Races at Richmond are usually filled with drama and Saturday night was no exception. The drivers hadnít even gone a quarter of a lap before the first caution of the night came out when Clint Bowyer and Kyle Larson made contact, which sent Larson into the wall. Eight more cautions followed, most due to tire problems, which claimed among others, Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
When it was all said and done, Joey Logano had claimed his second win of the season after taking advantage of hard racing between his teammate Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, and Jeff Gordon to slip by all of them and hold on for the win. While Logano was celebrating in Victory Lane, Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears were exchanging heated words in the garage area that resulted in Ambrose throwing and landing a punch on Mearsí head. With the win, Logano becomes the second straight driver to win multiple races, joining Kevin Harvick as the only multiple-time winners on the season. Now the series travels to Talladega for the second restrictor-plate race of the year.
Talladega opened in 1969, ten years after its sister track, Daytona, opened. At 2.66 miles in length and 33 degrees of banking, itís the biggest track on the circuit. Several crazy and unexplainable events have taken place at Talladega over the years. Legend has it that the track was built on ancient Indian land where a chief was killed in a horse racing accident. The name Talladega comes from the Creek words meaning border town.
Since then, strange happenings have occurred at the track. Bobby Isaac was leading the race in 1973 when he claimed he heard a voice telling him to get out of the car. He immediately pulled into the pits and climbed out of the car for the rest of the day. The event so terrified him that he quit the rest of the season. He attempted to make a comeback for the next three years, but never made it stick.
One of the most controversial races took place in 1991. NASCAR has a rule that says a driver canít be pushed or assisted on the last lap. Harry Gant and Rick Mast were teammates and Mast was a lap down, and Gant was in the lead by 11 seconds over Darrell Waltrip. Gant was gambling on fuel and Mast was seen giving Gant help around the track on the last lap. Both Waltrip and Dale Earnhardtís teams cried foul claiming that Gant was given assistance on the last lap, but NASCAR declared Mast had done nothing wrong, as he had been tapping and not pushing Gant. Earnhardtís team had more reason to be upset as they figured they should have won. In addition to Gantís controversy, Waltripís spoiler was below the mandated 30-degree rule imposed by NASCAR. In the eyes of Earnhardtís team, that should have made Waltripís finish invalid. It wasnít discovered until well after the race, and NASCAR decided that there had been too much time between the end of the race and the discovery that it could have happened at any time, so they decided to do nothing except check them immediately afterwards in Daytona in July. Waltrip was allowed to finish second, which added to the fury of Earnhardtís team.
Most wins among active drivers: Jeff Gordon (6)
Defending Winner: David Ragan pulled off one of the biggest upsets taking advantage of a push from teammate David Gilliland on the last lap to storm to the front and hold off the field after waiting out the rain for most of the day.
Prediction: There was a time when Talladega was this driverís personal playground in the early 2000s when he won four straight races there from 2001-2003. In fact, he was so dominant that his nickname was the Pied Piper because if you wanted to get to the front, you followed this guy. If youíre in Alabama on Sunday and you hear a loud roar, donít worry, itís just Jr. Nation letting you know that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. just took the lead at Talladega. Restrictor-plate racing has come natural to Jr. and even in his down years at Hendrick, he has been at the front for the races at Daytona and Talladega. He has five wins at Talladega and he won the Daytona 500 this year, so look for Jr. to be near the front at the end of the day on Sunday challenging for the win.
David Barr is a graduate of Daniel Boone High School and is a senior at Mansfield University.