Johnson Wins at Talladega Dale Jr. Leads 8 Laps in Black No. 8, Blown Engine Ends Afternoon Early Jimmie Johnson won the rain-delayed Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway Monday afternoon, crossing the line ahead of Tony Stewart and Brian ...
Johnson Wins at Talladega
Dale Jr. Leads 8 Laps in Black No. 8, Blown Engine Ends Afternoon Early
Jimmie Johnson won the rain-delayed Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway Monday afternoon, crossing the line ahead of Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers who finished second and third. Johnson's victory, his third of the season, moved him into the lead in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Budweiser team had a rough afternoon, leading eight laps, but suffered a single-car spin on lap 88, then climbed back to the front of the pack before an engine failure on lap 152 ended their afternoon.
Key Moments: Dale Jr., starting 27th, needed only seven laps to launch into 10th place, and then climbed into the top-five on lap nine. Driving a black number 8 Budweiser car as a tribute to his late father, Dale Jr. sent the Talladega crowd into a frenzy when he took the lead for the first time on lap 22. He then spent the next 60-some laps among the top-10 positions until he spun out in turn three. Despite some minor contact with Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, Dale Jr. somehow managed to avoid causing a major, multi-car crash, and with only minor damage to the Bud car, the team managed to make repairs and remain on the lead lap. Dale Jr. restarted 23rd after the spin, but climbed to seventh place in only eight laps. Searching for a sixth victory at Talladega, Dale Jr's day ended suddenly on lap 152, when the engine blew on the Bud car.
Dale Jr. Quotes:
About the spin: "I just got loose. I slid up into Carl (Edwards), and he saved me from going into the fence and I spun it. That probably is what hurt the motor by spinning it backwards. The car wasn't great after that, but I was proud of the usual effort from my guys -- we stayed on the lead lap and we still had something that could have run at or near the front."
About the blown engine: "It's a big surprise. We just don't have engine issues at the restrictor plate races, but you never know if it was hurt from sliding backwards. The car wasn't really handling like I wanted. It was capable of running at the front, but it wasn't really ready to force my way up there with fifth laps left. There was so many laps left, I was just being calm and giving guys room, tryin' to be cool. It was difficult to get up to the front, I wasn't going to maneuver up there until later in the race."
"It was weird. It was tough to pass on the inside. That was a surprise to me. Usually here you try to guard that line down low. Now, everybody's pushing each other to try to get up to the fence. The bottom line was tight, so everybody was pushing the inside line of cars up into the middle of the track, which left the high line with whatever was left of the track near the wall."
Best Radio Chatter:
Determined to win the race while carrying a special paint scheme in honor of his father, Dale Jr. was uncharacteristically quiet on the radio for nearly the entire race. Because of the constant action of the restrictor plate race, spotter Steve Hmiel did the majority of the talking throughout the race.
Steve Hmiel (spotter) -- as Dale Jr. took the lead on lap 71, describing the crowd's wild reaction -- "The grandstands are shaking!
Dale Jr. and Carl Edwards had a minor shoving match midway through the race, and NASCAR was quick to send a message to both drivers during a yellow-flag period on lap 127.
Hmiel: "Tony Jr, did you get the message from the tower about the 99?"
Tony Eury Jr (crew chief): "Yes, 10-4."
Hmiel: "They just want us to calm down a little bit. We've been a little bit rough on each other."
Dale Jr: "10-4. I'll calm down.... He was just... when we were running side-by-side, he'd just run in the middle of the track. Every corner, he'd run me up the track. I was just getting sick of it."
Hmiel: "That's cool. They're not real excited about it. They just wanted us to pass the word."
Dale Jr: "Alright, well if he's up there, tell his spotter I'm just gonna chill out. I just don't like being run up the corner."
Hmiel: "I already talked to 'em. I saw what was going on."