With all 4 cars at the front of the field to start the race it was still anyone’s game to get to Victory Lane.Ã‚Â Played out like a chess board with the pieces stuck together in pairs, Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talledega Superspeedway wasn’t as exciting as many of the races we’ve seen, or will see this season, with the exception of the final lap.Ã‚Â 8 cars rushing for the line and only one can take the checkered flag.Ã‚Â This time is was Jimmie Johnson’s turn to mark a win for his 2011 season and allows him to move into 2nd place in the points overall.Ã‚Â Dale Earnhardt Jr made the decision that the pair were faster when his car was doing the pushing, so in true team spirit Jr stayed there until Johnson took the win, finishing in 4th place himself, and moving into 3rd in the points standings.
Johnson felt the push from Earnhardt was so important that he tried to give Earnhardt the checkered flag after the race.
“Well I got it and gave it to him,” Johnson said. “He goes, ‘I don’t want it.’ I said, ‘Well, I’ve got to give you something — here. Thanks.’ He’s got the checkered flag over there, and I can’t wait to tilt a cold one back with him and thank him for a good job done today.”
Jr certainly seemed happy with his 4th place finish, as well as the team work he was able to provide in assisting Jimmie with the win.
“If I couldn’t win the race, I wanted Jimmie to win the race, because I had worked with him all day, and he’s my teammate and I’m proud to be driving for Hendrick Motorsports,”Ã‚Â said Earnhardt. “This was a great finish and a great weekend for us to be able to qualify like we did [ top four starting spots being all Hendrick’s cars ], race like we did and we have awesome engines, and we build great cars. And we all finished very well today, and that’s a tribute to the craftsmanship we have back in Charlotte.”
Jeff Gordon who had started out on the pole slipped at the end as Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards added their cars to the last second charge to the front as Jimmie Johnson squeaked across the line .002 seconds before Bowyer, stealing the win with 6 inches to spare.Ã‚Â Carl Edwards finish of While the finish was of the kind that had you sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the wreck, the 497 laps leading up to that finish were a mess of 2 car drafts moving forwards and back around the track making for some unique, but lackluster racing for the average fan.
Edwards leaves Talledega with a hold on the points lead, but now has Johnson and Earnhardt breathing down his neck.
As for the 2 car push racing we witnessed for the 2nd time this season, the drivers seem to be split on their love/hate relation ship with it’s reality.Ã‚Â Sure the drivers have figured it out and the teams are setting the cars up with that style of racing in mind, but is it something that the fans want to see?Ã‚Â Brad Kesolowski was caught saying in an interview that “It is way more exciting when you are behind the wheel, but I don’t think the fans like it very much.Ã‚Â Exciting for us, but boring for them whereas the old style was exactly the opposite”
In some cases, the most obvious being the 48 and 88, the planning and preparation paid off well for them.
“It’s tough,” said Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus. “You know, you have to change your mentality when you come to a track like this, and I think we have done, as a team, a good job of changing the mentality of how you run a racing organization at Hendrick Motorsports and being committed to the team and the betterment of the organization.
“We had to carry that to the ‘N’th detail to make that happen. If you saw how we were working on the car, we were taking four tires; so was the 88. We had damage, the 88 hung out and made sure their stuff was right, and they took two tires, we took two tires and vice versa.”
Clint Bowyer,who won last fall’s Talladega race, ended up second and shared his opinion on how difficult it was to team up — and stay teamed up.
“It’s very difficult to stay with a partner all day long,” Bowyer said. “My partner is Jeff Burton[#31]. I hated that we got separated. It happened when the caution that didn’t happen — when Ryan Newman spun, everybody lifted — everybody thought the caution was coming out. I looked out the side mirror and he gathered it up and I looked up and it was still green.
“So, I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ Jeff and I were way separated and luckily Kevin [Harvick, his RCR teammate] had got separated from his guy and still had the momentum I did. We hooked up and were able to go on. I hated that for Jeff; that very spot right there put him back in the field, and I don’t know where he finished, but it separated us.”
“It’s never very good to know you made NASCAR history by losing,” Bowyer said. “Sooner or later I need to start making history by winning. That guy’s [Johnson] won enough.”
“The only thing that bums me out about that is those guys lagged back all day long. That’s what makes it tough, losing to somebody that did that. We were up front for our sponsors and our team, digging all day long. When you get it taken from you at the end by somebody who lagged back all day, it’s hard to take.”
So it seems that for now the reality of the 2 car push is here to stay until NASCAR changes something again to make it go away.Ã‚Â When the ratings for each segment of the race come in I hope that it will reflect how many viewers tuned out in favour of something else until the final laps of the race.Ã‚Â Although it has been interesting to watch, it has lacked the excitement that draws the everyday fan back week after week.Ã‚Â Let’s just be glad that it is only at 2 tracks in the schedule and hope that someone finds a way to make it just a bit more interesting to keep the viewership that NASCAR is just starting to gain back after losing ground in the past few seasons.