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Tony Stewart's Toyota wins Talladega crashfest

NASCAR Sprint Cup
Sunday, October 05, 2008

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An exuberant Tony Stewart after his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win at Talladega
CIA Stock Photo

Tony Stewart held off hard-charging rookie Regan Smith, who made a last-lap daredevil pass below the yellow line in trying to beat the two-time champion.

NASCAR rules prohibit passing below the yellow line that separates the racing track from the apron.

It was Stewart's first win ever at Talladega Superspeedway and came at the end of a wham-bam day in which many of the top contenders were knocked from contention in a wild and wooly wreck just 14 laps from the end.

The accident was triggered when Carl Edwards' Ford lost grip, creating a chain reaction that had cars spinning all over the place, including Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship contenders Edwards, teammate Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and a host of others not involved in the Chase.

Sidelined or seriously damaged in the accident also were race contenders Juan Pablo Montoya, Travis Kvapil, Dave Blaney, Michael Waltrip, and Reed Sorensen.

The race produced an all-time record number of leaders with 27.

Smith's teammate Paul Menard was second. Smith was moved back to 18th for his rule violation after officials reviewed the finish.

David Ragan was third, Burton was fourth, Bowyer fifth,  Bobby Labonte finished six, Scott Riggs seventh, Robby Gordon eighth, Jimmie Johnson ninth and Elliott Sadler tenth.

Johnson's finish was unusual since he lost a lap early and was never fully competitive, even though he did lead at one point.

Kyle Busch, another leader, was 15th but never ultra-competitive. Harvick wound up 20th after being a serious contender.

Before a cheering Talladega crowd which typically watches on its tiptoes, NASCAR's best drivers gave them what they came for, side-by-side, bumper-to-bumper action right from the git-go.

Pole winner Kvapil led a lap, then Vickers led, then Edwards, back and forth, forwards, backwards, race cars jockeying for position like Big Brown down the stretch at the Kentucky Derby.

For example, Montoya was running second on Lap 11 and dropped to 24th by the 13th lap. Rookie Aric Almirola jumped up front to lead lap 15. Just a lap or two later, Ragan took the lead with a shove from Kvapil.

The crowd erupted with cheering and shouting on Lap 25 when Earnhardt took the lead for the first time. "Junior Nation" roared its approval.  Johnson's day was not going nearly so well as he lost a lap when his Chevy had possible engine problems. Kvapil went back in front on Lap 30. The lead was changing so fast, it was hard to keep up with who was leading when. The first caution of the beautiful afternoon fell on Lap 34 with Earnhardt out front. The crowd was still on its feet.

Following pit stops, Gordon was the first car back on track, leader of the snarling pack with 37 of 188 laps complete. Truex, Jr., was second, Burton third, Mike Wallace fourth, Earnhardt fifth and Busch sixth.

Burton quickly went to the front but was passed by Kenseth. Vickers got a huge shove from Johnson, fighting to get his lap back, and the Toyota driver led for a lap. Sadler roared to the front and then Mears led a lap.

Another debris caution slowed the field on Lap 45 with Mears ahead. The crowd was still standing.

Sadler was the leader when the green flag fell at Lap 49. Ryan Newman's afternoon ended with a sick engine at this point and Kyle Busch streaked to the front with a push from teammate Hamlin.

Kurt Busch went out just before Gordon and David Reutimann spun on the 52nd lap. Jon Wood was also in the accident on the backstretch. Johnson's luck might have turned better during the accident as he barely missed this one after getting back on the lead lap by virtue of the "lucky dog" award.

During this caution period, Kurt Busch's crew raised the hood on his car and eventually took the Penske Dodge behind the wall.

Reutimann apparently cut a tire that triggered the accident.

Vickers went back out front on the 59th lap restart with Kvapil, Mike Skinner, Kyle Busch and Sorensen behind.

Kahne went to the front with McMurray in tow, then, lined up three abreast, Sorensen led, then Truex, Jr., tried to lead before Jamie McMurray took the top spot.
   
All of a sudden it was McMurray all alone before Earnhardt shoved Truex ahead.

If anyone took their eyes off the pack, you ran the risk of missing a lead change. Earnhardt went ahead, then Montoya and before you could blink an eye,

Talladega mayhem took over on Lap 68. Vickers cut a tire, sending his Toyota sideways into McMurray and triggering a domino-effect wreck that damaged several cars besides Vickers’ and McMurray's. Terry Labonte was involved, as was Almirola, Truex, Skinner, Kahne, Tony Raines and David Gilliland.         

NASCAR officials red-flagged the race to clean up the debris.

After a 20-minute delay, action continued with Earnhardt leading, Paul Menard second and Burton third when the green flag waved on Lap 71. 

On the next lap, Hamlin took the front spot. Once again, the lead changed hands several times each lap. Johnson led for the first time before Earnhardt returned to the front. Then, it was Johnson again. Stewart went out front on Lap 80 with Mike Wallace in his draft.

Another tire problem, this time for a failure on Mike Wallace's right rear, brought out the caution on Lap 81. Pieces of Wallace's tire tore up the front of Michael Waltrip's NAPA Toyota and his crew had to make repairs before he continued.

When the green waved on Lap 86, it was Kyle Busch ahead of Earnhardt and Montoya up front.


Busch and Stewart maintained the lead. before Earnhardt was pushed to the front by Almirola.

It was probably the best lap-by-lap race in the history of this 2.6-mile superspeedway.   

Results

FIN

ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 34 20 Tony Stewart Toyota Subway / Home Depot 195/10 190 Running
2 5 15 Paul Menard Chevrolet Johns Manville / Menards 175/5 190 Running
3 16 6 David Ragan Ford AAA Travel 170/5 190 Running
4 17 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility 165/5 190 Running
5 35 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Jack Daniel's 155/0 190 Running
6 32 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios / Betty Crocker 150/0 190 Running
7 11 66 Scott Riggs Chevrolet Hunt Brothers Pizza 151/5 190 Running
8 42 7 Robby Gordon Dodge MAPEI / Menards 142/0 190 Running
9 20 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 143/5 190 Running
10 40 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge MONOPOLY at McDonald's 139/5 190 Running
11 7 78 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet Furniture Row/ DenverMattress.com 135/5 190 Running
12 14 00 Kenny Wallace Toyota Champion Mortgage 132/5 190 Running
13 3 8 Aric Almirola Chevrolet U.S. Army 129/5 190 Running
14 2 5 Casey Mears Chevrolet Pop-Tarts / CARQUEST 126/5 190 Running
15 37 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Pedigree 123/5 190 Running
16 43 96 Ken Schrader Toyota DLP HDTV 115/0 190 Running
17 23 45 Terry Labonte Dodge Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil 112/0 190 Running
18 4 01 Regan Smith * Chevrolet DEI / Principal Financial Group 109/0 190 Running
19 25 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA AUTO PARTS 111/5 187 Running
20 39 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 108/5 179 Running
21 33 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 105/5 177 Running
22 29 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Caterpillar 97/0 176 In Pit
23 30 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Memorex 99/5 176 Running
24 22 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 96/5 174 Running
25 13 42 Juan Montoya Dodge Texaco / Havoline 93/5 173 In Pit
26 31 17 Matt Kenseth Ford DEWALT 90/5 173 Running
27 1 28 Travis Kvapil Ford Academy Sports + Outdoors 87/5 173 Running
28 15 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet AMP Energy "Ride With Dale Jr." / Nat'l Guard 84/5 173 Running
29 12 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 81/5 173 Running
30 6 33 Mike Wallace Chevrolet Realtree "Driven to the Outdoors" 73/0 169 Running
31 21 84 Mike Skinner Toyota Red Bull 70/0 160 Running
32 28 26 Jamie McMurray Ford BernzOmatic Fat Boy 72/5 159 Running
33 27 21 Jon Wood Ford Motorcraft 64/0 154 Running
34 8 70 Tony Raines Chevrolet iQ Drive 61/0 148 In Pit
35 9 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 63/5 134 Running
36 38 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 60/5 112 In Pit
37 19 44 David Reutimann Toyota UPS 52/0 110 Out of Race
38 26 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 54/5 104 In Pit
39 36 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express 51/5 98 Running
40 41 38 David Gilliland Ford Ford. Drive one. 43/0 68 Running
41 10 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 45/5 68 Running
42 18 109 Sterling Marlin Chevrolet Miccosukee Resort & Gaming 37/0 68 Out of Race
43 24 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Samsung HDTV / Alltel 34/0 48 Out of Race

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