The Final Word – Talladega, bringing you the thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat

Talladega was sweet. That was the kind of action that captured my attention as a kid, watching Wide World of Sports. As Jim McKay so iconically put it all those years ago, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition.” That was Sunday at Talladega.

Joey Logano got the thrill. It was his third on the big track and the 19th Cup victory of his career. It was exciting, but not exactly a nail-biter, as Logano led the final 42 laps. Kurt Busch was right there in case he faltered, while Chase Elliott did manage to slip ahead of Kevin Harvick at the line for third.

Thrills for the fans meant the agony of defeat for so many others, as it often does when the circuit visits Alabama. Jamie McMurray had one hell of a spill during practice, tumbling through the air to roll over a half dozen times to totally destroy his primary ride. His back-up fared a little better. Erik Jones caught the apron, went up to get turned by McMurray, then onward to pile into Trevor Bayne along the wall. It also ruined the day for Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. Innovation, thy name is Talladega. To get Truex back out there, the crew busted out a concrete saw in order to make repairs. That was a first.

No big one yet, but the clock was ticking. With 22 laps to run, William Byron took the air off the rear of Jimmie Johnson’s equally unstable auto, and the fun began. While Johnson survived to eventually finish 12th, Byron, Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer, Michael McDowell, Brad Keselowski, A.J. Allmendinger and Austin Dillon were toast on the spot.

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We learned a few things at Talladega. First, pit road infractions might set you back, but they did not end your hopes on the 2.66-mile loop. Elliott, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Alex Bowman, and Daniel Suarez were among those tagged who managed to finish in the Top Ten. However, if you get hit with speeding late in the race and then get hit for speeding again while taking the pass-through penalty, your hopes evaporate. They did for Denny Hamlin, though even he recovered enough over the next hour for a lead lap 14th place conclusion.

We learned that pitting early helps. On the opening segment Ford and Toyota all came in early on, the Chevys did not. They also did not lead the parade at the end of the stage. Lesson learned, so when the Fords came back to the pits early in the second segment, the Toyota boys arrived on the next lap, with Chevrolet just one more behind them. Not that it worked for them all. Six of the Top Seven at Talladega were Fords. Chevy had the third, eighth, and ninth best, with Kyle Busch driving the best Toyota in 10th.

With 58-points, Logano took the lion’s share of points, with only Harvick and Stenhouse among the others breaking 40. David Ragan is 25th on the season, but sixth on the day. Single point days were “enjoyed” by Top 20 drivers Larson and Jones.

From Talladega, we technically stay in the south as the circuit moves to Dover, Delaware. It might not be Talladega, but it sports one of the best trophies in the sport at a track owned by legends. In the first 18 races run there from 1969 through 1978, the winners were limited to Richard Petty (5), David Pearson (5), Bobby Allison (3), Cale Yarborough (3), and Benny Parsons (2). That is some kind of blue-blood pedigree, Hall of Famers all.

By the way, the first time we saw Dover on our television screens it was 1974. The man who got the thrill of victory that day was Yarborough. The agony of defeat was experienced by Petty, as the race leader lost an engine with three laps to go. The action was described by Bill Flemming and Chris Economaki. The program, ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

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