NASCAR Race Review: Aaron’s 499

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Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog, here with the Aaron’s 499 race review from the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. 24 Jeff Gordon starts the race from the pole with a speed of 178.248 mph and 53.723 seconds. Hendrick Motor Sports claimed the first two rows, so each of them had a team mate for a partner in this “two car tango” of a race. 5 Mark Martin started third behind 24, while 48 Jimmie Johnson started next to 24, partnering with 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in fourth. This turned  out to be the key to this race.

Let me explain the “two car tango”. Normally a race at Talladega is a big pack, three wide, nose to tail. The drivers figured out they can race faster if they are paired up, one pushing the other, in pairs. They can break away from the volatile pack and help each other. They did it in the Daytona 500. Many fans would rather see the pack racing together, but for the drivers, speed is what they are looking for and two cars hooked up together race about four seconds faster than the pack did. The trick is to get the right “dancing partner” and sticking with that partner all through the race.

Before I start, 46 Bill Elliott had to start the race with a past champion provisional. 60 Mike Skinner, 37 Tony Raines and 66 Michael McDowell filed to qualify for the race. 24 has six wins here and starts from the pole. Can he make it number seven? 88 is the fan favorite but has not won a race in 99 starts. Can he break that streak? He has five wins here, four of them in a row. 21 Trevor Bayne (winner of the Daytona 500) changed the master cylinder after qualifying and will start from the rear. Sam Hornish, Jr. practiced and qualified the #7 Robby Gordon car for him while Robby was in Utah. Robby will start the race from the rear.

So, here we go! All four Hendrick cars lead the pack, with 24 leading the first lap by inches over 48. 33 Clint Bowyer and 15 Michael Waltrip get by 48 and 88. 09 Landon Cassill and 22 Kurt Busch get by 33 and 15 and they are six wide for third.15 pushes 33 into the lead. 15 gets loose behind 33 and 24 takes back the lead, with debris on the grill. 11 Denny Hamlin pairs up with 39 Ryan Newman, while 18 Kyle Busch and team mate 20 Joey Logano work together.

22 and 09 challenge for the lead while 48 and 88 go high and then low to take the lead. 11 and 39 swap places and fall back. 24 and 5 swap places and fall back. 48 and 88 swap places and fall back and 18 takes the lead with 20 pushing. 27 Paul Menard pushes 6 David Ragan to lead at the line. 33 and 15 take the lead.

The first caution comes out for 83 Brian Vickers spinning around. 22 was pushing 09, got him loose and 09 ran into 83 to spin him. 71 Andy Lally gets his lap back. 31 Jeff Burton pushes 33 into the lead. 6 pushes 17 Matt Kenseth into the lead. 20 pushes 18 into the lead. 22 pushes team mate 2 Brad Keselowski into the lead, they swap places and fall back. 21 and 16 Greg Biffle are coming through four sets of cars get by 20 and 18. 4 Kasey Kahne finds 38 Travis Kvapil, a lap down, to lead. 33 pushes 31 into  the lead. 2 pushes 22 into the lead. 31 and 33 take the lead. 48 pushes 88 into the lead (and the fans go wild). 17 with help from 6 takes the lead. 88 and 48 take the lead. 16 takes the lead with 21 pushing, they switch and 21 leads at the line.

There is a round of Green Flag Pitting. 88 is back in front after it all. 39 and 18 hook up after pitting and 39 leads. 11 and 20 hook up together farther back. The second caution comes out on lap 90 with 4 on fire! 22 turns 2 into the wall as 6 blows up. 4 got into 6 when he came back down the track (he almost got by). 39 is leading but at the restart, he is odd man out without a partner. 18 pushes 22 into the lead (brothers). 11 with 20 takes the lead. 29 Kevin Harvick pushes 36 Dave Blaney into the lead.

The third caution comes out on lap 128 for debris. Five cars stay out. 22 drops a lug nut. Twenty-three different drivers have led with sixty-two lead changes! 78 Regan Smith leads with help from 27. Team mates, 42 Juan Pablo Montoya and 1 Jamie McMurray get by 48 and 88. 15 gets loose again and into 48.

The fourth caution comes out during the commercial. 20 is pushing 18 and turns him into 17 and 43 A. J. Allmendinger. The four RCR cars are now on the two front rows at the restart. 33 pushes 29 into the lead. They are four wide for the lead! 27 bumps 31 below the yellow out of bounds line. he gets back onto the track without gaining a position in front of 27. 56 Martin Truex, Jr. takes the lead with team mate 00 David Reutimann pushing. 16 pushes 99 Carl Edwards. 33 with 29 takes the lead.

The fifth caution comes out during the commercial for debris with 25 laps to go. They restart with 21 laps to go. 33 with 31 takes the lead. 78 with 27 takes the lead. 42 and 39 get together, both save it. 11 shoved 39 at the wrong spot and 39 ran into 42 and then slides into the infield but doesn’t hit anything. 22 shoves 36 and around he goes, but saves it.

On the Final lap 88 pushes 48, 5 pushes 24, 29 pushes 33 and 16 pushes 99, all going for the win! At the line 48 Jimmie Johnson wins by .002 seconds over 33 Clint Bowyer, tying the closest finish in NASCAR.  Wow! What a race that was! Johnson gave the Checkered Flag to Earnhardt, Jr. as he could not have won without him. Jr. knew the two of them were faster with Jr. pushing and stuck with Jimmie to the end. This was Johnson’s forst win this year and his fifty-fourth career win.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I love NASCAR.

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