Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Race 9: Aaron's 499 at Talladega


#18-Kyle Busch was in the right place at the right time, leading on the final lap when a twelve-car pileup in turn two froze the field on the backstretch. Busch, who led only 12 laps, rallied from missing his pit stall during the second round of pit stops, a miscue which forced him to pit again the following lap, and an amazing save on the backstretch when he and #26-Jamie McMurray made contact and nearly spun from the top five. The win was particularly sweet for Busch as he narrowly missed winning the Daytona 500 in February after leading the most laps and had wrecked out of both Talladega events in 2007.

1) #18-Kyle Busch THE WINNER!
2) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya First popped up with the leaders after the second caution of the race, shoving #24-J. Gordon into the lead before #11-Hamlin and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. mounted an even bigger run. He then hooked up with teammate #40-Stremme, who was having a career day in the mid-to-late stages, but when the two mounted a run on third-place #15-Menard, they slipped below the line and spun out #15-Menard, bringing out the fourth caution of the race. He and #40-Stremme were warned not to go below the yellow line again by NASCAR, but were not penalized. Led 1 lap.
3) #11-Denny Hamlin Actually managed to be even more aggressive than teammate #18-Ky. Busch in a car that was handling to perfection. He was the first to make a daring two-car draft to the front, flying up to the lead by pushing #26-McMurray up from 12th to the front in three laps, then dropping down to pass him for the lead. The duet was running 9 mph faster than the rest of the pack when they made the move. He also pushed #20-Stewart the same way to a one-second lead at over 206 mph on the backstretch. So fast was #11-Hamlin that he complained about a vibrating gas pedal in the middle stages which caused his right foot to fall asleep. Still, his daring moves continued, cutting off #88-Earnhardt, Jr. for the lead with 53 laps to go and getting very loose, but saving his Toyota. Led 37 laps.
4) #6-David Ragan Was very fast early in the race, hanging around the top five and threatening to lead, then played it smart and avoided the carnage to race his way back to the front in the final laps for a solid finish.
5) #83-Brian Vickers First led while battling #31-J. Burton and #11-Hamlin after the first caution, but he spun coming off pit road during the first round of green-flag stops a few laps later, costing him track position, but not bringing out the caution. He did bring out the race’s fifth caution when #19-E. Sadler rear-ended him in turn one, causing his rear bumper cover to fly off in the middle of the track. Led 4 laps.
6) #28-Travis Kvapil Made his way into the top five with teammate #38-Gilliland after the second caution of the race and managed to stay there through much of the closing stages of the race even as #38-Gilliland fell back.
7) #5-Casey Mears Lagged at the back of the pack with teammate #48-Johnson to avoid trouble and was fortunate enough to avoid his teammate's fate in the eighth and final caution.
8) #12-Ryan Newman Finally finding some luck in the dry spell following his Daytona 500 victory, he took the lead shortly before the race’s sixth caution and remained with the leaders through the end of the race. Led 5 laps.
9) #07-Clint Bowyer NO NOTES
10) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. First took the lead on lap 39 when teammate #24-J. Gordon gave him a push down the backstretch and proved himself to be one of #11-Hamlin’s biggest competitors as he mimicked #11-Hamlin’s two-car draft with former teammate #15-Menard to take the lead back later in the race. A gas-and-go stop under the second caution kept him in front. Subsequently drafting with #20-Stewart did not go as planned when #20-Stewart got loose off his nose and smacked the outside wall in turn one, bringing out the third caution of the day. He brought out the sixth caution of the race by breaking loose in turn one and sliding up into #43-Labonte, damaging his own right-rear quarter panel in the process as the multi-car wreck ensued when #2-Ku. Busch spun the slowing #43-Labonte. Car was not the same after, but he remained in the top 10 even as he may have made the contact with #26-McMurray which caused the final caution. Led 46 laps.
11) #7-Robby Gordon After missing practice and qualifying as he competed in a rally in Europe to make up for the canceled Dakar Rally in January, putting P.J. Jones in the car for those two sessions, he returned to challenge for the top 10 in the final laps.
12) #31-Jeff Burton Exchanged the lead with #83-Vickers and #11-Hamlin shortly after the first caution, then nearly spun off the nose of aggressive #44-Reutimann in the tri-oval before the third caution. Received some damage to his machine in the eighth and final caution of the race when #48-Johnson clipped him into the outside wall, but somehow managed to be the highest-finishing of those involved. Led 1 lap.
13) #48-Jimmie Johnson Lagged at the back of the pack with teammate #5-Mears to avoid trouble, which seemed like a great strategy as he avoided damage in the sixth caution and found himself fighting for the lead with #55-Waltrip and #18-Ky. Busch inside the final 10 laps. While cutting beneath #55-Waltrip to take the lead after the seventh caution, #18-Ky. Busch managed to get beneath him and get by for the top spot. He fell back into the field after that only to be involved in the eighth and final caution of the race when #26-McMurray broke loose and hooked him into the outside wall off his left-rear quarter panel. His car then slid through the pack, collecting several cars including #29-Harvick, #01-Smith, and #19-E. Sadler. Led 1 lap.
14) #15-Paul Menard Had a career day in his familiar number 15, drafting up with the leaders all day long and helping former teammate #88-Earnhardt, Jr. to the lead in the early stages. He led himself with 40 laps to go in the race and was running third when the Ganassi machines of #42-Montoya and #40-Stremme got a run on him in the tri-oval and spun him through the infield grass, bringing out the fourth caution of the race. Led 3 laps.
15) #38-David Gilliland Picked his way through the field to follow #28-Kvapil into the top five after the second caution, shunting #20-Stewart into the lead on the outside groove. He managed to lead, unlike his teammate, but could not stay with #28-Kvapil in the final laps. Spun #78-Nemechek into #01-Smith during the eighth and final caution, but avoided contact himself. Led 2 laps.
16) #66-Scott Riggs Lost his lap early and was forced to move down on the apron as the lead draft began to dice around him for position shortly before the fourth caution of the race.
17) #26-Jamie McMurray His rather adventurous day began as he was the car whom #11-Hamlin pushed to the lead after the first caution in the race’s first thrilling two-car draft. He was the biggest mover through the field through the first half of the event and attempted a daring three-wide move on the outside of #12-Newman and #11-Hamlin, but was shaken out of the draft. The excitement of that moment was promptly eclipsed later in the race when he bounced off #18-Ky. Busch in a race for third on the outside groove coming into turn three, both cars getting very loose, but managing to save their racecars. Nothing could save his car from damage in the sixth caution, however, as he was pushed into the outside wall of turn two behind #20-Stewart by #43-Labonte and #2-Ku. Busch. His car spun free and still managed to keep going after that, only to break loose in turn two from possible contact from #88-Earnhardt, Jr. and hook #48-Johnson into the wall, setting off the 12-car wreck with #78-Nemechek, #01-Smith, #9-Kahne, #31-J. Burton, #19-E. Sadler, #84-Allmendinger, #29-Harvick, and #44-Reutimann that forced the race to end under caution.
18) #16-Greg Biffle Stopped in turn two to avoid the carnage of the eighth and final caution, allowing him to finish ahead of many of the wreck’s victims.
19) #24-Jeff Gordon Flirted with the lead for much of the day, but just didn’t have the same kind of power that the Toyotas managed to find. He still found himself running second behind #18-Ky. Busch after teammate #48-Johnson was shaken out of the groove with #55-Waltrip, but when he attempted to repeat the pass that scored him the win at Talladega in October 2007, #18-Ky. Busch blocked him and forced him out of the groove, sending him to the back of the pack just in time to be pinned behind #40-Stremme in the outside wall in the eighth and final caution. Led 1 lap.
20) #44-David Reutimann Got #31-J. Burton very loose in the tri-oval just before the third caution of the race when he pushed #31-J. Burton too hard. His aggression resurfaced when he made contact with teammate #00-McDowell in the tri-oval, sending #00-McDowell into a spin just seconds before he himself was tangled in the late stages of the eighth and final caution by hitting the backwards #29-Harvick.
21) #01-Regan Smith (R) The highest-finishing rookie for the fourth time in 2008, tying him once again for the lead with #77-Hornish, Jr. He sustained significant damage to the rear of his car in the eighth and final caution when #38-Gilliland spun #78-Nemechek into him, but still managed to limp around to the finish. Led 1 lap.
22) #09-Sterling Marlin Qualified for his first race since Homestead last November and avoided the carnage of the eighth caution to score a respectable finish.
23) #9-Kasey Kahne Led his lap of the race thanks to a push from teammate #19-E. Sadler just before the third caution of the race, but, like his teammate, was thrashed in the eighth and final caution of the race when he could not avoid the spinning #01-Smith or #84-Allmendinger on the apron. Led 1 lap.
24) #29-Kevin Harvick Uneventful race ended in the eighth and final caution when he spun through turn two and sustained damage to the right side of his car after rear-ending #84-Allmendinger, then being spun by #78-Nemechek into #01-Smith before his nose was hit softly by the slowing #44-Reutimann. Led 1 lap.
25) #78-Joe Nemechek The surprise polewinner, his fourth at Talladega and his first since Michigan in August, 2005, was forced to take an extended stop early in the race as, since this was an impound race, his team had to put on the alternator belt they left off during qualifying. He never led a lap, losing it soon after the start as teammates #11-Hamlin and #20-Stewart pushed by. Ran as high as 10th toward the middle stages of the race, but was ultimately involved in the eighth and final caution of the race after contact from #38-Gilliland sent him into #01-Smith, the rear of his car then lifting off the ground as it was pummeled by #40-Stremme trying to find his way through.
26) #00-Michael McDowell (R) Spun off teammate #44-Reutimann midway through the tri-oval as the field received the white flag, but did not bring out the caution, something which was perhaps a good thing as it also allowed him to avoid involvement in the eighth and final caution that ended the race under yellow just seconds later.
27) #55-Michael Waltrip Got very loose in a three wide battle back in the pack and worried that he had a low left-rear tire after he made contact with #77-Hornish, Jr. The tire held, however, and he slipped his way into contention after the sixth caution by making a daring run on the outside of leading #18-Ky. Busch to take the lead with just 8 laps to go. He held the lead through the seventh caution caused by #43-Labonte, but lost it in turn three when #18-Ky. Busch made a three-wide pass on he and #48-Johnson. Blew the engine on the final lap and lost the lead draft. Led 4 laps.
28) #40-David Stremme Filled in for rookie Dario Franchitti when Franchitti suffered a broken ankle in a vicious wreck during the Nationwide race the previous day. The exchange seemed to spell upset winner as Stremme, reunited with his old team and crew chief, led before the third caution and was solidly in contention for the win as he and teammate #42-Montoya teamed up. His push behind #42-Montoya ultimately caused the fourth caution of the race when it shoved #42-Montoya into #15-Menard, but then found himself in the lead with 34 to go to lead his second lap of the day. He slipped back in the final run to the checkers and was unable to avoid the slowing #26-McMurray, pinching him against the outside wall along with #24-J. Gordon in the eighth and final caution. He escaped severe damage and moved down the track only to pile into the stopped cars of #19-E. Sadler and #78-Nemechek, lifting the rear wheels of #78-Nemechek off the ground. Led 2 laps.
29) #19-Elliott Sadler Found his way to the front just before the third caution, taking the lead before slipping back and shunting teammate #9-Kahne into the lead. His bump drafting contact with #83-Vickers in turn one caused #83-Vickers to lose his rear bumper cover and bring out the fifth caution of the race. His car was later destroyed in the eighth and final caution of the race when #01-Smith slid up into his path, sending him hard into the outside wall before bouncing back into teammate #9-Kahne and stopping into the pileup between #78-Nemechek and #40-Stremme. Led 3 laps.
30) #84-A.J. Allmendinger Excellent third-place qualifying run in his first 2008 start was followed by a quiet race which ended rudely when he was rear-ended hard by #29-Harvick while both were trying to avoid the spinning #9-Kahne in the melee which was the eighth and final caution. Led 1 lap.
31) #10-Patrick Carpentier (R) Had a very slow pit stop under the first caution of the race, just coming off pit road as the race restarted on lap 24. Scraped the wall in turn two when he checked up a few cars behind #20-Stewart, who slipped off the nose of #88-Earnhardt, Jr., scraped the wall himself to bring out the third caution of the race.
32) #45-Kyle Petty NO NOTES
33) #8-Aric Almirola Brushed the outside wall off turn two during the first round of green-flag stops in the long cautionless run after the first caution, but did not bring out the yellow as he limped to pit road.
34) #43-Bobby Labonte Was slowed up by loose #88-Earnhardt, Jr., then immediately spun by #2-Ku. Busch in the middle of the three-wide pack involved in the sixth caution of the race, tearing up his Dodge badly after hooking #1-Truex, Jr into the wall and forcing he and #2-Ku. Busch into the side of #26-McMurray, then #20-Stewart. His car also brought out the seventh caution of the race when his damaged car spun exiting the tri-oval.
35) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) Raced three-wide below #55-Waltrip and made contact with his left-rear tire, but did not sustain any damage.
36) #21-Jon Wood One of the many surprises in qualifying, starting 12th in his first 2008 start, he was forced behind the wall after only two laps as his setup had to be changed completely for race setup. He returned to the race 8 laps down, but was running at the finish.
37) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. Sustained perhaps the worst damage of anybody in the sixth caution of the race when everything but the left-front corner of his car was torn up, his car turned backwards from the bottom groove up into the path of #20-Stewart against the wall, crumpling the passenger side and rear of his car just before #2-Ku. Busch and #43-Labonte also made contact.
38) #20-Tony Stewart Won the Nationwide race to score his first-ever win at Talladega and led the opening lap on Sunday thanks to his powerful teammate #11-Hamlin. One nose-to-tail draft he led over #11-Hamlin pushed him to 206 mph and an improbable one-second lead on the rest of the field. Brought out the third caution of the race when, while leading, he slid across the nose of #88-Earnhardt, Jr. as the two drafted into turn one. He wasn’t angry as he was already fearing a tire was going down before the incident happened. The right side of his car was flattened, but the tire held and the damage was not as severe as expected, so he continued to race in the lead draft. His car was finished off some laps later in the sixth caution when he bounced between #43-Labonte and #88-Earnhardt, Jr. during a tight three-wide battle into turn one, causing #88-Earnhardt, Jr. to wobble down to the inside and forcing the field behind to check-up, #2-Ku. Busch rear-ending the slowing #43-Labonte who spun #1-Truex, Jr. up into his path just in time for #2-Ku. Busch and #43-Labonte to slide into the pinned #20-Stewart against the wall after the two had ground #26-McMurray into the fence behind him, severely damaging the front of his car #20. Led a race-high 61 laps.
39) #2-Kurt Busch Knocked #43-Labonte into a spin during the chain-reaction of the sixth caution soon after #20-Stewart checked up after contact from #88-Earnhardt, Jr. Sustained severe damage to the front and sides of his machine as he was mashed between #26-McMurray and #43-Labonte, then #43-Labonte and #20-Stewart, for an extended period.
40) #99-Carl Edwards Nearly spun off pit road during pit stops under the first caution of the day, foreshadowing on further misfortunes in the final week of crew chief Bob Osborne’s suspension. He made an unscheduled stop on lap 43 for a vibration, his right-front tire having been given too much negative camber. The pit stop cost him a lap. Things got worse when he brought out the second caution of the day on lap 116, blowing a right-front tire like teammate #17-Kenseth, smacking the outside wall in turn four just as hard.
41) #17-Matt Kenseth Brought out the first caution of the day when his right-front tire failed very early in the race while he was in turn two, causing him to slam the outside wall so hard that part of his splitter broke off.
42) #70-Ken Schrader Qualified a surprising 3rd on Saturday in his first start with the second HAAS team, but, like his fellow go-or-go-homers, raced a setup that was not ready for race day as he lost the engine around the time of the third caution brought out by #20-Stewart. Led 1 lap.
43) #41-Reed Sorenson Blew his engine only five laps into the race, but did not bring out a caution as he coasted onto pit road.

#22-Dave Blaney
#34-John Andretti
#96-J.J. Yeley

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