Bowyer Edges Harvick To Win At Talladega
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
Talladega, Ala. – In many ways, it was like old times at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday evening. Richard Childress was back in his old spot, sitting in front of the media as the winning car owner in a Cup race at Talladega, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was representing his family name in a classy manner.
It was the 11th win at Talladega as a car owner for Childress, a record for the track.
It was another disappointing day for Earnhardt, and it came in front of a crowd that still treats him as the favorite, as evidenced by the jackets and shirts in the grandstands and the roar when he takes the lead.
Childress, the man who fielded the cars that the late Dale Earnhardt drove when he ruled Talladega, wound up with both the winning car, driven by Clint Bowyer, and the second-place entry of Kevin Harvick, whose finishing position put him right in the thick of the closest Chase battle ever with three races to go. He’s 38 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson and 24 behind runner-up Denny Hamlin.
Childress’ third car, the No. 31 driven by Jeff Burton, was one of the strongest early on, but was swept up in a mid-race wreck, ironically with Earnhardt.
Childress said during his press appearance that being in Talladega’s victory lane carried him back to a similar afternoon 10 years ago when he and Earnhardt celebrated what turned out to be the Intimidator’s final Cup victory. It came after Earnhardt surged through the pack in the closing laps with a push from Kenny Wallace, then driving for Andy Petree. This time, it was two Childress drivers working together that got him to victory lane.
“Standing in the winner’s circle a while ago with Clint, the team, it was real special because it
brought back memories of being here 10 years ago with Dale Earnhardt when he won this race,” Childress said. “I was thinking about that.”
He also said that Bowyer has a chance to one day be talked about in the same sentence as Earnhardt when it comes to racing at Daytona and Talladega, where restricted engines place a premium on strategy and smart moves and cooperation among drivers.
“Clint Bowyer, he’ll go down in history as one of the great restrictor plate racers, just like Kevin,” Childress said. “Him and Kevin both were up there. Didn’t know which one won it.”
But the way Childress’ grandson Austin Dillon explained it to him at the moment the race ended, it didn’t really matter because he was going to win one way or another.
“My grandson said, ‘We know we won it, so let’s go to the winner’s circle.’
“I was sitting there kind of numb until he told me that.”
As fortune – or misfortune – would have it, it wasn’t a great Talladega weekend for the Earnhardt clan. The Intimidator’s grandson Jeffrey Earnhardt wrecked in the Camping World Truck Series race while Dale Earnhardt Jr. wrecked in the Cup race, even though he did lead six times for a race-high 24 laps.
But to Earnhardt’s great credit, even as he continues to struggle on the track most weeks, he remains one of the classiest drivers in the sport today.
He took full blame for his crash with Jeff Burton.
“I got into Jeff and didn’t hit him square and turned him down the race track and ended up wrecking him,” Earnhardt said. “Cost his crew a great race car and opportunity to win. He had a really fast car. I apologize to Richard (Childress) and all of those guys over there. My boys too, they worked really hard on my car. We had a terrific engine today and a real fast car.”
He said he was especially sorry to have wrecked Burton, as he explained when asked what he said to Burton when the two made their mandatory stop in the track hospital.
“I just wanted to apologize to him,” he said. “Man, he’s one of the ambassadors for our sport, and I have so much respect for him. When you are out there racing, you aren’t considering all those things. As soon as I turned him, I felt terrible about it. I just respect him so much. He’s taught me a lot in my career. I didn’t show him as much respect as I should have but I didn’t have any intentions of spinning him out. I was racing a little bit hard out there.”
– Rick Minter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgNo Comment