Talladega Race Report
Rain would play havoc all weekend at Talladega. First it cancelled NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying and then it brought a red flag stop for over three and a half hours. The one thing you can still count on at Talladega Superspeedway however is “the big one”, when referencing major accidents that collect many cars and today’s Aaron’s 499 was certainly no different. Unfortunately for Joe Gibbs Racing “the big one” took out both Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers, who had relieved Denny Hamlin, on the day’s first caution.
Meanwhile Matt Kenseth, who spent the majority of his day at the front of the field, would get shuffled back in the draft on the green-white-checkered finish and was left with an eighth-place finish.
Kenseth started his No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota from the sixth position and made the decision that the safest place on the track might well be the front of the pack. He would take his first lead on lap six and the approach certainly appeared to be the right one on lap 44 when a major accident took out a big part of the field including his teammates. Kenseth, who has led more laps this season than anyone, would do so again today leading eight times for a total of 142 laps. He would lose his drafting partner just prior to a rain shower however, and the Home Depot Husky Camry would get shuffled back to 12th when the caution came out that eventually led to a red flag stoppage on lap 125. A long rain delay that lasted over three and a half hours would finally give way to green flag racing once again and Kenseth would patiently, but quickly regain his position at the front of the field. He would hold the lead until a final round of green flag stops with just over 20 laps to go. Once the field cycled through he would run in second behind Jimmie Johnson until a caution with 17 laps remaining. Kenseth lined up on the outside for the restart with 10 laps to go and skilled driving took him about to the front with six to go when yet another big wreck took its toll on the field. He would line up first for a green-white-checkered finish, but got shuffled back in the draft and finished eighth.
It was an exciting day for the FedEx team with Denny Hamlin returning to pilot the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota after injuring his back five weeks ago at Auto Club Speedway. Hamlin was officially cleared to race again on Thursday and the team made the decision to exercise caution in having him start the race but attempt to miss any major contact by allowing Brian Vickers to relieve him when pitting under the first caution. That transition would go smoothly on lap 26 and Vickers would get behind the wheel and race his way back toward the front of the field. Unfortunately Vickers would get caught up in the day’s big accident on lap 44 and the damage would send him to the garage for repairs. The FedEx team was able to get him back out on the track to gain several positions to earn a 34th-place finish.
Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in 13th and was hoping to settle in for an opportunity to win in the end. Unfortunately Busch would tap the back of the No. 5 car driven by Kasey Kahne in turn 1 on lap 44 and it would set off a chain reaction resulting in the day’s big crash. Kahne would go up the track and then catch Busch on the way back down resulting in major damage to the M&Ms Camry and sending him to the garage for extensive repairs. He would finally make it back out on the track but was over 50 laps down to the leaders and managed to pick up a few spots to finish 37th.
David Ragan won the race, followed by David Gilliland, Carl Edwards, Michael Waltrip and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five. There were five cautions for a total of 31 laps including a red flag stop for rain that lasted three hours and 36 minutes. There were 30 lead changes among 17 different drivers.