The Final Word – Talladega, the track most drivers seem to hate but most fans love

So, let us talk about Talladega. We had Ricky Stenhouse Jr. start on the pole. Then we had a race full of excitement with a host of “oh, my God, did you see that?” moments. That pretty much covers the highlights from the opening 168 laps. It was as thrilling as I had hoped, but this one came down to the final 30 circuits on that big track.

No one dominated this one. No one went to the front and stayed there all race long. They came and they went. On lap 162, Ryan Blaney took a bow. A kiss from Stenhouse did the trick to end his day. Eight laps later, Chase Elliott went. Straight into the fence. A.J. Allmendinger just touched the back of the car, and Chase was gone. So was A.J., who was left sitting with his world turned upside down until the wreckers arrived. We said adios to Erik Jones. Kevin Harvick went bye, bye. The race was ruined for Joey Logano, who became the meat in the middle of a heavy metal sandwich. Ta-ta to both Martin Truex Jr and Trevor Bayne. By the way, Danica Patrick seemed to be doing well on this day. At least, until that moment. A very hard hit on the inside wall was not the way she wanted to end her day. At least, she left the track happy.

Before all the fun began, Kyle Busch had taken over as the leader. With just three to go, two cars bounced against one another, taking out the third car belonging to Ryan Newman. That left an overtime period to decide it all, and it was time well spent.

Busch had the lead, at least he did until Jimmie Johnson launched Stenhouse for the pass on the final lap. To add to the excitement, Jamie McMurray threaded the needle between Busch and Johnson with no room to spare. In fact, there was no room. I think he was driving one of those cartoon cars that could stretch out to fit the space. Johnson faded, but Rowdy charged back into the mix, but it was not enough as Stenhouse, McMurray, and Busch hit the line in that order.

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I told you Danica left the track happy. She got to award the winner with a kiss. Team owner Jack Roush ended a 101 race drought and probably thought about following Patrick’s lead. It was the first career Cup win for his driver, who has all but punched his ticket into the Chase. Stenhouse only led the one lap, but it gave him a 49 point day. Kyle Busch had 42, while Brad Keselowski won the opening stage and finished seventh to record 40 of his own.

Aric Almirola and Kasey Kahne both were in the Top Five, with Paul Menard and David Ragan in the Top Ten. The failure of his crew to keep his right rear tight much of the race left Dale Earnhardt Jr. very ordinary in 22nd. It could have been worse. Each of the aforementioned drivers who had a different opinion of the day than I had all finished behind him. Unfortunately, this result leaves Junior 67 points, or a victory, out of a playoff spot.

No doubt the excitement level is reaching a fever pitch as we all anticipate Kansas coming up this Saturday night. Well, that might be the case for Johnson, who has three wins at that track. Harvick, Logano, and Matt Kenseth each have a pair. Last spring, Kyle Busch won his first there. As for all the exciting highlights, we did have Denny Hamlin try to dart through a hole between Keselowski and Kyle Larson late in the game. Instead, he lost air, lost control, but found Logano to take them both out of it. In the words of Mike Joy, “That was a 7-10 split in the GoBowling 400.”

Okay, that was the lone highlight. I hope you enjoyed it. We can always hope that this year’s race proves at least as good as last year’s line.

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