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Last updateTue, 04 Nov 2014 9pm

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Talladega put excitement in restrictor plate racing

This new deal where the drivers team up in two car drafts instead of the two lane freight trains we have become accustomed to in restrictor plate racing has put a whole new spin on racing at Daytona and Talladega.  

By the half-way point in last Saturday’s Nationwide race they had broken the Speedway’s record for lead

changes.  The old bromide that the smallest dent on a racecar will upset the aerodynamics and render the car uncompetitive for the rest of the race is no longer true.  By the later stages of Saturday’s race, those cars left standing looked like the remnants of a short track race at Martinsville or Bristol. still they were lapping the race track at speeds approaching 200 mph.

The Nationwide race took two green, white, checkered attempts before the the race was complete.  The mayhem behind the leaders on the white flag lap that finally brought out the caution flag looked like a scene created by a Hollywood film crew for Days of Thunder. In the midst of the mayhem, veteran driver Mike Wallace was seen flipping his car at nearly 200 mph.  The good news was Wallace walked away from the scary wreck.    In the end we had to wait a couple of minutes for NASCAR to sort out who won the race. 

The new two-car drafts did not eliminate the “Big One”,  a huge 21-car chain reaction pile-up on the back stretch on lap 88 sent several of the race favorites to the garage, done for the day.

After the dust and debris cleared it was Nationwide series win number 47 for Kyle Busch.  Busch and teammate Joey Logano teamed up as drafting partners and Logano pushed Busch’s battered car to the finish line.

I had no sooner read a press release touting the dominance of the Roush Fenway Racing Fords and the fact that they put all four of their cars in the top seven a week ago at Texas Motor speedway  that I was asking,  “How Long will Roush Fenway Racings dominance last?” 

It didn’t take long for an answer.

Saturday I checked  Jayski’s  internet site for the qualifying results for Sunday’s race and discovered that the Hendrick Motorsports four teams had qualified 1, 2. 3. and 4 on the starting grid.  Jeff Gordon had the pole with a lap of 173.248 mph.  It was Gordon’s 70th  pole in his 625 Sprint Cup race career.  This pole put Gordon one up on Cale Yarborough for third place in the all-time pole wins list. So much for the dominance of the Roush Fenway Racing teams.

 Teammate Jimmie Johnson was on the outside of the front row.  Mark Martin started third, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., completed the second row.  This is just the third time in NASCAR history that four teammates have started 1, 2, 3, and 4.  Team owner Pete DePaulo’s cars started 1 - 5 at Concord North Carolina in 1956.  Jack Roush’s team swept the first four qualifying spots at Fontana California in 2005. 

Sunday’s Cup race was equally exciting.   It didn’t take two green, white checkered finishes to get a winner, but the finish was as good as it gets.  It tied the Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch finish at Darlington a few years ago as the closest finish in Cup History. Just consider: Dale Jr. pushed Jimmie Johnson across the finish line for the win and Jr. finished fourth.   That is close racing. 

You may reach Pete Barber at talkinracing @journalpress.com

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