It was the win heard around the world, at least the NASCAR world.
Last weekend’s doozy of a race at Talladega Superspeedway left one driver extremely happy, and several others displeased. From the start, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was dominant and led the pack. He managed to stay out of trouble when the “Big One” came on lap 48, collecting and damaging at least fourteen cars.
With only five total cautions, all occurring on lap 116 or before, the field remained under green for roughly the last 70 laps of the race. Cars primarily ran in a single-file pack, and not one driver was able to secure a bottom line pack to make a charge to the front. Debris on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s grill in the final laps caused concern, but he was able to maintain the lead when the others delayed their attempt at a run to the front.
The crowd’s reaction made it evident who crossed the finish line first. It was an emotional win for the driver of the No. 88 car, and as some say, all is right in the world when Junior wins. Earnhardt Jr. left Talladega with a first victory for his new Crew Chief, Greg Ives, and secured a spot in the Chase. Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard, Ryan Blaney, and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top five.
In other NASCAR news this week, the No. 31 team of Richard Childress Racing attended their final appeal of penalties, handed down after the Auto Club Speedway race in March. Said penalties were slightly amended at the initial appeal, but that decision was upheld in the final appeal, thus no other adjustments were made. Ryan Newman’s Crew Chief, Luke Lambert, was among those penalized, and will not be allowed back at the NASCAR track until the July race at Daytona.
Kyle Busch has made significant progress in his recovery following the accident at Daytona. Joe Gibbs announced this week that Busch had tested a late model car last week. Rumors claimed that Busch would participate in a late model race this weekend at Hickory Motor Speedway, but he dispelled the rumors by tweeting that he did not have plans to race this weekend.
This week NASCAR heads to Kansas for the running of a uniquely named race, the SpongeBob SquarePants 400. Yes, Nickelodeon has made their way to the NASCAR track, and the weekend will be complete with matching paint schemes.
Kansas Speedway is a 1.5 mile, D-shaped oval track with varying degrees of banking in the turns. Drivers will maneuver 267 laps around the track to complete just over 400 miles. There are many drivers who prove to be dominant on intermediate tracks, so there could easily be a repeat winner this weekend.
Here are the drivers included in the Fast Five: Jimmie Johnson, who has an average finishing position just inside the top ten, and has two previous wins at this track; Jeff Gordon, who is still working to secure a spot in the Chase, but has a good chance this weekend, holding the most wins among active drivers and is the defending race winner; Kevin Harvick, who has proven to be dominant on this type of track and is a previous winner at Kansas; Kasey Kahne, who is tied for most runner-up finishes at this track, and is fairly consistent on 1.5 mile tracks; and Martin Truex Jr., who has had an excellent season thus far and is tied for most runner-up finishes at this track. In addition to the Fast Five, keep an eye on Kyle Larson as the dark horse this weekend.
Tune into the race on Saturday, at 7:30 on FoxSports 1.