Tandemonium: Take 2
It was a typical day of racing at Talladega Superspeedway with everyone holding their breath and hoping to survive for an opportunity to win at the end. Unfortunately the famed track wouldn’t prove all that friendly to the three-car contingent of Joe Gibbs Racing. Denny Hamlin would survive a wild day of racing to secure a solid eighth-place effort, while Joey Logano rebounded from an early accident to finish 24th, and Kyle Busch would be collected in a wreck that left him with a disappointing 33rd-place finish.
Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota in the 31st position and struggled all day to find a partner for the two-car tandems that have become the norm lately for racing on restrictor plate tracks such as Talladega. Hamlin would actually fall a lap off the pace early on after losing a partner and dropping off the back of the field. He would however get his lap back after being rewarded the lucky dog spot on the day’s first caution. Hamlin would change partners a number of times throughout the course of the rest of the race, but without a consistent racing partner the No. 11 Camry would often lose position until he could find a pairing. Hamlin would manage to avoid major damage in a late-race incident on lap 181 when Mark Martin came down the track into his No. 11 Camry, but the FedEx Crew would need to make quick repairs and change tires causing him to restart from the back of the field late and once again without a drafting partner. He would manage to make his way up through the field despite the late setback and earned an eighth-place finish.
Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the 35th position and proved strong through much of the day in the two-car tandem with his teammate Kyle Busch. Logano and Busch would drive to the front of the field when desired during the early going, but trouble would find the No. 20 Camry on lap 68 when Logano would spin following contact from the No. 21 car as they prepared to come down pit road. Amazingly Logano would keep his car off the wall but was forced to remain on the track and as he tried to limp his way around the 2.66 mile track his left front tire would blow and tear apart much of the front end of The Home Depot Toyota. The Home Depot crew went to work and made the necessary repairs, but by the time the No. 20 Camry returned to the track Logano would be three laps off the pace and without its left front fender. Despite the look of his battered car, Logano would earn his way back on the lead lap one lucky dog at a time. He would actually race as high as second as early as lap 101 while pushing Tony Stewart to the lead. In the end it would come down to finding a partner however, and Logano was forced to fend for himself on the final restart with three laps to go as he could never quite make it to his teammate Hamlin. He would go on to finish 24th.
Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Halloween Toyota in the 34th position, and was able to partner with his teammate Logano early and the pairing proved to have the ability to get their way to the front when desired. Talladega trouble would start when Logano ran into problems on lap 68 and essentially separated the two partners. Busch would manage to recover and was able to find his other JGR teammate Hamlin as the two worked their way to the front of the field as well with Busch leading on lap 90. The day would go bad just past the 100 lap mark however when the No. 43 car came down the track and into Busch, creating major damage to the No. 18 M&Ms Camry. The repairs required to put the car back on the track proved extensive as Busch had to bring it his car to the garage. The M&Ms crew would work hard to get Busch back out on the track, but he would be 12 laps down upon return. He did manage to pick up several positions by getting back out for the remainder of the race and would go on to finish 33rd.
Clint Bowyer captured the victory, while Jeff Burton was second, Dave Blaney third, Brad Keselowski fourth and Brian Vickers rounded out the top five. There were nine cautions for a total of 38 laps and 72 lead changes among 26 different drivers over the course of the 188-lap race.
Busch is now sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings 40 points behind the leader Carl Edwards. Meanwhile Hamlin moved up one slot to 11th and is 84 points off the pace.
Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings
1. Carl Edwards 2237
2. Matt Kesenth (-14)
3. Brad Keselowski (-18)
4. Tony Stewart (-19)
5. Kevin Harvick (-26)
6. Kyle Busch (-40)
7. Jimmie Johnson (-50)
8. Kurt Busch. (-52)
9. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-74)
10. Jeff Gordon (-82)
11. Denny Hamlin (-84)
12. Ryan Newman (-88)
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will move from the Superspeedway of Talladega to the short track of Martinsville Speedway next Sunday for the Tum’s Fast Relief 500. The seventh of ten races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will begin at 1:30 PM ET with live, high-definition coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at 1 PM ET. The race will also be on Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 90 and the MRN Radio Network.