The typical scene of spinning cars, dust, and smoke filled turn two at Talladega in today's Winston Cup race. When everything cleared, 24 cars sat mangled. Fortunate for Dale Earnhardt Jr, he was able to avoid trouble and grabbed his first victory of the year.
The race was red flagged within 10 laps to go due to oil that was laid down on the track by the damaged car of Tony Stewart. The race restarted with four to go and Dale Jr. jumped out to a quick lead, with DEI teammate Michael Waltrip making a final lap charge.
Earnhardt Jr. dominated the race and led 133 of the 188 laps. He has won three of the last four restrictor plate races and grabbed a No Bull Five million dollar bonus last year at Talladega for a win. "All day we led, so it's like, I don't think anybody can beat the car. A lot of hard work and it's paying off. We're gonna try for that Championship and if we keep doing this, it's gonna happen."
Prior to the 24 car demolition derby, the race was run in an abnormally calm fashion. For the majority of the race, Dale Jr. led a 10-15 car breakaway, with few incidents of beating and banging to report.
The first caution flew on lap 116 for debris. 18 laps later, rookie sensation Ryan Newman, who led on a few occasions and ran in the top five a large part of the day; fell off of the pace with yet another blown engine. This marks the No. 12 Penske owned Ford's third straight engine failure.
"The big one" came on lap 163 when the lapped car of Mike Wallace collided with Tony Stewart's car. Stewart's No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac bounced off of the outside wall, which than brought the seemingly ritualistic "big wreck" that restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega are infamous for.
Elliott Sadler's No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford appeared to have received the hardest hit of them all after his Ford shot across track and slammed the inside retaining wall.
Following the incident, there were no serious injuries. Johnny Benson did receive medical attention and was treated for heat following a fire which broke out in his car. Benson also inhaled fire retardant which was used to put out the flames on his No. 10 Pontiac.
NASCAR once again mandated a "yellow line rule," meaning if any car goes underneath the yellow line and advances position, he will be black flagged. Kenny Wallace, driving a Michael Waltrip owned Chevy, appeared to pass Sterling Marlin in the out of bounds zone on the final lap. After reviewing the tape, NASCAR penalized Wallace and dropped him from fifth to 21st in the finishing order. When Wallace found out about his penalization, he wasn't too happy; "I went to go underneath Sterling (Marlin), he body slammed me and put me down there. I finished fifth today, I know that."
With Wallace's fall to 21st, Sterling Marlin took home the fifth spot. Michael Waltrip finished second, while Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon finished third and fourth respectively.