Clint Bowyer showed us that no matter what, teammate or not, when it comes down to it, you’ve got to race for the win.Ã‚Â Pushing his teammate Jeff Burton on the last restart after the ninth caution, the Bowyer/ Burton tandem got a massive jump on the field running almost 20 car lengths away from the pack, which allowed for them to split apart and have a drag race to the finish.Ã‚Â Burton opened up the bottom line coming out of turn 4 and Bowyer made an early move, almost too early, and held off Burton through the tri-oval and right to the checkered flag.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â The lat 200 yds was the best acing on the track all day.Ã‚Â The slingshot manouver brought Bowyer door to door with Burton, who tried everything he could to sniff a little more draft off Bowyer’s car, but it was Bowyer who prevailed and took the checkered flag.Ã‚Â Bowyer was prepared to push his teammate to the the win but when the lead opened up and the pack fell behind, he did what it took to get himself back into the win column.
“He[Burton]Ã‚Â kind of moved up off of [Turn] 4, and I knew it was too early to go, but it was going to be a drag race, and it would give us both a shot at it,” Bowyer said. “He worked so well with me all day long. You hate that it comes down to that, but it is what it is, and you owe it to your team and your sponsors to go out and win the race.”
“Unfortunately, it came down to that situation, but — trust me — I was prepared to push him to the win, no matter what the cost was, if we’d have had people breathing down our necks. It just wasn’t meant to be for him. He’s been a great teammate, and I’ve learned a lot from him — but he’s already won a lot of races , and I’ve only won five.”
Burton took his second place finish with a smile of pride.Ã‚Â After all, it’s not every day that you get to break the two car tandem at Talladega and drag race your teammate to the finish line.
“Whenever you leave here not wrecked, you ought to be happy, but at the same time, I’m heartbroke we didn’t win the race,” said Burton, who recorded his first top-five finish in more than a year. “Having said all of that, I don’t know what I would have done different.”
“Honestly, I thought he made his move too early. I kind of gave him the bottom, because you tend to be able to pull them back to you better when you’re on their right rear quarter panel. He made his move really early, I thought. I thought I’d be able to pull back to him, but he had a lot of momentum when he made the move.”
The race also made a huge difference in the points standings as some tried to hang out in the back field for safety and never had the chance to move forward at the end of the race.
Carl Edwards hung at the back with Greg Biffle all day and made his move towards the front with around 40 to go, but with the burst of cautions coming right at the end of the race, Edwards was not able to get all the way to the front having to settle for an 11th place finish.Ã‚Â 11th was still good enough to gain points on Kenseth, who sits 2nd in the standings by14 points now, but 3rd and 4th in the standings made gains on Edwards by finishing ahead of him.
Brad Kesolowski finished 4th on the track and moved up to 3rd in the standings, now only 18 points behind the leader, Carl Edwards.Ã‚Â Gaining 3 positions in the standings from 7th to 3rd Kesolowski is showing that the consistency that got him into the chase is still working in his favor and moving him to the front of the standings slowly but surely.
“This is exactly how we needed to leave Talladega, with a strong finish — gained points on the leader; gained points, really, on all the Chase cars. ”
“I’m very proud of the effort, proud to have a good day and very fortunate to have missed all the wrecks.”
Tony Stewart, who led the most laps of the day gaining 2 bonus points along the way, held out for a 7th place finish on the track and moved up another spot in the standings from 5th to 4th.
The other teams who chose to hang back did not fare as well as Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle.Ã‚Â Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr hung back all day as well and when the time came to move forward they simply could nit find any room to move around the field who was running 3 and 4 wide in front of them as the final laps of the race wore down.Ã‚Â Avoiding the wrecks to make it to the finish is always the plan at Talladega, but it also leaves you in a precarious position not knowing if you can make it back to the front when it counts.Ã‚Â Jr and Jimmie talk about how their planned failed.
“Whenever we thought they were getting a little bit crazy, we’d move into the safe areas and we rode there most of the day with a lot of other people doing the same thing,” Earnhardt said. “Then at the end, we had a lot of cautions late. We wanted to try to work our way toward the front in the last 20 laps. The cautions kept coming out, and we ran over some debris and we had to come to pit road. We just didn’t have the track position at the end to make a run with two laps to go.Ã‚Â Just not enough time.”
Still, Earnhardt still believes that their plan was solid, just that lady luck was not on their side on Sunday.
“Yeah. There’s a lot more room at this place,” he said. “Daytona is real narrow when it comes down to it. We felt like we were in a good position to make our move inside those 20 laps to go, and we just kept having cautions and that sort of hurt our strategy a little bit and didn’t give us a chance there with two to go. I mean, [you] run up on guys five-wide, you can’t go nowhere.”
Johnson agreed.Ã‚Â After being pushed across the line for the win by Jr earlier this year, Johnson stated publicly that if the tables were turned the next time around he would be glad to be pushing Jr at the checkered flag, but the opportunity never presented itself as they got mired in the field finishing 25th (Earnhardt) and 26th (Johnson).
“We planned our strategy like we had hoped to,” Johnson said. “And on that last restart at the end, we had some issues with my car overheating. That last caution that came out, I got some trash and grass and stuff on the grille of the car. We were out of sequence the way we were lined up. I was going to push Junior, and I had to be in the lead the way we had the debris on the grille. And then as we went to make our switch, the pack was organized and with the [final-laps] situation, there’s not a lot of time to get organized, and we lost our momentum there, and got to the outside and kind of stalled out up on the top, and finished far worse than we had hoped to.”
Does he fell that the championship is beyond his grasp now?
“We’ve just got to keep fighting, and keep working on getting every point we can at every race,” Johnson said. “We have no clue what’s going to happen to all the Chase drivers, and I want to finish as high as I possibly can in the Chase. That does mean the championship. If it’s not there, I want to finish as high as I possibly can.”
“We’re going to keep fighting hard,” Johnson said. “… and see what we can do.”
Here’s how the standings for the chasers line up after Talladega.
|1 .||—||Carl Edwards||2237||Leader|
|2 .||+1||Matt Kenseth||2223||-14|
|3 .||+3||Brad Keselowski||2219||-18|
|4 .||+1||Tony Stewart||2218||-19|
|5 .||-3||Kevin Harvick||2211||-26|
|6 .||-2||Kyle Busch||2197||-40|
|7 .||+1||Jimmie Johnson||2187||-50|
|8 .||-1||Kurt Busch||2185||-52|
|9 .||—||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2163||-74|
|10 .||+1||Jeff Gordon||2155||-82|
|11 .||+1||Denny Hamlin||2153||-84|
|12 .||-2||Ryan Newman||2149||-88|