Some Burning Questions After Talladega

The race this past weekend at Talladega left us with as many questions as it gave us answers.

1. Is Denny Hamlin back? That remains to be seen. This was Talladega where just about anyone can lead laps or win. Let’s see what happens to Hamlin when the tour gets back to the mile and a half tracks. If he can consistently run in the top 10, then maybe Talladega s just what the doctor ordered.

2. What was Brad Keselowski thinking? Not just once, but twice Special K got in trouble at the front. The first time he pulled in front of Danica Patrick when he wasn’t clear. The subsequent repairs for damage put him 6 laps down. He still had a fast car but he was not in position to ever get his laps back under yellow. That privilege went to Jamie McMurray. Special K was racing amongst the leaders late when he got loose and BAM! His wreck in a tightly packed field ended the day for a lot of drivers.

3. What the heck was Dale Jr. thinking? Jr. obviously had a fast car and he was trying to get back to the front after a 4-tire pit stop (that may not have been such a good idea). Held up as he was leading the outside line around and he became mired in the pack, Jr. decided that there were too many cars and too little real estate. He told his spotter that the field was going to wreck with about 10 to go. Sure enough, 14 to go and there was a wreck and then another and another… So Jr. avoided getting tearing up his car, but he sure tore up what could have been a top 10 or 15 finish.

4. What is going on with Jimmie Johnson? No one is panicking at the 48 shop but Johnson had plenty of trouble at Talladega again. He spent a lot of the race running with a damaged spoiler and it really showed late in the race when his car lost its down force and he went around all on his own in the middle of a bunch of other cars. But he still finished in front of most of his teammates and he actually moved up a spot in the standings.

5. What is going on with Tony Stewart? Smoke had problems early on in the race and wound up in last place, dropping 6 points in the standings. Smoke is notoriously a “summer” driver and could settle all this with a couple of wins over the next 3 months. But right now, he doesn’t look like a driver that will pull that off.

6. Qualifying? Only the 2nd race to start without a Penske car in the top 2. But RCR and its allies figured out how to sweep the starting positions.

OK, enough of that. It was an exciting race with lots of lead changes and several wrecks over the latter stages of the race. With all of that excitement in the first 187 laps, it was disappointing to have it finish under yellow without seeing if Biffle, Bowyer and Vickers were going to have anything for Hamlin in the final lap.

With that said, we now turn to this week’s WINNERS:

Denny Hamlin (1) got the monkey off his back with his first Talladega win. Now we have to see if he can keep up this momentum.

Greg Biffle (2) led laps and looked stout. But let’s see if he can translate that to more success on another track. He has the same number of top 10s and 5s as Smoke but he is in the top 10 in points.

Clint Bowyer (3) was all grins after the race but he needs to start running better elsewhere before he gets too giddy.

Brian Vickers (4) had a stout car and it looks like Toyota has a good plate motor.

AJ Allmendinger (5) had a couple of good runs during the race and timed this one perfectly.

Paul Menard (6) started up front and played Talladega yo-yo to get back to the front.

Kevin Harvick (7) looked like he could have won the race had it not gone yellow.

Kasey Kahne (8) started 42nd and got one of his best finishes of the year.

Kyle Larson (9) kept his nose clean as a rookie and has 1 more top 10 than Smoke.

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (10) got only his 3rd top 10 of the year.

Landon Cassill (11) just missed a top 10. Yes it’s Talladega but this was a good finish for this team.

Danica Patrick (22) led 6 laps and should have finished better. She was playing “stay out of trouble” with Dale Jr.

Jamie McMurray (29) got messed up in Brad 1 but stayed with the program and went from 5 laps down to finish just 1 lap down.

Now, the biggest LOSERS:

Brad Keselowski (38) started two wrecks all on his own and messed up a lot of cars. He may not have finished much better than 30th, but it would have saved Penske and a lot of other teams some messed up cars.

Brian Scott (42) started on the pole but got caught up in a wreck late in the race.

Tony Stewart (43) can write this off as Talladega, but he is not having a good year so far.

Trevor Bayne (41) had some great back and forth with Dale Jr. for the lead, but got caught up an accident messing up a good race finish.

Jeff Gordon (39) led only 1 lap and also got caught up on the Keselowski wreck.
Matt Kenseth (38) had a good car and while maybe not good enough to win, he lost any shot thanks to, yup, Brad K.

Joey Logano (32) led a lot of laps, got shuffled back and seemed to struggle getting back up front. Then, the wreck.

Carl Edwards (30) made it 4-wide and that is when Dale Jr. bailed out. The Carl got loose and wrecked the cars that were able to avoid the Brad K wreck.

Dale Jr. (26) looked strong through most of the race, led the 2nd most laps and then got the heebie jeebies in the pack. He saved his car but wasn’t there at the end. Was honor the better part of valor?

Jimmie Johnson (23) is still winless.

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