Racing Results: Sept. 30 – Oct. 2, 2005

October 3, 2005

Not a whole lot of racing this past weekend, as the season starts to wind down, but there were some good events and some not-so-good events. The NASCAR Nextel Cup put on another wreck-a-rama at Talladega, and wound up with a thrilling finish; the American Le Mans Series’ Petit Le Mans saw what could have been a very interesting fight for the lead ruined in the first corner of a 1,000-mile race; the NHRA’s event at Route 66 Raceway was a mixed bag; and the World Rally Championship saw a champion crowned and a surprise winner decided in the last 20 miles.


NASCAR: Jarrett Wins Talladega Crashfest

NASCAR Nextel Cup racing at Talladega Superspeedway with restrictor-plate-equipped engines is all about being in the right place at the right time. Veteran Dale Jarrett was just that when the caution flag flew with one lap to go in a green-white-checkered finish, having just gotten past longtime race leader Tony Stewart. As a result, 48-year-old Jarrett took a Ford to Talladega’s victory lane for the first time since he did it in 1998 and ended a 98-race losing streak, becoming the fifth-oldest winner in NASCAR history.


Further back, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards, all embroiled in the Chase for the Championship with Stewart, rounded out the top five positions. Brian Vickers, Sterling Marlin, Kurt Busch (also in the Chase), Joe Nemechek and Kevin Harvick completed the top 10.


For the remaining Chase contenders, it was a tough day, the kind that comes as no surprise at the hyperfast Alabama speedplant. Two massive crashes occurred as a result of bump-drafting (or, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. says it has evolved, “slam-drafting”) in the tri-oval section of the front stretch. Bump (or “slam”) drafting only works in a straight line, and the tri-oval is not straight. The first one came on Lap 18 when Jimmie Johnson tapped polesitter Elliott Sadler going into the tri-oval, setting off a chain-reaction melee that collected Sadler, Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip (who flipped twice), Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mike Skinner and Joe Nemechek. Sadler and Nemechek were able to continue after repairs.


Then on Lap 65, an almost identical scenario unfolded when Ryan Newman tapped Casey Mears, setting off another chain reaction that involved Scott Riggs (who went into a violent series of flips and rolls), Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon and Johnson. Mears, Gordon and Riggs were out on the spot.


As far as the Chase contenders went, here’s the rundown, by points after Sunday’s race: 1) Tony Stewart, was fifth in points, finished second; 2) Ryan Newman, was third, started one wreck, finished fourth, -4 points from the lead; 3) Rusty Wallace, was second, survived two wrecks, finished 25th, -76; 4) Jimmie Johnson, was first, started one wreck, survived a blown tire and a second wreck, finished 31st, -82; 5) Greg Biffle, was sixth, survived one crash, finished 27th, -98; 6) Carl Edwards, was eighth, kept his nose clean all day, finished fifth, -98; 7) Matt Kenseth, was ninth, led some, stayed out of trouble, finished third, -111; 8) Jeremy Mayfield, was seventh, had a quiet day, finished 14th, -112; 9) Mark Martin, was fourth, taken out in Lap-18 crash, finished 41st, -138; 10) Kurt Busch, was 10th, led some until blowing a tire, fought back to finish eighth, -180.


In the fight for 11th in the championship (worth a $1m bonus and an on-stage appearance at the awards banquet in New York), Harvick now holds the spot, with Jamie McMurray 14 points back and Sadler another 19 points behind.


Those who were able to finish the race were simply happy to have survived. Those who didn’t had some pointed comments about the current state of plate racing, many saying that perhaps the extra bracing in the nose of the cars should be removed to discourage “slam”-drafting, as that would result in more aerodynamic damage to the “slammer.” In either case, we won’t have to worry about this again until we return to Daytona in February. Changes? Don’t count on it. Plate racing, despite its inherent dangers, sells.


Off the track, there was a lot of angry comment in the wake of the previous week’s race at Dover, where Johnson and Kyle Busch finished 1-2 and then failed, and then passed, post-race tech inspection. Apparently the rear shocks “settled” after a number of seconds (ranging from three to 90, depending upon whom you ask) and the cars then were legal under the rear height regs. NASCAR said the shocks were legal, but are rewriting the rules to prevent teams from building shocks the way those were built (there’s NASCAR logic for you). On Friday, Kevin Harvick qualified second to Sadler, but his time was disallowed, and crew chief Todd Berrier evicted from the track, after tech inspectors found that the team had devised a way to get air into the trunk area (which is supposed to be sealed) that helps push the rear end down at speed. Expect harsh penalties for this on Tuesday. Berrier had already been suspended once this season. Also, it was announced this week that International Speedway Corporation (a public corporation mostly controlled by France family members and owns 16 tracks including Daytona, Talladega, California, Michigan, Darlington, Watkins Glen, Homestead, Phoenix, Kansas, Richmond, etc.) has purchased the assets of Pikes Peak International Raceway, which will be closed and its grandstands, furniture, facilities, etc. distributed to other ISC tracks.


The drama continues next weekend at Kansas Speedway.


NASCAR Nextel Cup Top Five:


1) Dale Jarrett, No. 88 Robert Yates Racing Ford Taurus, 190 laps

2) Tony Stewart, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 190 laps

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