takes the lead with the help of Montoya and leads for about five laps. Jeff Burton makes several good runs for the lead on the outside line, with help from Harvick and Dale Jr, and takes the lead for three laps. Now Harvick follows through and takes the lead. Things settle down a little with Harvick in the lead, David Ragan is second, Tony Stewart is third and Kyle Busch is fourth.

Kenseth leads a group on the outside to catch up to the top five. A third line forms in the middle as even more cars try to reach the front.

The front five are literally nose to tail as the outside line makes another move to the front, with Kvapil leading that group. Clint Bowyer, and Matt Kenseth are the pushers in that line. Stewart starts to make a move for second, gets no drafting help, and falls back into line to keep his third place position.

57 laps to go, and it's Harvick, Ragan, Stewart, Almirola and Kyle Busch in the top five. Kvapil and the outside line have taken the #28 car to fifth position, and the outside line is challenging the leaders.

53 laps to go and the top five remain the same. While we are in a temporary lull in the action, we should report that Denny Hamlin was apparently injured in that single car accident earlier, and was taken to the hospital. It is reported that he is alert and talking.

The front five maintain an unbroken line, and are able to stay ahead of that outside line lead by Kvapil. He really wants to make that pole count this race.

Caution for debris on lap 138. It is speculated that some of the cut tires that have happened are due to debris, so NASCAR is being more cautious about leaving any debris on the track. The leaders all pit on lap 140, which is still outside the fuel window to the end of the race. That means that the money stops could possibly be under green with only a few laps left. If there is no caution for the rest of the race, this will be a fuel mileage nail biter.

Carl Edwards spins leaving his pit stall, and it seems that his troubles with traffic during pit stops isn't over. Kyle Busch takes only two tires, but most of the others take four.

Greg Biffle leads, but he and the rest of the top five haven't pitted yet. Kyle Busch is the first off pit road.

A lot of cars are topping off before the green, and a lot are staying out. This will mean nothing if there is another caution.

Kyle Busch leads to the green with 44 laps to go. Jimmie Johnson has make it back up to fifth. David Ragan is second. Travis Kvapil is third and Stewart is fourth.

Kyle holds the lead, Johnson moves to the outside, and Stewart moves with him. Montoya and Jr form a third line on the outside. Busch moves up to the outside line, and David Ragan goes low. Montoya drops down behind Ragan, than back up. Busch still maintains the lead after all this, with Montoya on his rear bumper. This is actually getting scary. Then things settle down again, with Kyle Busch first, Montoya second, Dale Earnhardt Jr third, Jeff Burton fourth, and Kevin Harvick fifth. Jr takes a peek, then drops back in line.

What a move by Kyle Busch to block everybody! That car is three lanes wide, but he can't keep it up, and Jr nudges him out of the way and takes the lead. Burton is running in second. Kyle Busch falls way back.

Burton has taken the lead, but Jr has lined up behind David Ragan, and pushes the 6 car into the lead. Jr goes on the outside and takes the lead with no drafting help. Now Ragan, Montoya, and Burton are hooked up. Ragan takes the lead, but Montoya gets behind Jr and Jr retakes the lead.

If this keeps up all the way to the checkers, this will be one heck of a race. Excuse me, it has already been one heck of a race.

The teams of Mears, Montoya, and Biffle say they can go the distance. Kyle Busch's team says they can't. Stewart is conserving fuel, having fallen back to twentieth, but may be two laps short on fuel.

Harvick spins in turn three, but no other cars are involved, as he was on the inside, and was not in danger of being hit by other cars. There is no apparent damage on the 29 car. The caution changes everything there was about fuel strategy.

Not everybody pits, but Stewart and Kyle Busch don't take chances and pit for fuel and tires. Bobby Labonte and Busch take two tires and Stewart and most of the others who pit take four. This is more interesting strategy. Busch has over 108 laps on his left side tires. Everybody who needed to has topped off.

Montoya and Mears did gas only stops and are in first and second. Paul Menard is third, Clint Bowyer is fourth and Jr is fifth. The top five cars break away after the restart but that doesn't last long. Stewart and Kenseth are coming up fast on the outside lane, and soon they are challenging Montoya for the lead.

Stewart takes the lead in the middle line, then the outside line has trouble as Greg Biffle in fourth gets turned in turn four, and comes up the track, collecting many of the cars behind him, including Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. It looked like Harvick got caught up in that as well.So was Matt Kenseth, making it five Chase drivers involved in this wreck. If we had the BIG ONE earlier, this is the REALLY BIG ONE. Now they are saying that it was Eddie Haskell Carl Edwards who turned Biffle. Jack Roush must be livid. Sorenson and Kvapil were also caught up in the wreck. Michael Waltrip and Juan Pablo Montoya were also involved. A lot of good cars were taken out here.

Edwards mans up to the mistake. He tried to push Biffle through the corner, which he should have known better not to do. We have to give Carl credit for taking the blame. He doesn't want Jr Nation hating him now. This will help him keep his good guy image, and even though he took responsibility, Ward Cleaver (played by Jack Roush) will probably ground The Beaver (played by Greg Biffle) because Eddie is such a good boy and didn't mean it.

Mr Cleaver: Eddie! What have you done?

Eddie: Gee Mr Cleaver, I didn't mean to do anything wrong. Has anybody mentioned how good you smell today?

Mr Cleaver: Aw Eddie, you are such a good kid. I can see now it was really Wally (played by NASCAR) and the Beaver's fault. They will be punished.

Eddie: Please don't hurt them too bad, Mr Cleaver, they didn't mean to do it. Did I mention how nice your shirt looks?


Roush is blaming it on NASCAR, actually, for allowing the cars to bump through the turns. He does have a point, because NASCAR has said in the past that they would not allow bump drafting in the turns.

With ten laps to go, it is Tony Stewart first, Joe Nemecheck second, and Elliott Saddler is in third. Jimmie Johnson is in ninth position, the points leader and next Chaser in race position. This could get wild, no more give and mostly take.

Saddler blows by Nemecheck and is on Tony Stewart's bumper. This is cool, because these guys have been good friends since 1999, and they are pulling ahead of the rest of the field. It is also scary remembering Darlington.

Behind them there is a line of seven cars led by David Ragan, and they catch Saddler and Stewart. Regan Smith is in second, with DEI team mates Paul Menard and Aric Almirola right behind him.

Burton and Bowyer are moving up on the outside, with four laps to go. Jamie McMurray slides sideways in turn two as his right rear tire explodes. Another single car accident, and another great save. Goodyear says it isn't tire wear or heat, from what they can see on the tires, but possibly running over debris. We already written this before, but if we repeat often enough we may start to believe. it.

It will be a green/white/checker finish. This is so intense the needle has broken off of the Wow Meter and imbedded itself in my left shoulder. This is wild. 2 laps to go.

Tony is in first with Paul Menard and Regan Smith right behind him. Elliott Saddler is in fourth, with David Ragan behind him, and they have caught the lead draft with one to go. Saddler moves up but has no drafting help. Tony Stewart is still leading. I can't believe it, can he win? Smith passes at the last second on the bottom, but I thought you can't pass below the yellow line, and it seemed like Smith was on the apron. Smoke is officially being shown as the winner, but Smith's team is celebrating. I am having a serious anxiety attack. Smoke Wins!!!!! Holy Smokes!!!!! The top five are Tony Stewart, Regan Smith, Paul Menard, David Ragan, and Jeff Burton.

Smith's team is protesting that Smith was forced below the yellow, and therefore had the right to pass.

Talladega has now brought us two of the most exciting races of the season. This was once a track that made restrictor-plate racing look like a 200 mph parking lot, but today we had some real racing throughout the entire event. All time records in lead changes and number of race leaders were broken. So was my imaginary Wow Meter.

It really feels good when a favorite driver finally wins after being second six times at Talladega, and his first win of the season. There will be those who think Ragen Smith was cheated, but according to the rules, he did begin the pass below the yellow line while he had the option open to move to the outside, but that doesn't justify him being penalized sixteen positions. A win is a win and it feels good.

3 comments:

Amy said...

I agree that Smoke won....but Ragen was penalized a little harshly for advancing under the yellow...

Mike said...

That might be one of the most thorough race recaps I've ever seen. Nice job Jim.

RE: Smith's penalty, the only thing NASCAR could do was to send Smith to the end of the lead lap. It wouldn't be fair to arbitrarily insert him somewhere else.

88dlejrfan88 said...

As one of the Jr Nation fans, Eddie is not getting off that easy. Let's just say that Kyle just dropped to spot number two and Eddie took the lead. Luckily, I am okay with Smoke winning. (my son would be upset with me if I said otherwise considering he is a Tony fan)