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Last Lap Crash Leaves Junior 20th at Talladega

By Mike Davis, JR Motorsports | Race Report Published 10/7/2012
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Race: Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
Track Specs: 2.66-mile tri-oval/ 188 Laps
Weather: Cloudy, 61 degrees
Race Winner: Matt Kenseth
Dale Jr.’s Finish: 20th
Dale Jr.'s Chase Standing: 11th (-51 to Keselowski)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in the middle of a four-wide pack running in ninth place on the final lap when a colossal wreck collected more than half the field, including Earnhardt’s No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet. The wreck was triggered up front when leader Tony Stewart drove down to block a move by Michael Waltrip, causing contact and serving both cars into a stampede of metal. Stewart’s Chevrolet flipped onto its roof and was righted only by ensuing collisions by those behind him.

After review, Earnhardt was credited with a 20th-place finish. He was able to restart his Chevrolet and limp it to the finish line. The result leaves him 11th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings with six races to go in the Chase for the Championship.

Earnhardt started 12th and led 18 laps, most coming in the first 50 circuits around the 2.66-mile facility. He was slapped with a pit-road speeding penalty on lap 61, causing him to lose the lead draft. He was passed by the pack on lap 76 and spent the next 63 circuits with a one-lap deficit. He regained lead-lap status the old-fashioned way – by racing to the front and holding the point when the next yellow flag flew, which to Junior’s delight was on lap 139.

Having returned to the lead lap, Dale Jr. raced back into contention. He joined 25 other cars on pit road on lap 184 (four laps from the end) to top off with fuel, and he restarted in 12th for a two-lap sprint to the checkers.

Once green, the pack went four-wide – even five-wide – in a frenzied dash for position. Earnhardt was mired in the middle, although he found a surge in his line as he drove up to seventh. The field took the white flag without incident, but the final lap would provide no such fortune. Stewart held the lead off the backstretch but found problems in turn three with Waltrip’s bid to pass him. The contact ignited “the big one”, and Earnhardt was collected.

Matt Kenseth took the win, managing to avoid the carnage and score the victory. Jeff Gordon finished second, followed by Kyle Busch, David Ragan and Greg Biffle.

DALE JR. POST-RACE QUOTES
“I couldn’t see (what happened) really. Somebody on the bottom got turned and we just all crashed. I couldn’t really tell how it started. It’s really not racing. It’s a little disappointing how that all went down. That cost a lot of money right there. If this is how we are going to race and that is how we are going to continue to race and nothing is going to change, I think NASCAR should build the cars. It would save us a lot of money. (This type of racing) is not safe. Wrecking like that is ridiculous. It’s blood-thirsty if that is what people want. It’s ridiculous.

On the green-white-checkered restart:
“I knew somebody was going to wreck. There has been a last-lap wreck in like 90 percent of these things for the last four years with this car. We can’t get away from each other with the bumpers lining up and everybody pushing all the time and spinning each other out. I mean that’s no good. It’s not working. Somebody needs to change it.”

On if the last restart might’ve added to the chances of wrecking:
“No, I think we would have wrecked anyways. I mean the last lap everybody is going to push and you can’t push. But the last lap if you can get the guy you’re going to shove him try to go, but if he’s got a guy in front of him he can’t, and he’s going to get spun out. I don’t think the caution had anything to do with it. I can’t believe that nobody is sensible enough to realize just how ridiculous that was. I mean that is ridiculous that all those cars are torn up. Everybody is just ‘ho hum’ no big deal. That is not all right.”

Talladega Race Report
Start 12th
Finish 20th
Laps Completed (Led) 189 of 189 (18)
Pit Stops Laps 19 (no tires), 61 (2 tires), 102, 140, 143 (no tires) and 184 (no tires)
Standings (from leader) 11th (-51)
Condition Running

 

Standings
After Camping World RV Sales 301
Rank +/- Driver Points Behind
1 -- Jeff Gordon 670 0
2 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. 658 -12
3 +1 Brad Keselowski 634 -36
4 +1 Matt Kenseth 621 -49
5 -2 Jimmie Johnson 598 -72
6 +1 Carl Edwards 574 -96
7 +1 Ryan Newman 573 -97
8 +1 Kyle Busch 567 -103
9 -3 Joey Logano 551 -119
10 +2 Clint Bowyer 548 -122
11 -1 Paul Menard 541 -129
12 +2 Denny Hamlin 530 -140
Full Standings