Tag:Aaron's 499
Posted on: April 18, 2011 11:36 am
Posted on: April 17, 2011 9:52 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2011 9:53 pm

Talladega by the numbers

Posted by Pete Pistone

Jimmie Johnson won the 42nd Annual Aaron's 499, his 54th victory in 335 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

This is his first victory and fifth top-10 finish in 2011.

This is his second victory and ninth top-10 finish in 19 races at Talladega Superspeedway.

Clint Bowyer (second) posted his fifth top-10 finish in 11 races at Talladega Superspeedway. It is his fourth top-10 finish in 2011.

Jeff Gordon (third) posted his 18th top-10 finish in 37 races at Talladega Superspeedway.

Andy Lally (19th) was the highest finishing rookie.

Carl Edwards leads the point standings by 5 points over Jimmie Johnson.

The margin of victory of 0.002 ties the closest margin of victory (Darlington - 3/16/2003) since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993.

The 88 lead changes ties the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series all-time record of lead changes set at Talladega (4/25/2010)

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Posted on: April 17, 2011 8:17 pm

Johnson, Knaus post Talladega comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

Let's roll into our race winner for today's 42nd Aaron's 499 here at Talladega Super Speedway.  And our race winner Jimmie Johnson.  He drivers the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports and is joined up front by crew chief, Chad Knaus.

As I mentioned earlier, the margin of victory of the margin of victory of .002 seconds ties the closest margin of victory since the history of electronic scoring previous .002 was in Darlington, 2003, and the 88 lead changes ties the all-time series record.

This is Jimmie Johnson's 54th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, his first in 2011, his second here at Talladega.  Jimmie, talk about the closing laps and when you were making your way up through the pack and that last part of the race where you got to the lead.

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, we had a plan coming into the race, and stuck to it and learned a lot as the event went on, really Junior and I did, on how we would communicate, on what runs we could make, how we could set them up, how we could pass, how to have the guy push and could cool his car.  Really there was a lot of learning that went on through all of the laps throughout the race.

Once we got to the end, Junior started getting warm and had to pull out a couple of times with three or four to go and at one of the points we got disconnected, and a bunch of guys went buy.  But we stayed committed to the top and had our momentum wound back up and somehow trucked by a bunch of guys on the bottom.  I don't know if they had to switch lanes or what, but before we knew it, we found ourselves in third after we took the white and a decent gap from us to the leaders.

And they got side-by-side, which allowed us to really close up and as we went into turn three, I had a big run, and was thinking about the bottom, and the 5 and 24 defended that, and then I kind of wandered to the middle and didn't have an option then and knew I still had probably a mile to go.

So I just chilled out and sat in their draft and as we came off of four, those two groups were occupied trying to side-draft each other and racing each other at the top, covered up.  As we started rolling up on them, I shot down to the bottom, and we were able to surge by out of the triangle (ph) coming out of the bottom because they kind of left it open there.  Just worked out.

So very, very proud of the effort Hendrick Motorsports has put in as always.  I think it showed in qualifying and here are our four cars fighting for the win at the end.

So very proud of that; Chad and Stevie, and the growth of the 48/88 shop, and the way Junior and I worked together today.  So very proud of the effort.

KERRY THARP:  Chad, talk about the performance of the 48 crew.

CHAD KNAUS:  I thought it was a really good day.  To hit on what Jimmie was talking about, it was much more than just the 48 car that was able to pull off this victory.  We worked really hard.  We have a collective group of guys at Hendrick Motorsports that work on our Super Speedway program and they do a fantastic job of putting a very good product out there.  And I think that started to show signs on Friday.  Definitely started to show shines in Daytona when we were able to qualify with the 88 car on the pole and bring some of that momentum back here for qualifying at Talladega.

You know, we have been working a while to try to get to where we could get the drivers to really commit to one another and work together, and I think it was really nice to see the 5 and 24 work together the way they did today.  I thought it was nice to see the 48 and 88 work together.  It made it a lot easier on Steve Letarte and myself to call the race when you have that kind of strategy going on.

I think it was a good race for Jimmie and Dale to get a lot of experience work together and learning how the draft works and hopefully we can apply some of that to the race when we come back here in the fall.  So it was a very collective effort on a lot of people's parts and it was really nice to see.

Q.  In watching the replay, it appears that your left wheels had come across the yellow line; were you concerned at all that NASCAR was going to call that on you?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Someone mentioned that to me outside, and my eye line was on the 5 and the 24, because they were coming down the track trying to protect the inside lane.  I have not seen the video yet, and I was not focused on where that yellow line was.  I was more worried about causing a big pile up and luckily the 5 quit coming down and then the 24 pulled back up.

So I don't know where my left side tires were, but I've heard that a statement has been released and everything is cool.  So I'm glad I'm not sitting here having to worry about that.

Q.  You kind of answered this but a follow up to the question about the yellow line.  Were you surprised the 24 and 33 didn't crowd you so that it became an issue possibly that you were near the yellow line?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  You know, the way it's working with the tandem situation, the spotter calls you in a way that like if I'm inside the 5, the 24 thinks that a car is in the side of him.  So in some ways I guess Jeff could have come all the way to the bottom and blocked me and it may have worked out for him.

You know, as soon as he heard I was inside the 5, I could see the 24 pull back up, and maintain his line with the 5 connected to his bumper.  So, I don't know.  There's still so much going on at the end of that thing coming to the stripe, I haven't seen it yet, either, like I mentioned and I don't know what anybody could have done differently.  When you're four-wide across a start/finish line, I think that's a pretty damn good race.

Q.  You pulled up and gave Dale Jr. the checkered flag at the end, class move on that.  Can you tell us the exchange and why you did that?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Just came to mind.  I handed it to him and he said, "Man, I don't want that. "

I said, "Well, I have to give you something for the push and working with me."

He said, "No, that's what teammates do."

I smiled and I said, "Take the damn flag.  I'll give you the trophy, too."

He says, "No, I don't want the trophy.  I'll take the flag, though."

Man, he's a riot.  You guys scan all the time but to hear him on the channel and Stevie and the things he talks about -- can I have this channel more often just to listen?


JIMMIE JOHNSON:  I mean there's some entertaining stuff going on.  On a serious note, he was committed, and as was I, and it showed today.  We were -- neither one of us were selfish and we worked as a group.  And at the end, he felt like the 48 car leading was faster; we agreed.

Looking back, it could have gone either way if we were single file and he was in the catbird's seat and could have pulled a move like the 29 did to the 1 that we saw in the in the fall or spring -- spring, at some point; but the way the race unfolded, the leader had the spot, and he pushed me to victory.  So just proud of the effort and hope to do more and continue to work like this it as time goes on.

Q.  How far back in the race did you decide that you were going to be the one that was leading and that Junior was going to be the one that was pushing?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  We kind of traded responsibilities off so that we could each learn and get a feel, just know -- we didn't know what would unfold at the end, and after the last pit stop I was pushing him for while and we were getting disconnected pretty easily.  And at that point, he just said, hey, you need to lead, it works better with you leading and Chad and Stevie confirmed that our lap times were faster with the 48 in front of the 88 and we made a swap going into turn one and just kind of stayed that way from there on out.

Q.  Was it fairly evident to you as you crossed the finish line that you had won or was there some mystery left?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  There some mystery.  I didn't hear anything on the radio and the first voice I heard as we went into turn one was Junior and it was something like, "Hell, I think the 48 won."  

And then I started going nuts.  Chad didn't know what radio to talk to me on, and I didn't know whether I had won or not, so I was going to stay in the throttle until I heard different.  But he was the one that broke the news to me.  But it was close.  I knew in my mind that if it that was the checkered, it was close, and I didn't know if I had it won.

Q.  At one point Jimmie waited in his box for Junior to come out; how much against the grain is it for you guys to do that and what were you thinking at that point?

CHAD KNAUS:  It's tough.  It's tough.  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 Nth detail today 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.

It's different.  It's different.  Usually you're going for the win every single one, but today we wanted to get one of those cars in victory lane.

Q.  The last lap, the two different tandems came up and side drafted each other and stalled them out; is that how you saw it and it also looks like watching the videotape, you talk about being high, you make a very big moving to down two lanes.  I'm guessing you normally wouldn't do that, or how dramatic of a move was that, and were you able to give any warning to Dale Junior or he just has to follow you in a situation like that?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, I was on the radio with him going down the back, and just trying to explain what I saw in front.  We had a good run coming into three, and I talked him down to the bottom, and then the 24 and 5 defended that.

And so then I thought I could get up to the middle and was telling him on the radio, and the 29 and the 33 had that kind of covered where there wasn't a move.

So I just stayed in the middle of the track and those two side-by-side, those four cars side-by-side punched such a big hole in the air that I kind of let off the gas a little, let Junior really to me and create some energy and as we came off four, worked my way back to wide open, we were rolling.

From my perspective, they were up there worried about each other side drafting and really stalling each other out, and I had such a run, I was talking to Junior, I was like, low, low, low, and off we went.  We got down there and the 5 and 24 were trying to defend it, but we just had a little too much speed coming, and we were able to get by them.

Q.  For you, you and Junior obviously worked really well today but there was a point at Talladega like six years ago where he was pretty upset with the way you used to draft.  Was there a moment when you guys sort of like learned to work well together and sort of change your style and became to the point where you guys could work so well to go today?

JIMMIE JOHNSON:  Yeah, in plate racing, you go out there -- before we could push all the way around the track, we would kind of bump on the straights and different things.  I'm learned, coming up through the ranks, learning at the Cup level, made some mistakes.  Certainly caused some big wrecks here at this track.  That's where one of those comments came from.

As you race and as time goes on, watch the best guys in the business make mistakes and cause big wrecks and watch guys that don't have a lot of experience make wrecks; they end up causing wrecks.

So there's really nothing consistent about it.  You're mad at the time and you leave the track and you go on and next time you come back to a plate race, you're mad at someone else and a whole new group of people.  You see it week-in and week-out with the interviews after plate races.  There's a lot of blame floating around, a lot of guys mad when they are wrecked.  That's what it was, and I'm glad that I haven't been the root cause of anything major lately.

Although, I've been in a ton of wrecks.  Seems like each plate race, especially Daytona we are in wrecks and we did that again this year.  So I have climbed out of the car upset at plenty of guys, as well, just part of the game.

Q.  I heard you say on the radio you told Dale, "Next one is on us, brother."  Do you approach the rest of the season differently and try to turn it around and try to help Stevie and Dale Jr?

CHAD KNAUS:  I think we take the exact same approach and see how it shakes out the end.  You have to be aware as to which situation is faster, and definitely today, we would have been pushing the 88 car if Dale had not come on the radio and said, high, guys I don't think we are fast enough the way we are right now, we need the 48 in front.  If we get to Daytona and the roles are reversed that will be it, we will follow him across the line with sparks and fire ablazing.


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Posted on: April 17, 2011 8:00 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2011 8:00 pm

Bowyer, Gordon post Talladega comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

Clint Bowyer, you won last fall here, you were all of strong here again today.  Talk about this race here this afternoon.

CLINT BOWYER:  Yeah, it was a lot of fun.  You know, the whole race was fun.  BB&T Chevrolet was fast all weekend, the same hot rod that we won with in the fall, and just proud of the guys and everybody at ECR Engines.  You can't say enough about their efforts and the job they have done.  We didn't sit on the front two rows, but we were up front -- all six engines were up front pretty much all day long.  So, proud of their guys.  Proud of their efforts and just come up short.         

Man, what a bummer.  Man, I saw them coming, and the 24 and I were, you know, trying to suck off each other and break each other's momentum and drag racing each other so much, I was like, oh, no, block 'em, block 'em, block 'em.  I knew if he dipped down to block them, that we had the race won.  But we just come up short.  It's frustrating.  I know the importance of getting a race win right now is big.         

You know that win -- if I would have won right there, it could have put me in the Chase.  I was thinking about that.  That's going to be important throughout the year, and you know, that was a good shot at it.  It just slipped through our finger           

Q.  Could you speak about how much you were able to work with Kevin today, how much you were compelled to work with him and how different it is finding partners and staying with partners in this type of racing than it was in the big pack racing?      

CLINT BOWYER:  Well, start to with that, it's very difficult to stay with a partner all day long.  My partner is Jeff Burton.  I hated that we got separated there.  It happened -- you know, when the caution that didn't happen; when Ryan Newman spun, everybody lifted.  Everybody thought the caution was coming out, and 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 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.

So it was very difficult to keep together.  But like I said, when Kevin and I got hooked up, we were able to work well together.  We were talking amongst each other.  We were down and out -- you know that was the biggest thing about Kevin and I.  I was pushing him and his car wouldn't lead at all.  We were bad.  We went all the way back to 17th there I think with four to go and I was like, we've got to switch, we've got to do something.  Everybody was blowing by us and we switched there on the front straightaway and drove all the way back up through them and had ourselves in position.  So, we tried.

Q.  Throw out the weekend and I guess since Daytona too, there's been mixed reactions about the two-car draft.  Junior said all weekend he hates it and drivers that got spun out today said they didn't like it.  After that finish, I mean what do you think's going to be the general reaction in the garage?

CLINT BOWYER:  Here is the thing.  It doesn't matter what happened throughout that race or what your thought was.  If you didn't like that finish and it didn't make you forget about the race, you're crazy.

Something about that, it just makes you forget about it and makes it -- if it was a problem, it ain't a problem anymore.  You know, it always seems to fix itself at the end of these restrictor plate races.  It doesn't matter who is up there.

You know, whether it's ten cars or 43 cars left, it's always a hell of a finish at these plate races, and always comes right down to the wire for whatever reason.  You know, that wasn't a green-and-white checkered; you thought it was going to be.  I thought it was going to be, and it never presented it receive.  But it was still, you know, an unbelievable finish.

Q.  Any satisfaction to know that your name is NASCAR history is losing by --

CLINT BOWYER:  Hell, no, that sucks (laughter).  It's never very good to know you made NASCAR history by losing.  Sooner or later I need to start making history by winning.  That guy's won enough (chuckling).

The only thing that bums me out about that is those guys lagged back all day long.  That's what makes it tough, losing by somebody that did that.  We were up front for our sponsors and our team and 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.

Q.  How much deliberations was put into swapping?

CLINT BOWYER:  It really just depended on your temperatures.  You know, how you were able to manage that, and once you got together, if you were three-wide, you couldn't manage it anymore.  You couldn't duck out.  You couldn't get air.  As long as you were two-wide and out front, you know, Jeff and I were able to manage it and pretty well push each other the whole time.   No different than Michael and I did at the beginning of the race.  He never did, you know, switch.

So if you were able it to manage it and your car would do it, if it was capable of it -- the guys have worked hard on making sure that it does that.  And some instances, it wasn't even necessary.

Q.  I know, but that last swap that you talked about.  Did y'all talk --

CLINT BOWYER:  It was necessary.  No, we got passed -- we found ourselves 17th from the lead.  And when that happens, something's wrong.  We've got to switch something up. 

Q.  Do you think you would have been any better at the end of the race with Jeff?

CLINT BOWYER:  I don't know.  Like I said, it was a shame that we got separated.  We worked well all day together.  Jeff is a great teammate.  Like him a lot.  I appreciate everything he's done for me and that's just one of those situations where it sucks.  You know, you wish that the guy that helped you get there was a guy that, you know, got the reward and unfortunately he did.

I don't know where he even finished.  I don't know, but it is -- that's the frustrating part about it.

KERRY THARP:  Clint thank you very much.  Great show out there.  See you at Richmond.

Jeff Gordon drives the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger AARP Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.  Jeff, certainly a competitive race out there.  A lot of cars had an opportunity to win there at the end.  Your thoughts?

JEFF GORDON:  Obviously very happy with the results.  You know, to come back -- to come away with a third place finish, I mean, any time you come to a restrictor plate track, you know, you're on the fence of survival, keeping the car in one piece and try to win.

I feel like we had a great strategy coming in.  We played it very conservative obviously and I think it paid off for us for sure.  I really did expect there to be some more cautions there at the end, but you know, I feel like Mark and I did a great job working together.  We just communicated well.  Our spotter did a great job; the whole team.

All weekend you know we put ourselves in position to win.  We were leading coming off of four.  I'm sure when I watch the video, there's definitely plenty of things I would have liked to have done a little bit different, but I feel like we did a really nice job.           

Q.  Could you speak to your day-long commitment to running with Mark, and what lengths you went to to maintain that relationship close to each other on the racetrack and how it's different from how you found partners in the big-pack racing.

JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, we pretty much just had the philosophy coming in this weekend, you know, don't leave your wing man.  And I think we learned a lot in Daytona.  In Daytona, we kind of said, oh, let's just kind of ride out and see how it goes.  We didn't expect everybody to get right into twos as soon as they dropped the green flag.

Based on that, we realized that you have to have somebody that you can count on, somebody that you trust, somebody that you can get on the radio and work; and who better to do that with than your teammates?  And in our case, this weekend, was Mark Martin, which I thought -- and this is the first time we've done it.  Now going through the experience, we'll be even better the next time.  But I thought we did a really good job, and like I said, we put ourselves in position to win.

But I didn't work with anybody else all day long.  Mark was the only one.  Sometimes I was pushing him.  Sometimes he was pushing me.  And we were just trying to maintain that gap to the leaders.  We got behind one time.  You know, they kind of strung out and got more spread out and so the pack picked up pace.  And they were not racing as hard so that got us behind one time and made us a little nervous.

But from that point on, we pretty much maintained about a five- to seven-second gap that worked out really well for us.

Q.  You and Jeff and Mark were working together there and he was doing the majority of the pushing.  Is this something you talked about before the race and did he feel uncomfortable leading with you pushing him.

JEFF GORDON:  Well, we had talked, you know, and you can't always control who comes off pit road first and who is going to be pushing or if you're going to be pushing.

So it's just -- it was one of those things where actually, I think he got off pit road on the last pit stop before us.  I was in behind him pushing him, and they basically wrecked without throwing a caution down there in three and four, and when they did that, everybody checked up, and I was able to keep the momentum pretty good.  And I got in front of Mark, and at that point, he got in behind me.  And we had already talked -- he kind of said, you know, hey, I would like to push you instead of you push me.

So you know, it kind of worked out in our favor the way we wanted anyway.  Seemed like we did a bit better job communicating in our pace and everything; not speed-wise, but just being able to judge the pace and stay connected with me leading and him running behind me.

But at the end, I was just as happy to be pushing him and would have done everything I could to push him to the front just like he did for me.

Q.  It wasn't too long ago that bump drafting was considered taboo and reckless and dangerous in the turns, and now things have changed and people bump all the way around.  But almost every crash was caused by cars bump-drafting in the turn or the entrance; is there a certain way to do it; do you not push as hard in the turns or not rest -- or just push and not bump?  What is the way to do that?

JEFF GORDON:  First let's backup, the reason why it was silly to bump draft in the corners before is the bumpers didn't lineup.  So you would get somebody that would get aggressive with it, and they would basically wreck a guy in front of them.

But what we learned was the closer you could get to the bumper of the guy in front of you, the faster you wasn't went.  If you had the bumpers lined up back then you might have been able to push all the way around.  Now we have a car that has a tremendous amount of downforce.  There's very little we can do to this car for here versus other tracks like we used to do.  We used to come here and not that we don't put that effort into this car; we do, but the cars, amount of down far as difference between our Daytona and Talladega cars versus our short track and intermediate track cars was huge, you know, ten years ago, or eight years ago.  Now, it's not near as much as you would think.

So that's kind of the evolution, and you know, I don't know, to me, at Daytona is a little trickier pushing, where you had to be a little careful if you got to the left-rear corner of somebody.

I didn't see any of the wrecks today, what caused them, so I can't really comment, but Mark and I pushed and checked up in front of one another, switched lanes.  We did all kinds of things, and it all worked out pretty well for us.  I thought the cars were very comfortable here.  Usually what happens is somebody breaks the momentum and checks up and you swerve and that guy behind you, because he's basically blind, he tries to follow you and sometimes they hook you.

But I couldn't comment any more on it than that it, because I didn't see it.     

Q.  After that finish, is there any question that this is the style of racing to go?  There are some people that don't like it, but I don't see how you can argue with that kind of finish.

JEFF GORDON:  Well, you know, it comes down to a strategy race to try to get yourself in position with 20, 25 to go.  And there's more to it than you think.  I mean, you know, when you see me and Mark out there riding around, six, eight seconds back to the lead, it's not as easy as you think it is to manage that and to figure it out.

You still are having to watch your temperatures and different things.  But let's be honest:  In my opinion, Talladega has always been about a 15-, 25-lap race, and the rest is just trying to get to the end.  And that's basically what we have now.

If you want to survive and you want to make it to the finish, you know, you have to either choose to try to push to stay up front, or ride in the back.  But being in the middle, to me, is not worth it.  And we have just had such terrible luck here at the restrictor plate track in recent years that we didn't feel like there was any choice but to go to the back, once we got shuffled back from the lead.  And we kind of planned that coming into the weekend and it worked out for us.  Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't, but that certainly worked out for us.  But this two-car draft is here to stay.  Unless they drastically change the cars, something is going to take that.  The restrictor plate is not going to change that.  It would take a whole new revamping of the car to change that.  But you know, I kind of laugh at that because that's kind of what was designed, you know, with this car, was to create that.

And not necessarily two-car draft, but you know, to be able to get to the bumper and not spin one another out; have a car that's much boxier to blow a bigger hole in the air.  You know, that's what we have to deal with now and that's what's created the kind of racing that we have.

I personally don't have a problem with it actually.  I think -- I thought that was pretty fun there at the end, whether I was pushing or being pushed.  Those last ten, 15 laps are fun from a driver standpoint.

Q.  Having said what you just about did the kind of race to go stay, when we saw the wrecks today, in the past it had been 12, 15, 18 cars at a clip that had gone out.  Barring a last-lap kind of thing where there's all kinds of craziness, today there were four or five cars, just a little bit, as opposed to what had been.  I hate to put -- is the big one gone in this type of racing with the two-car draft and their separation?  Give me your take on that.

JEFF GORDON:  You know, just depends on how the cautions fall in my opinion.  I thought that everybody did a really awesome job there in the closing laps.  I'm surprised there were not more incidents than there was in the caution, you know, with four or five to go, because I was expecting it.  Even though we are in these two-car groups, at the end of the race, we are actually in packs of them.  You know, and they might stretch out a little bit on the restart, but then it seems like they come right back together.

So it's just as easy to me to have a big one now as it ever has been in the closing laps.  I think that -- and I've always felt this, that even with the old car and the way we were all bunched together, I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that we were out there pushing and shoving and running three- and four-wide, at lap, you know, 40.  Didn't seem to me to be very smart.  And I think that with this two-car draft, it forces you to think a little bit more about, you know, how aggressive you're going to get with it.

And there's still some guys that want to be aggressive with it and I think it caught them today.  But there's other guys that want to be real patient with it.      

Q.  How sure advised were you to see Dave Blaney running at the front today and sounds like you're fighting a cold, was it a physical struggle?

JEFF GORDON:  I am sick as can be and have been the last couple of days and not having a lot of fun with that.  That's the beauty of driving a race car, especially at Talladega, is here, it's not so physical as it is mental.  And you know, once they drop the green flag, it was mind over matter and I was so focused I didn't even think about being ill.

As far as Blaney, or anybody in this field, when you're pushing like that, if you've got a decent car pushing you or you're pushing a decent car, there's anybody that can win this race that can go to the front, which is not that much different than the way Talladega has always been.  And I thought that was pretty cool to see Dave up there in the closing laps.  It just seems to me like you always see that 22 car up there at the front in the closing laps.  Doesn't matter who he's pushing or whose pushing him.  He seems to know his way up there, and Dave is a great race car driver.  Certainly happy for Tommy Baldwin and those guys to run good like that.


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Posted on: April 17, 2011 5:54 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2011 6:04 pm
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Posted on: April 16, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2011 6:43 pm

Gordon leads Hendrick qualifying sweep

By Pete Pistone

Aaron's 499 Starting Line-up

Jeff Gordon led a Hendrick Motorsports sweep of the first four positions in Saturday's qualifying session for the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Gordon and teammate Jimmie Johnson will start Sunday's second restrictor plate race of the season from the front row while their stablemates Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the third and fourth qualifying spots.

It was the third time in Sprint Cup Series history that one organization swept the first four positions in qualifying. Roush Fenway Racing last completed the feat at Auto Club Speedway in 2005.

Three drivers did not make Sunday's race: Mike Skinner, Tony Raines and Michael McDowell .

Talladega Qualifying Notes

Jeff Gordon won the Coors Light Pole Award for the 42nd Annual Aaron's 499 with a lap of 53.723 seconds, 178.248 mph.

This is his 70th pole in 625 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Gordon surpasses Cale Yarborough for third-place on the all-time pole winners list.

This is his first pole and third top-10 start in 2011.

This is his second pole in 37 races at Talladega Superspeedway.

Jimmie Johnson (second) posted his third top 10 start of 2011 and his 13th in 19 races at Talladega Superspeedway.

Mark Martin (third) posted his 22nd top 10 start at Talladega Superspeedway. It is his fourth in eight races this season.

Andy Lally (37th) was the fastest qualifying rookie.

Hendrick Motorsports becomes the third team in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history to qualify four cars in the first four starting positions (Pete DePaolo 1956 -Charlotte; Jack Roush 2005 - Auto Club).

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Posted on: April 16, 2011 12:06 pm
Edited on: April 16, 2011 12:59 pm

Earnhardt not a fan of new drafting

By Pete Pistone

Count Dale Earnhardt Jr. among those who are not impressed by the new two-car drafting phenomenon that is now the norm at Daytona and Talladega. Earnhardt didn't mince any words during his media availability this weekend at Talladega when asked about the tandem style of drafting that will be in play in both Saturday's Nationwide Series race and Sunday's Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499.

“I’m hoping this kind of racing goes away fast so we don’t have to talk about this no more,’’ Earnhardt said. “This is a bunch of crap.

“You all don’t really look at it and think it’s strange?’’

Earnhardt's not sure if the new configuration of the Sprint Cup car, the aero package and restrictor plates mandated by NASCAR or the new track surfaces at Daytona and Talladega are the culprit for the style of racing to have evolved

"We weren’t doing it when it was brand new to that,’’ Junior said. “I don’t know. I’m not an engineer. It might take a physics major to figure it out. You remember when we would go out to practice and even the few fans that were here on Thursday and Friday, that’s pretty interesting to them to watch guys out there practicing. How interesting was practice?

“Everybody thinks it’s cool now because it’s new and it’s neat and it’s what is going on. Everybody is getting a big kick out of it. Over the long haul, it’s not the best, it’s not as good as 40 dudes in one pack racing like hell trying to get to the front. It’s nowhere near as good as that. Give me that any day over this. Over the long haul, people will realize it and go OK. What’s the new when all this wears off, how interesting this is, how unique it is. People will start to see.’’


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Posted on: April 15, 2011 4:04 pm

Second Talladega practice scrubbed

By Pete Pistone

Heavy rains and severe weather have engulfed Talladega Superspeedway forcing officials to cancel Friday's second round of Sprint Cup Series practice.

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for the Talladega area until later Friday evening and a number of strong cells are expected to pass through the area.

The forecast is much improved for the remainder of the weekend and Saturday morning's Aaron's 499 qualifying session is expected to go off without a hitch at 10:35 a.m. central time. The NASCAR Nationwide Series Aaron's 312 is slated for later Saturday afternoon. Elliott Sadler and Clint Bowyer will start from the front row in that race.

Kevin Harvick is the defending Aaron's 499 winner while his Richard Childress Racing teammate Bowyer won last fall's race at the track.

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