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Earnhardt Jr. Returns To The Top At Talladega

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 3 2015
Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke to victory at Talladega on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his No. 88 Chevrolet drove to victory at Talladega on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

Time was, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ruled over Talladega Superspeedway but that time was over decade ago. On Sunday, Earnhardt ruled the Sprint Cup Series biggest track once again as he led the most laps and held on to win the Geico 500.

sprint-logo-08The victory was Junior’s sixth at the 2.66-mile oval but first since 2004.

It was his first of the season and likely puts him into the Chase playoff field.  And it was a victory that pegged the supremely popular driver’s emotion-o-meter.

“It’s just real emotion,” Earnhardt, fighting unsuccesfully to hold back tears, said in Victory Lane. “I haven’t won here in a real long time. My daddy’s birthday a couple days ago, and just real emotional, man.

“Everything is just so good for me right now. My personal life and my racing and my team I’m with. I just feel overcome with emotion.”

Behind Earnhardt over the final laps and at the finish line was his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson.

“I was waiting for guys to really  spread out with like maybe three to go and it didn’t happen,” Johnson said when asked if he had a chance to pass Earnhardt. “There wasn’t much energy in our single-car draft.”

Paul Menard was third while rookie Ryan Blaney, driving the famed No. 21 Wood Brothers
Racing Ford was fourth.

“It was a good day,” Blaney, whose team is running only a partial schedule, said. “We had a fast car and a good starting spot.  We went back a couple times and came back up through there.  It was tough at the end because they were all single file for a long time.  It was hard to get a run.  I saw the 11 coming and I just didn’t react fast enough, and that really would only have worked if we got by the 88 and the 48.  I don’t think we could have got by them.  They would have just pulled down and blocked us, so it was a good day.  At least we finished one after having a couple blown motors.  It’s good to get a good finish with these guys and we’re really excited to go to Charlotte.”

Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing was fifth. That finish moved him to second in the point standings.

The Furniture Row Racing driver has now claimed nine top-10 finishes in the first 10 races of the season. The Talladega finish gave him two top fives for the season, one more than he achieved all of last year in the No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet.
“Talladega is a wild card, and any time you can come out of here with a fifth place finish that’s a good day,” said Truex. 


Gordon led the first 11 laps but then gave it up to Earnhardt Jr., who led four laps until Gordon took it back and led most of the next 31 laps.

The big wreck, occurred on Lap 47 when it appeared that the No. 6 Ford of Trevor Bayne lost grip and spun. Among those involved in the resulting melee were Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, David Ragan, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and Danica Patrick. In all, 14 cars suffered damage.

“It looked like the 6 ( Bayne) car and maybe another white car got turned sideways down the back straightaway and we were in the top groove and tried to slow down,” Ragan said.

“It felt like the 27 (Paul Menard) was really tight on our door and sucked us around,” Bayne said. “Our car was a little loose, but we had a fast race car today.  I hate that a lot of cars got torn up, but especially our AdvoCare Ford.  I felt like we worked our way in the top five a couple times there, and had a good shot at running well in this thing.

“The air is so sensitive here.  Anything, when you get too close to somebody it can just pull you right around and it’s as much as hitting somebody physically when you get down on their door that tight and it’s just going to happen.”

As a result, the red flag waved for over 11 minutes as track workers attempted to clean up a large debris field.

When the racing resumed, Johnson took his turn at leading the fastest conga line. He led 42 laps and had the lead when Brendan Gaughan had a tire problem, wrecked and brought out the fourth yellow of the day.

Gordon, who had the stall closest to pit-out, beat Johnson out onto the track and had his lead back.

After the Lap 96 restart, Gordon and Johnson ran side by side and exchanged the lead several times until Johnson was able to gain the advantage on Lap 98.

A couple laps later, Johnson was passed by Denny Hamlin and for the next couple laps, a dozen or more cars diced for the lead.

The caution flag waved for debris on Lap 114 with Gordon leading. Gordon led the field to green on Lap 119. On Lap 124, Earnhardt Jr. shot to the lead.

Junior led until Lap 148 of the 188-scheduled-laps race, when he was briefly passed by Tony Stewart.

Eight laps later, Earnhardt led the first batch of cars into the pits for final green-flag stops.

During the stops, however, Austin Dillon’s Richard Childress Racing Chevy caught fire on the track to bring out a caution flag. Also during the stops, Gordon was issued a speeding penalty and would restart 31st.

When the race restarted with 26 laps to go, Cole Whitt was P1 and next to him on the front row was Earnhardt. Junior quickly moved to the lead on the restart and planted his Chevy at the head of the faster line of cars.

Earnhardt sat at the front of what became a long, single lane of traffic until he took the checkered flag.

“I knew that they were going to do something,” Earnhardt said when asked if he was surprise nobody in the line behind him made a final-lap run at him. “I just didn’t know what it would be.  Luckily enough when the No. 48 backed up the guys behind him would race.  That helped me a ton.  I would move and try to put him in front of the guy that wasn’t going to help him the most.  I was just doing stuff trying to figure out what I needed to do and hopefully I did everything right.  We ended up here (in Victory Lane).  I really want to thank – we worked together great with all our teammates today.  We raced and passed each other, but we also worked good together when we needed to and we should. ”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – GEICO 500

Talladega Superspeedway

Talladega, Alabama

Sunday, May 03, 2015

  1. (4) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 188, $306065.
  2. (5) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 188, $256121.
  3. (7) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 188, $190060.
  4. (3) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, 188, $148385.
  5. (36) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 188, $159600.
  6. (12) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 188, $156715.
  7. (18) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 188, $151670.
  8. (24) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 188, $168570.
  9. (17) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 188, $127645.
  10. (34) Josh Wise, Ford, 188, $111070.
  11. (27) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 188, $138701.
  12. (19) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 188, $127435.
  13. (41) Cole Whitt, Ford, 188, $125618.
  14. (42) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 188, $121993.
  15. (28) Aric Almirola, Ford, 188, $142146.
  16. (37) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 188, $117918.
  17. (31) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 188, $128518.
  18. (43) Matt DiBenedetto #, Toyota, 188, $109157.
  19. (6) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 188, $128724.
  20. (39) David Gilliland, Ford, 188, $108710.
  21. (25) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 188, $107435.
  22. (15) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 188, $143851.
  23. (35) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 188, $106110.
  24. (38) Chris Buescher(i), Ford, 188, $94185.
  25. (8) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 188, $133721.
  26. (29) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 188, $104085.
  27. (32) Bobby Labonte, Ford, 188, $95435.
  28. (11) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 188, $102885.
  29. (40) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 188, $91685.
  30. (10) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 188, $128643.
  31. (1) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 188, $145871.
  32. (22) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 188, $97685.
  33. (21) Joey Logano, Ford, 186, $138268.
  34. (2) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 158, $109435.
  35. (14) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Engine, 157, $127721.
  36. (23) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 151, $117874.
  37. (20) Greg Biffle, Ford, 147, $121469.
  38. (9) David Ragan, Toyota, 123, $129515.
  39. (30) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 91, $80465.
  40. (33) Brendan Gaughan(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 90, $76465.
  41. (26) Trevor Bayne, Ford, Accident, 46, $117040.
  42. (13) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 46, $96373.
  43. (16) Brian Scott(i), Chevrolet, Engine, 18, $64965.


Average Speed of Race Winner:  159.487 mph.

Time of Race:  03 Hrs, 08 Mins, 08 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.158 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  6 for 23 laps.

Lead Changes:  27 among 15 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   J. Gordon 1-3; K. Kahne 4-6; T. Stewart 7-11; D. Earnhardt Jr. 12-15; J. Gordon 16-19; K. Harvick 20; J. Allgaier 21; B. Labonte 22; J. Gordon 23-48; K. Busch 49; J. Johnson 50-91; D. Gilliland 92; J. Wise 93; J. Gordon 94-95; J. Johnson 96-103; D. Earnhardt Jr. 104; D. Hamlin 105-106; D. Earnhardt Jr. 107-110; J. Gordon 111-115; C. Mears 116; J. Gordon 117-123; D. Earnhardt Jr. 124-147; T. Stewart 148; D. Earnhardt Jr. 149-155; D. Hamlin 156-158; R. Stenhouse Jr. 159; C. Whitt 160-161; D. Earnhardt Jr. 162-188.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  D. Earnhardt Jr. 6 times for 67 laps; J. Johnson 2 times for 50 laps; J. Gordon 6 times for 47 laps; T. Stewart 2 times for 6 laps; D. Hamlin 2 times for 5 laps; K. Kahne 1 time for 3 laps; C. Whitt 1 time for 2 laps; D. Gilliland 1 time for 1 lap; K. Harvick 1 time for 1 lap; K. Busch 1 time for 1 lap; C. Mears 1 time for 1 lap; R. Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 1 lap; J. Allgaier 1 time for 1 lap; B. Labonte 1 time for 1 lap; J. Wise 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: K. Harvick – 394; M. Truex Jr. – 354; J. Johnson – 342; J. Logano – 335; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 319; B. Keselowski – 305; J. Mcmurray – 297; M. Kenseth – 292; K. Kahne – 286; D. Hamlin – 281; P. Menard – 280; A. Almirola – 279; J. Gordon – 277; R. Newman – 271; K. Busch – 255; D. Patrick – 253.



| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 3 2015
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