Surprising and Not Surprising: Talladega’s Amp Energy Juice 500

At the track described as NASCAR’s ‘wild card’, famous for white knuckle racing, insanely close finishes and the infamous ‘big one’, Talladega Superspeedway’s Amp Energy Juice, run on Halloween no less, delivered on all accounts, for the most part.  Here are the surprising and not surprising tricks and treats from HallowDega:

Surprising:  What was most surprising was the length of time that it took to finally declare the winner after yet another close finish at Talladega.  With Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick exchanging handshakes as they waited for what seemed like an eternity to find out which one had won, NASCAR finally declared it was Clint Bowyer after reviewing and re-reviewing the videotape.  This was Bowyer’s second Chase win and he is now left to wonder what could have been since his penalty put him dead last in the Chase race.  After thanking Juan Pablo Montoya for pushing him to a great finish, Bowyer just had two words after finally being declared the victor, “Hell yeah.”

Not Surprising:  Kevin Harvick, with a bruised, beat up, and bear-bonded race car as a result of an early wreck, finished runner up to his Richard Childress Racing teammate.  As Harvick said, “We kept it 1, 2 in the right house and beat the guys we needed to.”  Harvick has now finished seventh, first, first, and second at this season’s restrictor plate races at Daytona, Talladega, Daytona and Talladega respectively.  Harvick is now just 38 points behind Chase leader Jimmie Johnson, tightening up the championship competition considerably.


American Muscle

Surprising:  At a track that he loves and where his father had such success, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. did lead laps early in the race to the delight of the crowd, particularly Junior Nation.  But surprisingly, Junior, usually so solid in plate races, made a mistake in the draft, clipping Jeff Burton in the corner and sending the veteran for a very wild ride.  Burton was so upset, knowing that he had a good car, that in spite of his hard impact, decimated vehicle and even a brief fire, he got out and promptly kicked his race car.  Junior also sustained significant damage, and although he was able to eventually return to the track, he finished a cursed 39th in his The Legend of Hallowdega race car.

Not Surprising:  While Junior usually loves the restrictor plate tracks, one driver in particular just hates them, especially Talladega.  So it was not surprising to hear A.J. Allmendinger declare after flying through the air and hitting the wall upside down, “I hate this place.  I always have and I always will.”  Allmendinger admitted that he has never flipped before and will most likely seek the services of his chiropractor wife Lynne for his sore neck and back.  Allmendinger finished in the 32nd position and time will tell if he will be at the next race due to the financial turmoil currently affecting his race team, Richard Petty Motorsports.

Surprising:   At a track known for the ‘big one’, a wreck that traditionally occurs at Talladega, often taking out at least twenty race cars and a major portion of the race field, it was surprising that the ‘big one’ just did not occur.  There certainly were a few wrecks along the way, but they were more isolated instances involving just a handful of cars.  The majority of cautions were for debris on the track rather than carnage from the dreaded ‘big one’.

Not Surprising:  Although no major wrecking occurred, there were the unbelievably frequent lead changes.  In fact, the race at Talladega this year yielded 87 lead changes, so almost every driver got their chance to be out front at one point or another.  It was also not surprising to see those infamous two-car breakaways that have also become a hallmark of Talladega, moving duos from the back to the front in the blink of an eye.  Both race winner Bowyer and runner up Harvick took advantage of the two-car hook ups with Juan Pablo Montoya and David Reutimann to thank respectively.

Surprising:   It was surprising how depressed Denny Hamlin was after a top-ten finish at Talladega.  Hamlin stated glumly, “I wish I could have had a better show.”  Hamlin’s depression was also surprising given the championship contender battled back from being a lap down to finish in the ninth position.  Hamlin is now just 14 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson in the Chase standings, yet still in a gloomy mood.

Not Surprising:   At one of NASCAR’s wildest and most unpredictable tracks, it was not surprising to see some non-traditional drivers lead laps and get good finishes.  Juan Pablo Montoya, who started on the pole, proved that he is quickly becoming a plate track ace with his third place finish.  David Reutimann, who studied at the feet of team owner Michael Waltrip, also had a great run, finishing fourth.  The youngster Joey Logano had a great ride, finishing fifth and scoring his first three top-10 finishes in a row in his Cup career. Reutimann’s Diamond Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. finished sixth and Brad Keselowski did Penske proud with his top-ten placement.

Surprising:  It was a major surprise that after hanging in the back all race long and finally deciding to make their move to the front that teammates and four-time champions Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were not able to seal the deal.  The two hooked up late in the race and charged to the front, leading a few laps.  But Gordon seemed to just get spooked, saying his car was “blowing up”.  He fell back, leaving Johnson alone in the draft, while he tried to diagnose his issues.  Although both drivers finished well, in the seventh and eighth spots respectively, Johnson was left shaking his head after the race, saying he still did not know what was going on with his teammate.

Not Surprising:  In spite of Gordon’s issues, Jimmie Johnson soldiered on, in spite of some damage that he sustained in one of the on-track incidents.  Johnson, apparently ditching the lucky horseshoe, credited his baby Genevieve’s Halloween costume, an angel with a halo, as his ‘Dega good luck charm.  Johnson maintains the points lead in the Chase as he continues his historic quest for a fifth consecutive championship.

With just three races left in the season to decide the winner of the Sprint Cup, the NASCAR aces will head deep in the heart of Texas.  The AAA Texas 500 will be held at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, November 7th at 3:00 PM on ESPN.


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