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Talladega ‘Treats’ Busch to Fifth-Place Finish
This time, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway delivered more “treats” instead of “tricks” for Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). Busch rallied from an early pit road miscue to score a hard-fought fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 500 on Sunday to move up to third in points.
“Our M&M’s Halloween Camry ran great all day,” said Busch, who earned his fourth top-five finish in 18 starts at Talladega, including his April 2008 win at the 2.66-mile oval. “I appreciate all the team guys and everybody from TRD (Toyota Racing Development), Toyota, M&M’s and Monster Energy. It was fun to finish one of these things. It’s God’s grace that allows us to finish one of these, and we appreciate it today, especially coming home with another top-five.”
The top-five finish didn’t come easy for Busch, who encountered problems on his second pit stop of the day at lap 42. Busch was one of a large contingent of cars that entered pit road for a green flag pit stop. Unfortunately, Busch couldn’t slow his car quickly enough to get across pit road and into his pit stall, one of the early stalls upon entering pit road. Since Busch couldn’t get over, he had to drive through pit road, turn another lap and return to pit road a second time for his four-tire-and-fuel pit stop.
The pit miscue left Busch in the back of the pack – as far back as 42nd place – and fighting to stay on the lead lap. But with a huge pack of drafting cars rapidly catching him, Busch fell one lap down to the leaders at lap 67.
As Busch blended into the large pack of cars, his teammate Denny Hamlin attached his No. 11 Toyota to the back of Busch’s No. 18 car’s bumper in hopes of keeping him in the mix and the first car one lap down. The plan worked when the caution flag waved at lap 78, and Busch was the car in position to get the “lucky dog” free pass to the lead lap. Busch didn’t look back.
With a fast No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Camry, Busch went straight to the front, leading three times for nine laps before getting shuffled back into the mix before finishing fifth.
“Well, there was nobody going anywhere that was behind us trying to make moves, so it didn’t make any sense to go down there and try to make a move yourself and just fade to the back,” Busch said. “It was interesting that everybody stuck up on the outside that long and certainly that was the fastest way around. There wasn’t anyone making up any time on the bottom. I figured that a lot of people would try to and be able to make up some time, but a couple tried and never made anything happen. We ended up with a decent finish here today, so that's all we could ask for.”
Busch’s JGR teammates – Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry, and Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry – finished 20th and 38th, respectively.
Austin Dillon was told by his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) crew to either bring back the trophy or the steering wheel in the Camping World RV Sales 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Subbing for the injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, Dillon obliged.
On the final lap of the 188-lap race around the 2.66-mile oval, Dillon was in third, drafting with restrictor-plate ace and fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. As the two raced down the back straightaway looking to overtake race leader Jamie McMurray, fourth-place Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made a move to the inside of Dillon. Dillon swept low to defend his position, and as he came back up the track to get in line behind Earnhardt, the nose of Stenhouse’s Ford hooked the bumper of Dillon’s Chevrolet. The kind of wreck that makes the highlight reel of network morning shows was on.
Dillon spun low before momentum carried him back up the track, directly into the path of Casey Mears. The nose of Mears’ Ford drilled the back of Dillon’s Chevy, launching Dillon skyward. The car landed on its front wheels before coming down hard on its rear tires. Miraculously, Dillon was still able to drive his Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 machine. He manhandled his mangled ride and kept it off the inside retaining wall, all the while keying his in-car radio to alert the crew that he was “all good.” Dillon drove his car straight to the garage, where live TV and radio were waiting for him to recount his wild ride.
“The guys told me to bring back either the steering wheel or the trophy. They got the steering wheel, but we were close to the trophy,” said Dillon, who ended up 26th, the first car one lap down.
“We had a really fast Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy. I was trying to help the 88 (Earnhardt) right there at the end. The 17 (Stenhouse) had a run, so I went low and then when I was coming back up he just hooked me. Wild ride.
“Got to thank NASCAR for everything they’ve done for safety. I was all good. I even got to drive the car back. Racing’s a lot of fun when you’ve got good safety equipment like that. And thanks to Bass Pro Shops, Mobil 1, Tony Stewart and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing for giving me this opportunity. That was a whole lot of fun right there coming to the white flag at Talladega and having a shot at the win.”
Dillon’s entire outing at Talladega was impressive. The Camping World RV Sales 500 marked only the 12th career start for the 23-year-old, and his first at Talladega. When many veterans had problems slowing from 200 mph to the pit road speed limit of 55 mph, Dillon performed four flawless pit stops. Despite the outcome, Talladega proved to be an excellent learning experience.
“My goal is to be a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver next year,” Dillon said, “and getting as much experience in a Cup car this year can help me make that transition.”
Consider Dillon’s Talladega debut mission accomplished.
Dillon’s SHR teammate Ryan Newman had a solid day at Talladega. Newman drove his No. 39 WIX Filters Chevrolet SS to a ninth-place finish, scoring his 16th top-10 of the season and his ninth top-10 in 24 career Sprint Cup starts at Talladega.
Newman is representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and entered the sixth race of the 10-race Chase 12th among the 13 Chase drivers, 78 points behind Chase leader Matt Kenseth. Newman leaves Talladega in 11th, 72 points behind new Chase leader Jimmie Johnson. Johnson holds a four-point lead over Kenseth with just four races remaining.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 33rd. It was Patrick’s 42nd career Sprint Cup start and her second at Talladega. Patrick is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Stenhouse, who placed a career-best third.
McMurray won the Camping World RV Sales 500 under caution to score his seventh career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his second at Talladega.
Earnhardt finished second, while Stenhouse, Paul Menard and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five. David Ragan, David Gilliland, Martin Truex Jr., Newman and Clint Bowyer comprised the remainder of the top-10.
German Quiroga Talladega Superspeedway Post Race Report
Germán Quiroga and his No.77 NET10 Wireless/OtterBox Toyota Tundra team had high expectations entering the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Fred's 250 presented by Coca-Cola on Saturday afternoon. The three-time NASCAR Mexico Series champion qualified 19th for the 94-lap event and made his way inside the top-10 after only three laps.
With a caution on the track for debris and fuel strategy already in place, Quiroga brought his Tundra to a busy pit road for a fuel only stop. Amongst the scuffle and slight contact with another competitor leaving his pit, Quiroga returned to pit road and his team repaired the No. 77 Tundra for damage and he was ready to restart. His NET10 Wireless/OtterBox machine was dialed in for Superspeedway racing as he maneuvered his way back inside the top-10 on lap 37.
Quiroga was scored as high as third but would settle into fifth position as the front of the field raced single-file. Green-flag pit stops began at lap 52 when the Red Horse Racing team visited pit road. Caught on pit road while the caution was out, Quiroga was forced to take the wave around restarting in the in the 28th position. The Tundra driver made it all the way back up into the 17th position before getting caught in a six-truck pile up in turn three. The accident ended the day for the No. 77 NET10 Wireless/OtterBox Tundra being scored 31st at races end.
Germán Quiroga talks about the accident at Talladega Superspeedway:
"I was running the high groove and I was trying to work with the No.8 truck and we almost cleared everybody. We were trying to hold it there and find a space through the middle and then all of a sudden Timothy Peters was hitting the wall right in front of us. There was nothing to do, kind of the big one at Talladega and Daytona. Thank you to NET10 Wireless, OtterBox and Toyota for all that you do. We're going to keep working hard for that win."
Timothy Peters Talladega Superspeedway Post Race Report
Crew chief Butch Hylton and Peters knew the Parts Plus Tundra needed to head to the front of the pack to be in contention at race's end. Racing patiently aggressive, Peters tried to find a dancing partner early on but the draft was not yet moving. It was lap 37 when Peters made his way into the top-15 and the freight train began.
The Parts Plus driver found himself inside the top-10 after a visit to pit road under green-flag conditions. It was on lap 66 when the inevitable came and collected the No. 17 Tundra in an accident ending the day for the team. Peters was scored 29th at races end.
Timothy Peters talks about the accident at Talladega Superspeedway:
"Don't know what happened. The next thing I know somebody got into us in the right rear and into the wall we went. It's a testament to the guys building these trucks, my Butler seat, my Simpson helmet and the HANS device kept us safe. Thanks to everybody at Parts Plus, Toyota, OtterBox, Zaxby's, NET10 Wireless -- just not the day we wanted after coming off that big win in Vegas."
John Wes Townley Talladega Superspeedway Post Race Report
Race after race, John Wes Townley continues to demonstrate his ability to execute when the time is right. During Saturday's Fred's 250 presented by Coca-Cola, the driver of the No. 7 Zaxby's Toyota Tundra was there at the end when it mattered most.
Townley qualified for the 94-lap event in the 20th position and drove a steady, smart race paying close attention to his competitors around him. The draft stayed quiet for the first third of the race before the dance began. Townley made his mark inside the top-10 to the eighth position on lap 27. Fuel strategy played a part in the race as the majority of stops on pit road were to top off the Zaxby's Tundra.
The young driver continues to show his development as a driver missing two big accidents on the 2.66-mile superspeedway. The No. 7 Zaxby's Toyota Tundra team carried out its race strategy to put Townley in contention at the end. On the final restart, Townley picked up two positions as he maneuvered thru the melee at the end and crossed the finish line in the seventh place with his damaged truck. The finish marks his third consecutive top-10 finish, with his last five finishes marking 12th or better. His finish also moves him up one position in the driver point standings to 13th.
John Wes Townley talks about the finish at Talladega Superspeedway:
"Man, I just saw a bunch of smoke and a truck upside down. It was pretty eerie when you come through the med center and half the field is in there. All in all, we did finish seventh and it was a good day for the Zaxby's Toyota Tundra. Can't really complain there."
Kenseth loses points lead after up-and-down day
At the end of what he called "an incredibly disappointing day" in Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Matt Kenseth found himself with a good car but a bad finish.
The result was Kenseth losing the Sprint Cup points lead for the first time since the beginning of the Chase. Kenseth swapped point positions with Jimmie Johnson, Johnson moving four points in front of Kenseth after starting the day four behind.
Despite leading 32 of the race's 188 laps and racing as high as sixth with 18 laps to go, Kenseth took the checkered flag 20th, his worst finish in the past 10 races. Oddly, Johnson experienced a similar day, leading a race-high 47 laps but finishing 13th. However, his finish position, teamed with Kenseth's run, left Johnson first in points.
Kenseth said the handling on his car went from good to bad in the second half of the race, but he was more surprised, he said, by the fact that there was little jousting for position over the closing miles.
The top 12 drivers raced in single file approaching the finish, with every competitor seemingly wary to try to make a move to the inside for fear of dropping through the pack.
Asked if drivers were thinking about moves, Kenseth said, "They must be still thinking about it because nobody made one. They were all up on the top [of the track] there. Once everybody got piled to the top with about 15 to go, I don't know why, but if you had five or six cars to try it, you could get it back to two wide, but just nobody tried it. I did, and it was dumb on my part because I couldn't get enough cars to do it and just fell backward."
Instead of a probable top 10, Kenseth fell to 20th.
"I should have been smarter there and, I guess, paid attention to points, but I'm not really wired like that," he said. "I want to go up and mix it up and try to win the thing."
Although he now is the hunter and not the hunted in the Chase, Kenseth said he isn't concerned.
"I think I have one of the greatest teams out here, obviously, and I feel like we can go everywhere else and honestly we can race anybody when we're at our best," he said. "Hopefully, we'll be at our best the next four weeks, and we'll give them a run for their money."
Kenseth said he was surprised that his car's handling suffered in the second half of the race.
"We ran well in the beginning, and we just - for some reason - handling is never really an issue here," he said. "We just got incredibly loose, and I just couldn't control my car even hardly by myself, and I really just had to go to the back and wait until we could fix it.
"It was really bizarre. Typically, handling is a non-issue here, and we just got so loose I couldn't even hang on to it."
McMurray wins at Talladega
The Camping World 500 at Talladega Superspeedway is known as the wild-card race.
It did not live up to its billing on Sunday, but it produced a new points leader in Jimmie Johnson. It also produced a happy Jamie McMurray, who ended a 108-race winless streak by finishing first, and a frustrated Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is still looking for his first win of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
Johnson admitted he was looking forward to the Talladega race being over before it even started. But he was determined to run up front to avoid the infamous "Big One."
He and Matt Kenseth, who began the day as the points leader, did just that as they were out front for most of the 188-lap event. Johnson led 10 times for a race-high 47 laps, and Kenseth led four times for 32 laps.
But when it became show time with 25 laps to go, Kyle Busch was the leader with Carl Edwards and a huge pack of cars trying to get around him.
The racing was two and three wide before McMurray jumped into the lead with 14 laps to go, followed by Earnhardt and rookies Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
Johnson tried to make a move with 10 laps to go to get back to the front, but no one came with him as the race had suddenly turned into a single-file race, leaving Johnson hung out as he waited to find a high spot to slide into line.
Kenseth, too, made the wrong move in the final 10 laps and dropped all the way to 20th, allowing Johnson to move into first place in the Chase for the Championship. Johnson ended up 13th and now leads Kenseth by a slim four points with only four races left in the season.
As the race headed into its final five laps, Earnhardt told his crew he had a "plan" to win the race and was going to wait until the last lap to put it into action.
But it was Dillon who made the first move on the last lap, forcing Earnhardt to move down half a lane to block Dillon.
When Dillon maneuvered to slide back into line, he lost control of his Chevrolet as he was clipped by Stenhouse.
Dillon's car bounced hard off the wall and became airborne. Just as Dillon's car landed right-side up, it was slammed into by Casey Mears. Both drivers escaped the incident unhurt.
The caution flag was waved immediately, putting a huge smile on McMurray's face and leaving Earnhardt to wonder what might have been.
Stenhouse finished third, followed by Paul Menard, Kyle Busch, David Ragan, David Gilliland, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer.
While Johnson and Kenseth were running up front, Kevin Harvick, third in the standings heading into the weekend, faded to the back.
Harvick came on strong at the end and finished 12th. He is tied with Kyle Busch for third place in the points standings, 26 points behind Johnson.
Jeff Gordon, who finished 14th Sunday, rounds out the top five in the standings, 34 points back of Johnson.
McMurray said he wasn't sure how the last lap would have played out if the late caution not occurred.
"I could see the 88 (Earnhardt) trying to set me up and trying to figure out where he could get a run on me," McMurray said. "Honestly, I wanted to see it end under the green but at the same time I said if there was a caution I would be OK with that too.
"Our cars have been so much better this year and we haven't been able to get to victory lane. I knew that the Cessna Chevrolet was good in practice, but I just could not get in the right line until the end. I saw the 17 (Stenhouse) and 88 coming on the top. It just seemed the top was the better place. Fortunately, I was able to get myself in position. What a big win for (car owner) Chip Ganassi and this whole team."
Earnhardt, who finished second for the fourth time this season, admitted he may have second thoughts about this race.
"I will spend the next couple of months thinking about what I could have done differently," he said. "We always seem to have these last-lap wrecks so I guess I should have gone a lap sooner.
"It is frustrating, but I keep coming back to how well we are running. These last five races I have had some of the best cars I've ever driven. I know we are just right around the corner from winning one of these things."
Stenhouse had his own ideas of how he would approach the final stages.
"(I was) trying to hang back, time it right where Paul and I could either kind of get a run on the 14 (Dillon) and go to the inside and see if we could make something happen or get him (Dillon) to pull out and go low and us get back in line on the top and try to have a full head of steam for Dale and Jamie there coming down to (turns) three and four," he said. "I just didn't time it quite right and us and the 14 met right there in the middle and caused a crash. I am bummed that we caused that, but all in all, it was a good day for us (as he earned his best finish in Sprint Cup racing)."
Johnson, who is seeking his sixth championships, was satisfied for the most part.
"Thirteenth isn't the best finish, especially with as strong as car as we had," he said, "but we are trying to win a championship, and we beat the competition (Kenseth) so that is good.
Kurt Busch Slips to 18th-Place Finish in Talladega
Junior's last lap victory plans go up in smoke
In the late-race heat of the final laps of the Camping World RV Sales 500 Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. seemed to be in the preferred seat.
Then the legs were kicked out from under him.
Earnhardt Jr. was running second to eventual winner Jamie McMurray over those closing miles, and fellow Chevrolet driver Austin Dillon was in third - all at the front of a long single-file Talladega draft. The assumption along pit road - and the anticipation in the track's sweeping grandstands - was that Junior would pull out of line on the backstretch on the last lap, Dillon would follow him and they would sweep past McMurray to produce what would have been a very popular Earnhardt Jr. victory.
In an instant, that idea dissolved.
On the final lap, Dillon, driving in place of the injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, lost control of his car. Casey Mears plowed into the rear of Dillon's car, shooting it into the air and sparking a big wreck. That brought out the day's third and final caution, "freezing" the field immediately and dropping the win into McMurray's lap without a challenge from Earnhardt Jr. or anyone else.
"I had no reason to make a move before the last lap," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Being in second place, I was in perfect position to be patient and wait as long as I wanted to. I can't anticipate a caution coming out every single time we run a Talladega race. I assume we're racing to the checkered."
Earnhardt Jr. finished second, in front of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Paul Menard and Kyle Busch.
Junior said he planned to attempt to pass McMurray on the back straightaway.
"We let the 1 car (McMurray) get out there," he said. "I got a run with the 14. I was moving around a little to where the 1 thought I might be going. I knew I had to sort of fake him out. Then I noticed the run stopped."
The run stopped because Dillon's car had sailed into the air.
"I don't know what Austin would have done, for sure," Junior said. "But I thought he was probably going to help me once, and, after that, you're on your own. We hadn't really talked to the 14. We were just waiting to the last lap to make a run. That's what we were trying to do."
Because of the pattern of late-race crashes in recent races at Talladega, Earnhardt Jr. said he might adjust his thinking about the proper time to be aggressive.
"We have a last-lap wreck every time," he said. "I guess next time we're in that situation we'll try to go a lap sooner."
Although drivers raced two- and three-wide most of the afternoon, the top dozen were in single file over the closing laps, a situation that mystified several contenders, including Earnhardt Jr.
Asked why the pattern of the field changed late, he said, "I don't know. We raced like hell all day long.
The pre-race activities for Sunday’s Goody’s® Headache Relief Shot®500 Powered by Kroger will have a new fresh look and sound.
Nationally-known announcer Michael Blair will bring his enthusiasm to the pre-race ceremonies while legendary rock and blues guitarist Gary Hoey will provide a special touch to driver introductions. The North Carolina State University Marching Band, with more than 325 members, will add to the prerace excitement as they play and march around the half-mile oval and perform the National Anthem.
The pre-race festivities will be capped off by a flyover from the Warbirds, a group of post-World War II vintage aircraft.
“We believe this pre-race is going to be the most exciting one we have ever had,” said Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell. “This is going to be a pre-race our fans will enjoy and remember. It’s going to get the crowd really pumped up before the race.
Blair is widely recognized for his genuine enthusiasm and ability to inject energy and excitement into any crowd. He has worked with acts like Martina McBride, KC & The Sunshine Band, Kool and The Gang, and Earth, Wind & Fire. He has been the public address announcer for the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Hawks and keeps race fans excited with his work in the display areas at many tracks.
Hoey, who has 18 albums to his credit and a No. 5 Billboard Rock hit with “Hocus Pocus” will be on stage for driver introductions, playing a different, famous guitar riff for each of the top-13 Chase drivers introduced.
The N.C. State Marching Band, known as “The Power Sound of the South” has played at events from the Rose Bowl to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland.
NASCAR legend Junior Johnson will get the on-track portion of the race in gear when he delivers the famous words in motorsports “drivers start your engines.” Amy Shirley, the star of reality television show “Lizard Lick,” will wave the green flag as honorary starter to get the race underway.
Martinsville Speedway PR