In Daytona it was the Daytona Duos, in Talladega it was Dueling Duos that won the race for Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports. With big help from wingman and team mate Dale Earnhardt Jr., Johnson got the push he needed to win the Aaron’s 499 today.
[media-credit name=”(c) CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”267″][/media-credit]The race started off with Hendrick power that filled the front two rows with pole sitter Jeff Gordon and Johnson on the front row. Mark Martin started third, Earnhardt Jr. fourth. Those positions left Martin pushing Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. pushing Johnson when the green flag flew.
The racing looks to be duos from now on with the aero package and engines that are being used at both of the plate Superspeedways. To be in front of the field, you had to be a two driver team to keep up the speed. The race started off with the Hendrick drivers working together and that’s how they ended the race was in the same position.
Gordon was fighting an illness but it did not seem to slow him down. The team of Martin and Gordon ran mid pack or even back of the pack for the majority of the race while Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. ran the front for a number of laps, but they too joined Gordon and Martin in the back to avoid any incidents during the course of the race.
The two driver method, with drivers that could work with each other, proved to be the essential key today. You could see a team start four to six seconds back and with the draft from the other teams in front of them, sent them like a rocket to suck them forward into the lead.
The strong teams would see 88 lead changes. Hendrick and Richard Childress Racing would be the most dominant teams on the track, while Roush and Gibbs could not yet find the right match to have strong consistent runs during the race.
Clint Bowyer with teammates Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard would advance to the front many times where Bowyer led the most laps with 38. The fans would also see many unusual combinations of Dave Blaney and Kevin Harvick work together several times to run up front as well as Kurt and Kyle Busch.
Regan Smith, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr. would hook up with several different drivers during the race. The key though was working within your own teams’ race shop. Gordon and Martin never left each other during the entire race which was the case with Johnson and Earnhardt Jr.
Bowyer worked with Burton for most of the race. Butin the end he would team up with Harvick. They seemed to be making the move for the win at the end but Johnson just had too much of a run. During the race, a team could power away from the field if you did not stay glued to each other on the track. Three to four distinct packs ran the track today. Some would be the front runners that would want to remain in front, the first middle group that would be the drivers who swapped front and rear positions to not overheat the cars.
The third group were those waiting for the big one or waiting for the last laps of the race to make a move. In the back were drivers that really did not have someone to draft with.
The end of the race would be the most exciting as Gordon/Martin passed Edwards/Biffle who were running in front on the last lap. On the back stretch Bowyer and Harvick ran the high line while Gordon/Martin are next to the yellow line. Johnson/Earnhardt power start to close in on the top four as they entered turn three.
By turn three Johnson/Earnhardt shoot to the middle to make something happen, but they cannot move forward. Coming out of turn four Johnson/Earnhardt drop to the yellow line with enough room to grab the inside where Gordon/Martin could not make a move.
In the tri-oval Johnson/Earnhardt start to muscle their way inch by inch to the front. Its three wide two team driving as all six drivers are side by side. It appeared that Johnson’s move past Martin may have been below the line. NASCAR officials said there was no violation.
At the line, by .002 seconds, Johnson wins the race in front of Bowyer. Gordon takes third, Earnhardt fourth, Harvick fifth. Martin was shuffled back to eighth as Edwards and Biffle made a comeback on the outside of Bowyer and Harvick to take sixth and seventh.
Johnson would take home his 54th victory in 335 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. This was Johnson’s second win at Talladega and his first for the year.
The 88 lead changes ties an all-time NSCS record set back at this track a year ago.
Carl Edwards is your unofficial points leader by 5 points over Johnson.
Talladega Tandem, Dega Duo, Two for Two, whatever you call it, that is going to be the big story for the day. The fans saw the most lead changes in the Nationwide race yesterday, I know we will see it happen today.
Hendrick Motorsports heads the first two rows as Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are on the front row with Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rule the second row. The Hendrick drivers have the duo aspect covered for us at the start, we will see how long that holds up.
Lap 14 Johnson with Earnhardt’s pushing takes the lead for the first time today. They have been hooked up for the entire time so far. Lap 16 the two swap for the second time and drop back to 14th and 15th within ten seconds.
Lap 18 Bowyer and Waltrip are on point, Kahne and Vickers , Cassill and Kurt Busch, Burton and Kenseth are the main groups are front.
Lap 21 Kyle Busch and Joey Logano are teamed up. We have a twelve car breakaway at the moment. Lap 22 Kurt Busch has Cassill pushing him to the lead. Vickers and Kahne are teamed up. Waltrip is pushing Bower, Ragan has Menard for his help.
Lap 25 Kyle Busch and Logano are the leaders with Ragan/Menard second.
YELLOW FLAG lap 27 in turn two as Kurt Busch is offset from Cassill which sends him into the team of Kahne and Vickers. One Red Bull car of Vickers heads into the outside wall while the other Red Bull of Kahne heads to the infield while others scatter. With the scattering we see some collateral damage between the duos being nose to tail. All the drivers head to pit road. Bowyer, Waltrip, Burton, Kyle Busch and Menard are the top five. Vickers heads to the garage .
GREEN FLAG lap 32 as Childress teammates of Bowyer and Burton are hooked up take the lead. Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski are teamed up to move up towards the front. Lap 37 a noteworthy move sees Trevor Bayne and Carl Edwards rocketing to the front, but only for a short time as the drivers have to swap for clean air.
Lap 39 Kenseth has help from Ragan with Logano and Kyle Busch close in on the front. Lap 40 Burton pushed by Bowyer, Kenseth by Ragan with a majority of the field teamed up. Kahne is hooked up with a lap down driver of David Gilliland to hold third.
Lap 45 Regan Smith is Menard is in front. Lap 46 Burton and Bowyer are back in front.
Lap 50 your top twenty drivers are Kenseth, Ragan, Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Burton, Bowyer, Allmendinger, Reutimann, Biffle, Bayne, Earnhardt Jr., Johnson, Kahne, Bobby Labonte, Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Logano, Ryan Newman, Hamlin and Smith.
Lap 54 Earnhardt and Johnson take the lead. Lap 55 it’s Earnhardt / Johnson versus Biffle / Kenseth for the lead. Lap 57 there are several distinct pack in the field.
Lap 59 Biffle / Bayne run the front with Kenseth / Ragan, Earnhardt / Johnson, Kurt Busch / Keselowski, Bowyer / Burton in tow. Lap 62 the top seven groups are within 1 second of each other. Keselowski / Kurt Busch are two seconds back then it’s another two seconds to the next group of four teams. The front row of Martin and Gordon run 25th and 26th run ten seconds from the second group.
Lap 67 Earnhardt / Johnson are back in front. So far there have been 36 lead changes. We are about 5 laps away from green flag stops. Lap 69 Robby Gordon and Casey Mears come into pit road followed by Edwards and Marcos Ambrose, Juan Palo Montoya and Jamie McMurray.
Lap 71 Logano and Kyle Busch are in. Lap 72 Earnhardt and Johnson are in. Lap 73 Bayne, Biffle, Martin Truex Jr. and another are in. Martin and Jeff Gordon are in. The big thing is with the team pitting it kind of throws off the other team racers near the entrance to pit road, causing the at speed drivers to scatter to the middle of the track. Lap 75 Bowyer and Burton are in for a stop.
Lap 75 your top five groups are Johnson / Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman / Kyle Busch, Bobby Labonte / Truex Jr., Kenseth / Ragan and Smith / Menard. The field is spread out by a huge margin. The top six groups are spread out by four seconds.
Lap 80 David Reutimann and A.J. Allmendinger come up through the ranks where Burton and Bowyer take advantage of their run. To move up and push Johnson / Earnhardt Jr. back to 7th and 8th.
YELLOW FLAG lap 90 in turn three as Kurt Busch is offset into the back of Keselowski to send him into the outside line and the back of Ambrose against the wall. For some weird reason Ragan was locking up his car behind Kenseth then looks like his car burst into flames for a few seconds. Keselowski comes down sideways, just missing Ragan causing him to spin in a reaction to the crash. Kahne has all the action pop up in front of him where he nails one of the cars. Kahne’s car is engulfed in flames as he heads down the apron of turn four.
The field heads to pit road for the third stop of the day. Out of the pits we see Menard, Kurt Busch, Smith, Kyle Busch and Bowyer are the first five back to the track.
GREEN FLAG lap 97 and on the backstretch we see Bowyer and Burton pull to the lead. Lap 98 brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch hop into the lead. Lap 99 Hamlin / Logano are in the mix. Lap 100 new players in the mix are Dave Blaney / Kevin Harvick that move into the lead. Lap 101 Edwards moves into the lead with help from Biffle.
Lap 105 your top twenty drivers are Reutimann, Kurt Busch, Allmendinger, Kyle Busch, Edwards, Biffle, Mears, Smith, Menard, Bowyer, Burton, Harvick, Bobby Labonte, Yeley, Terry Labonte, Newman, Kenseth, Truex Jr. and Waltrip. So far there have been 50, yes 50 lead changes so far and we still have 83 laps to go. 2 cautions have been on the track for about 6 laps. The 50 lead changes have been among 22 leaders.
Lap 110 Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch jump back into the lead while Bobby Labonte and Truex Jr. are in the mix. Bill Elliott who started the race has J.J. Yeley driving the car with help from Terry Labonte who is pushing from behind, now join the action in front.
Lap 118 (70 to go) it’s Childress racing versus Gibbs racing for the lead and up in the middle come Blaney and Harvick for the lead. Lap 125 we see a five team race in the front. Two seconds back we see another five pack with a small separation to 21st place Bobby Labonte leading a large pack of drivers that has a mix of teams and singles.
YELLOW FLAG lap 127 for debris. Robby Gordon is the lucky dog. 28 lead lap drivers will head into pit road. Smith, Menard, Bowyer, Allmendinger, Kyle Busch, Reutimann, Blaney and Harvick are in the top ten. 62 lead changes so far.
GREEN FLAG lap 132 as we see six of the two groups work on each other for the lead. Lap 135 (53 to go) Blaney and Harvick lead Kyle Busch and Logano. Lap 138 Waltrip almost tags Johnson in turn two.
YELLOW FLAG lap 139 as Logano pushes Kyle Busch from behind too hard which sends Busch into Kenseth in the path of Newman, Allmendinger, Reutimann, Hamlin Bobby Labonte and McMurray. All the drivers scatter to avoid the spinning Kyle Busch and Kenseth.
From pit road we see Harvick, Burton, Bowyer, Menard and Kurt Busch in front.
GREEN FLAG lap 144 and 44 to go. By turn three Harvick and Bowyer take off from the field for a few seconds. 41 to go as Menard is offset from Burton which Burton is on the apron and a big, huge save.
39 to go it looks like somebody hit the let’s go switch up front as we see Truex Jr. with help from Reutimann score the front point with Harvick and Bowyer on the outside followed by Burton Menard, Kurt Busch / Logano, Blaney and Smith and three other two driver packs.
35 to go as McMurray / Montoya battle with Blaney / Smith for the lead. 33 to go as Blaney / Smith lead Bowyer / Harvick and Montoya / McMurray with Burton / Menard and Kurt Busch / Logano.
30 to go Bowyer / Harvick lead. 29 to go Truex Jr. / Reutimann challenge for the lead. Martin / Jeff Gordon have moved past Johnson / Earnhardt Jr. into 16th and 17th.
YELLOW FLAG 25 to go for debris. Bowyer and Harvick lead.
GREEN FLAG with 20 to go and into 19 to go Bowyer and Burton have the lead followed by Smith and Menard, Montoya / McMurray who pass Bowyer and Burton.
18 to go Newman / Hamlin make a move to the front and as they do in turn three, Hamlin turns Newman into Montoya where Montoya holds his car in place and the dirt track skills of Newman saves a big wreck. Montoya has major damage to the right side of his car.
YELLOW FLAG and 14 to go as it looks like the front left tire might have let go from Newman’s car coming out of turn two. Another big save by Newman and he does not hit the inside wall. Montoya brings his car to pit road and the tire is so bent in that on the yellow flag lap you can see the tire start to peel away causing a long string of the tire is flapping in the air. No takers to pit road from the front of the field. Newman remains on the lead lap.
GREEN FLAG with 11 to go and the front row starter of Jeff Gordon and wingman Mark Martin had the lead for a moment.
9 to go as Harvick and Bowyer are on the outside with Johnson / Earnhardt in tow.
8 to go Blaney and Kurt Busch followed by Jeff Gordon and Martin, Truex Jr. and Reutimann.
7 to go we have 20 drivers within two seconds of a gap.
6 to go Blaney / Kurt Busch, Truex Jr . / Reutimann, Johnson / Earnhardt Jr.
5 to go it’s big time game on with 5 packs of two drivers led by Edwards and Biffle.
4 to go Edwards / Biffle, Bowyer / Harvick, Earnhardt / Johnson, Jeff Gordon / Martin
2 to go Bowyer and Harvick on the outside of Edwards / Biffle
WHITE FLAG as Gordon / Martin pass Edwards / Biffle. On the back stretch Bowyer and Harvick run the high line while Gordon and Martin are next to the yellow line. Johnson with Earnhardt power start to close in on the top four as they enter turn three.
By turn three Johnson / Earnhardt shoot to the middle to make something happen, but they cannot move forward, so coming out of turn four Johnson / Earnhardt drop to the yellow line with enough room to grab the inside where Gordon / Martin cannot make a move.
In the tri-oval Johnson and Earnhardt start to muscle their way inch by inch to the front. It’s three wide two team driving as all six drivers are side by side. Earnhardt taps the door of Martin and they all keep going.
At the line by 1/1000th of a second, Johnson wins the race in front of Bowyer. Gordon takes third, Earnhardt fourth, Harvick fifth. Martin was shuffled back to eighth as Edwards and Biffle made a comeback on the outside of Bowyer and Harvick to take sixth and seventh.
David Gilliland and Logano round out your top ten.
The race lasted for over three hours. We saw 88 lead changes among 27 drivers. 6 cautions came out.