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Earnhardt breaks 143-race victory drought

“I have no idea what it was yet," said Wise of his exit. "Something went through the pan and that is all we know right now. It was a pretty big boom. It is a bummer. This motor we have run it quite a bit so it is not like it is a new motor that is blowing up or anything."

Bayne was also disappointed, saying that his car had been looking particularly good coming into the race: "It seems like nothing like this happens on a day you are running bad. As soon as you have a fast race car and feel like you are in the hunt, something comes up," he sighed.

"I didn't even get to break a sweat," he said of his early exit. "I don't know what happened here. I know we put some extra miles and extra heat cycles on it yesterday. I don't know if that has anything to do with it. Maybe we would have just expired later in the race. It is tough."

Greg Biffle now had the lead over Ambrose and held it through to the first of the competition cautions, which allowed Matt Kenseth to take the lead over Ambrose during the pit stops after Biffle had a slow stop and fell back to seventh. Kenseth and Ambrose still led by the time the second competition caution came out to mark the end of the first quarter, but Biffle got his bounce back this time through pit lane and emerged as the leader for the restart.

Further back, the cars looking strong included the Hendrick cars of Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson - who had started from the back after an overnight engine change - as well as the Joe Gibbs Racing #18 driven by Kyle Busch which had taken just 33 laps to overcome a miserable 34th place on the starting grid to make his way all the way up to seventh. Mark Martin was also flying in the Michael Waltrip Racing #55, while after the restart the top five also featured Penske's Bra Keselowski and Ganassi's Juan Pablo Montoya.

The pressure for someone to make a breakthrough built up until Ambrose and Earnhardt blew past a loose-handling Biffle on lap 70, with Earnhardt claiming the lead for the first time of the afternoon on lap 74 and looking mighty strong as he did so - not to mention looking like a distant cousin of the Le Mans Nissan DeltaWing in its Dark Knight Rising sponsorship livery in the process.

A debris caution just as the midfielders started to make green flag fuel stops allowed everyone a chance to cycle through pit lane. For Kyle Busch, it was a far longer stop than he'd been expecting, as the engine started to show blatant signs of blowing up and forced him to go to the garage area instead. The JGR team got it patched up and out again, but over 40 laps down.

At the restart, Earnhardt found himself contending for the lead at the green flag with Tony Stewart - and the current Cup champion nailed it. Earnhardt kept second ahead of Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle as the race reached the midway point, making it safe in the event that the earlier rain showers had returned - not that the weather radar was suggesting anything like that happening.

Stewart and Earnhardt were pulling well away from the rest of the field, but Stewart's purple patch was also on the wane allowing Earnhardt to blast past him on lap 109, some ten laps before a round of green flag pit stops got underway. Juan Montoya was one of the few not to have pitted - and was therefore out in the lead - when the sixth caution of the afternoon came out on lap 121 for a second spin by Kurt Busch.

Earnhardt was battling with Gordon for the lead at the restart when a major accident broke out behind them on the backstretch: sparked by David Gilliland getting loose and having a moment, Joey Logano had reacted to try avoiding the #38 and ended up heavily wrecked against the wall. Kasey Kahne had no where to go but right into the heart of the accident as well. Kahne was at least able to limp the #5 back to pit lane, but Logano was comprehensively done for the day, just 24 hours after winning at Michigan in the Nationwide Series race.




Related Pictures

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Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M/Salute Ford, races with Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday in Brooklyn, Mich. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
The #11 FedEx Office Toyota of Denny Hamlin is towed into the garage area after an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday in Brooklyn, Mich. (Photo Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Diet Mountain Dew/The Dark Knight Rises/National Guard Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday in Brooklyn, Mich. (Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, races Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. With him are Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS who finished second, and Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet SS who finished in third place. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, waves to fans after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, picks up the victory flag Sunday, May 3, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, and his crew chief, Greg Ives, celebrate in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, is congratulated by Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. Johnson finished second behind Earnhardt, Jr. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, and Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #6 Sponge Bob Square Pants Ford, wreck during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

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