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AJ Almendinger takes a wild ride, Jeff Burton and Dale Jr. take each other out, and Clint Bowyer edges teammate Kevin Harvick: quite the Sunday at Talladega


These guys weren't shy about going three-wide (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

   By Mike Mulhern



   It was another barnburner, somewhat surprisingly perhaps, since Sunday's Talladega Amp 500 was such a key race in NASCAR's championship chase.
   But then this is the season of 'Boys, have at it,' and they were certainly having at it here Sunday.

   Yet, while these drivers were three-wide and four-wide much of the tense three-hour race, in front of a crowd of some 110,000, they were also surprisingly clean – Just three incidents, until the last-lap melee that saw AJ Allmendinger flipping, creating a photo finish between teammates Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick, with Bowyer finally getting the nod after considerable review.
     "I'm all right," Allmendinger said, after leaving the infield hospital.  "It's not the most fun run I've ever had, but it's Talladega.
    "I hate this place.  I always have and always will."
   And just what happened in those final moments?
    "I wish I could give you a description of what happened -- I was just in the middle, four-wide, I was getting shoved, and I got in the right-rear of
Michael (Waltrip).....but I was on the brakes as hard as I could be, getting pushed as hard as I was," Allmendinger said in frustration. 
   "It was just one of those things.
    "I've never flipped in anything like that. I guess there's a first for everything, but that's a first I never wanted to have."
    The incident comes during a particularly trying point in the season for Allmendinger and his team, Richard Petty Motorsports. Team owner George Gillett has been trying to renegotiate a $90 million bank loan, and the four-car team's finances have appeared shaky the past two weeks. Kasey Kahne bailed out of the operation last week, and crewmen wonder how long they'll have jobs. The four-car team is to cut back to two teams next season, with Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose. But crewmen say they don't even know if they'll be making the trip to Texas this week.
    "I hate this place... but I'm just proud of my guys -- They keep fighting in a lot of tough times right now," Allmendinger said.


     Jeff Burton: he had one of the best cars in the field, only to get taken out by Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

     Bowyer, so dejected after being booted out of the title chase with that 150-point penalty after opening the chase with a victory at Loudon, N.H., six weeks ago, called this win "vindication." However Bowyer, who also lost crew chief Shane Wilson to suspension in that Loudon deal, remains 12th in the 12-man chase.
    Sunday was certainly a Richard Childress afternoon – Bowyer and teammates Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton had the strongest cars.
   In the frantic maneuvering in the final miles Bowyer got a good push from Juan Pablo Montoya, in a side-by-side duel with Harvick, who was getting a push from David Reutimann.
   When the caution lights came on for the Allmendinger crash, Bowyer was barely ahead Harvick, in the shadows of the first turn, though it took several minutes to check all the video and scoring to make sure.
   "I felt pretty good -- I knew I had Juan behind me, and I just wanted to have ECR power pushing me and I knew I had a good shot at it," Bowyer said, referring to the Earnhardt-Childress Racing engine program, which provided horsepower for the top three finishers.
    "Juan wasn't going to let off of me, and I appreciate his help. I couldn't have done it without him.
    "I thought we were good and gone and that nobody was going to come (up to challenge)....and here they came on the outside (Harvick and Reutimann)."
    "They ran us down, and then I quit dragging my brakes, and we kind of took off again. Door to door there....and all of a sudden (Mike) Dillon (his spotter) is yelling in my ear the caution was coming out.
    "I looked over to make sure I was ahead of him. I thought I was, but I didn't know."

     Teammates Kevin Harvick (29) and Clint Bowyer: High-fiving their photo finish while awaiting NASCAR's verdict (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

     While Bowyer and Harvick awaited the NASCAR verdict, they parked side-by-side near victory lane, window to window, and shook hands.
    Then Bowyer, even before the decision, decided to make some victory donuts.
    It wound up being Bowyer's first restrictor plate victory.
    The Childress trio pretty much stayed close all day, whether it was up front or back in the pack after pit stops.
    The incident that nearly took Harvick and Bowyer both out, on lap 142 of the 188, Bowyer tagged Marcos Ambrose, and Harvick got clipped.
   "I got into Marcos, when it tight back there, turned him around and caught up my teammate....and I was sick about it," Bowyer said.
    "I didn't know how bad I'd torn up his car. 
     "But as soon as I saw him on the outside again, I helped him push back up through there."
    Harvick's crew managed to repair the damaged nose, and Harvick stayed cool: "I knew we had some damage on the front.
    "I just saw the cars wrecking in front of me, and we were able to jerk left and try to stay out of the wreck.
     "I knew we had a big dent up there....It is a little bit worse than I thought it was actually. They did a good job fixing it."
    And with that Harvick, the regular season champion, cut Jimmie Johnson's lead to just 38 points with three races to go.
    "We are getting closer, that is all that matters," Harvick said.
   "You just never know how it is all going to wind up here at Talladega, and today we were on the good end of it.
    "I just have to thank David Reutimann --  He pushed me all day, and he was really good behind us."

   The race itself was difficult to decipher, with so many lead changes (87, second-most in NASCAR history). Drivers could be running 30th at one point, and then up front the next.
   Greg Biffle was one of those; he hooked up with teammate Paul Menard at one point late and charged to the point. But then they got shuffled out, Biffle finishing 19th, Menard 13th.
   Biffle said the racing, though intense, was remarkably clean: "I was pleasantly surprised...and I'm just happy I wasn't involved in anything.  We escaped that.
    "But we wanted a better finish than where we ended up."

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton could say the same, after they took each other out 400 miles into the 500.
    Burton, immediately after the crash, jumped out of his and began kicking the door hard. But later he and Earnhardt both shrugged off the incident. And Earnhardt apologized.
    "I just wanted to apologize to him  -- Man, he's one of the ambassadors for our sport, and I have so much respect for him," Earnhardt said.
    "As soon as I turned him, I felt terrible about it. He's taught me a lot in my career. I didn't show him as much respect as I should have.
    "But I didn't have any intentions of spinning him out. I was racing a little bit hard out there."
    "It's just racing," Burton said. "Junior and I work really well and pushed each other a lot....we just didn't get lined up that time, and I guess he got me in the right-rear quarter panel and got me turned around," Burton said.
    "It wasn't anything on purpose; we just didn't get lined up.
    "It all got started going into turn three, and it got three-wide, and that changed everybody's line. I think I moved a little different than he thought I was going to.
     "He didn't do anything wrong."
    "I got in the back of Burton and got him out of control," Earnhardt said. "We'd just been pushing each other all day long, and I got into him the wrong way.
    "We just didn't hit him square, misjudged the push.
    "Cost his crew a great race car and opportunity to win. I apologize to Richard and all of those guys."


 Denny Hamlin got out front for a while, but didn't finish there, and he lost a few points to Jimmie Johnson (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

Burton Had nothing to do with it

Why are you taking the blame away from Junior. Jeff had nothing to do with taking Junior out. If the "Golden Boy, who does no wrong" hadn't hit Jeff in the wrong place this wouldn't have happened. I know it was a racing deal and that there was no intent, BUT THE FACT REMAINS it was Junior's fault, Jeff didn't take him out, Junior got caught up in the mess he created.

I wish the so called reporters would quit trying to sugar coat everything Junior does wrong. Hell, he's 19th in point for Gawd's sake, it's not like he is Mr. NASCAR although I have read too damn many articles that would like to claim he is.

Jr. & Burton

How exactly did Burton and Jr. take each other out? Seeing this as anything other than a Jr screwup takes some serious rose colored glasses. I'm guessing you have a closet full?

Burton vs. Earnhardt

Sorry, Mike, no matter how you slice it or dice it the Wreck was all Earnhardts fault. Junior's actions was the cause of wreck, Burton had nothing to do with it.


Jeff said to Jr. in the medical center, "Man you did nothing wrong. We were just racin'." After seeing the video of how off-center Jeff bumped Jamie & knocked him totally sideways, & Jamie saved it, there wasn't much else Jeff could say. :)

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