23 October 2011
Bowyer wins 'Dega as Chase stars stumble
Dave Blaney held on to third place with the help of Brad Keselowski, while the Red Bull duo of Vickers and Kahne came in a strong fifth and sixth respectively in what could be one of the last outings for the team before it's wound up at the end of the year if no buyer can be found for the operation. Tony Stewart finished in seventh place just ahead of Denny Hamlin, the only two Chase drivers other than Keselowski to make it into the top ten at the end of what had proved a very costly race for the championship hopefuls.
Carl Edwards had looked poised to make a successful late-race run, but it didn't pay off and a decision to come in for a tyre change under the final caution didn't reward him with the extra pace he needed to do better than 11th. But with so much ill-fortune hitting his main rivals, staying out of trouble had rewarded him with an impressive 14pt lead atop the points standings.
"That was a heck of a day for teamwork, Greg did an unbelievable job of sticking with me and we get to come out of here extending our points lead, which is good," he said, sounding relieved to have the superspeedway in the rear view mirror. "I am pleased that we are able to get out of here with the points lead intact because you just never know what can happen here and to extend it is just great."
Matt Kenseth is now the closest chalenge to him in the points but had been hoping for better than 18th place at Talladega. "It was a frustrating that we ran up there most the day. David [Ragan] was a great drafting partner and he broke something on the last restart, broke something in his engine. I had to try to find somebody with two laps to go and that is hard."
Kenseth had ended up working with Trevor Bayne in the dying minutes of the race - which frustrated Jeff Gordon, who thought he had a deal in place with Bayne to draft to the end of the race, only to be left high and dry. Bayne had wanted to hook-up with his childhood hero, but subsequently got overruled by the team who were playing the manufacturer solidarity card with a three line whip over their drivers to keep it in the Ford family, and ordered Bayne to switch to Kenseth instead.
"I didn't expect him to commit to me on the radio," admitted Gordon of his initial appeal to Bayne. "I expected him to say, 'Man, I'm sorry; I can't.' And when he said, 'Yeah, I'm pushing you, we're good,' I believed him. But I think they had a different plan."
"I'm as upset it turned out that way as anyone," Bayne later said on Twitter, explaining that "at that time [when I agreed to work with Gordon,] Matt and David were supposed to be working together. I had no idea what was coming.
"That's why I'm so sick about all this. I won't race restrictor plate races next year before I'm put in that situation," he continued. "I'm not happy about what this has become... It's too premeditated. We should be able to go with whoever is around is."
"Well I just find it odd," said a still-unhappy Gordon after Bayne visited the former Cup champion in his garage after the race to explain what had happened. "I just think it could have been handled better. If somebody is going to screw you, you'd like them to say it to your face you know? Or, at least on the radio! ... I would have been totally fine with that and understood."
Gordon ended up in a trio of poor-finishing Hendrick Chase contenders with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 25th, Jimmie Johnson in 26th and Gordon himself just behind in 27th, results that seem to confirm that all three are out of contention for the 2011 championship - even five-time Chase winner Johnson.
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