Carl Edwards finished out of the top 10, yet lengthened his lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But the day belonged to another Kansas City area NASCAR driver, Clint Bowyer, who raced to the front in the final lap to win the Good Sam 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, race No. 6 in NASCAR’s Chase for the championship in its top series.
Bowyer, who grew up in Emporia, Kan., paired up with Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton as a draft-push partner in the closing laps at the 2.66-mile, restrictor-plate racetrack in central Alabama, and then jumped out in front of Burton in the final of the 188 laps and outraced the No. 31 Chevrolet to the checkered flag. It was Bowyer’s first win of 2011 and his fifth career victory. He won this same race a year ago. Bowyer did not make the Chase field this year after qualifying for the championship series a year ago.
It was a big day for the team from Richard Childress. In addition to having two of its drivers finish first and second, Childress recorded its 100th Sprint Cup Series win, its sixth win of 2011, the most of any Cup team, and the team’s 12th Talledega victory, also the most of any team owner.
“It all started here (Talladega) for RCR in 1969,” Richard Childress said at the post-race press conference. “It’s nice to come back where I got my big break, 1969, when they boycotted. I went ahead and ran the race, and I got money on Saturday, got money on Sunday, got deal money from Mr. Bill France Sr., more money than I’d ever seen in my life. We went back, built the shop, started racing.”
Brad Keselowski pushed Dave Blaney to a third-place finish at Talledega and claimed fourth for himself. Brian Vickers and Kasey Kane of Red Bull Racing came in fifth and sixth. Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Michael Waltrip and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top 10. Only five drivers in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup finished in the top 24.
Sporting News called Bowyer’s win Sunday “a swan song for a lame duck.” He has finished first or second in his last three races at Talladega. The Kansas native recently signed an agreement with Michael Waltrip Racing for next season, and will end his eight-year run with Richard Childress at the end of this season.
“It’s just so important for me to be able to cap off such a good relationship with Richard,” Bowyer said. “Everybody at RCR, it’s like family over there. Meant a lot for me to be able to win before we end this deal.”
Chase qualifiers Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were dealt a major blow to their title chances when they were involved in a six-car wreck on lap 104. The cars of both drivers required damage repairs, resulting in lost laps (Harvick two laps, Busch 11 laps). Harvick entered the race at Talledega in second place behind Edwards, but his 32nd-place finish on Sunday dropped him three places in the standings and left him 26 points back of Edwards. Busch came in 33rd at Talladega and fell two spots to sixth in the Chase points standings, 40 points behind the leader.
With just three races remaining in the Chase, Matt Kenseth moved into second place in the Cup standings, 14 behind Edwards. Keselowski is in third place, 18 points back, followed by Stewart, 19 points off the pace.
The seventh race in the season-ending Chase championship will be next Sunday at Martinsville (Virginia) Speedway.
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