Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sprint Cup 2011: Race 8 -- Talladega -- the long high road to the big one

The Hendricks boys look red hot going into the start of the Aaron’s 499 Sprint Cup race at Talladega. Jeff Gordon, needing a serious jump start for his 2011 season, holds down the pole while teammate and defending champion, Jimmie Johnson starts to his side with Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind them. Paul Menard and Landon Cassill fill out the third row putting a bow-tie six back up front before Ford, dodge and Toyota make an appearance.

Here are the top starters:
1- Jeff Gordon, #24, Chevrolet
2- Jimmie Johnson, #48, Chevrolet
3- Mark Martin, #5, Chevrolet
4- Dale Earnhardt Jr., #88, Chevrolet
5- Paul Menard, #27, Chevrolet
6- Landon Cassill, #09, Chevrolet
7- David Ragan, #6, Ford
8- Kurt Busch, #22, Dodge
9- Brian Vickers, #83, Toyota
10- Clint Bowyer, #33, Chevrolet
11- Trevor Bayne, #21, Ford
12- Michael Waltrip, #15, Toyota
13- Juan Pablo Montoya, #42, Chevrolet
14- David Reutimann, #00, Toyota
15- Bobby Labonte, #47, Toyota
16- A.J. Allmendinger, #43, Ford
17- Greg Biffle, #16, Ford
18- Regan Smith, #78, Chevrolet
19- Brad Kesolowski, #2, Dodge
20- Carl Edwards, #99, Ford

Fans will be watching to see if the field bunches up in partners of two as they did in the Daytona 500 or form the typical massive trains seen in past Talladega races. Somehow that this was an “impound” race (or the whole concept of “impounding”) seems particularly weird at a track where safety is job one. If it were such a brilliant cost saving strategy, why isn’t it used more often? How does NASCAR determine which races are chosen? Shouldn’t they just do what’s in the best interest of quality racing?

Teammates Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman finished first and second in practice, half a second beyond their nearest competition despite poor qualifying efforts with Newman starting in 23rd and Stewart in a distant 30th. Other high profile drivers who qualified poorly include Kevin Harvick buried in 38th and Kyle Busch in 34th.

This blog is delighted to report that two of the most notorious freeloaders were among the three teams that failed to qualify, the #60 car driven by Mike Skinner and the #66 car owned by the Phil Parsons led infestation of NASCAR, driver; Michael McDowell. The Front Row #37 teams still attempting to complete races on limited funds and no sponsorship also failed to qualify sending Tony Raines home. We find it very disturbing that Bill Elliott, one of the most reputable fellows NASCAR has ever known, used his Championship provisional to qualify the #46 team that has opted out of every race it has qualified for so far this year. Even if Elliott is allowed to continue in the race, that he would lend his reputation to an operation that leeches off the rest of the sport is a very sad day in NASCAR. This cannot be considered championship behavior worthy of a frequent winner of NASCAR’s most popular driver. How sad to see such a giant in the sport stoop so low in the final chapter of his racing career.

After two days of threatening weather, race day afternoon weather should be superb: sunny with temperatures in the mid 70’s.

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