Every year the race at Talladega Superspeedway is considered the wild card race in the Chase. Every year it lives up to its name, and this year was no different.
As has been the story at the superspeedway races all season long, the race was dominated by tandem racing where drivers pair up with other drivers. Some pairs wanted to run up front for much of the race, and others wanted to stay in the back in case of a wreck.
And those wrecks did happen. One wreck in particular just reshaped the whole outlook of the Chase for the Championship.
A.J. Allmendinger was turned by Marcos Ambrose going through the tri-oval on lap 104. He spun across the track into the 1 car of Jamie McMurray. They both then collided with Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. Harvick and Busch are both Chasers in the thick of the championship battle.
Harvick and Busch finished 32nd and 33rd respectively. Harvick and Busch now sit fifth and sixth in the standings, 26 and 40 points behind Carl Edwards.
With four races remaining in the season, today's race realistically eliminated Kyle Busch from contention. Harvick is still in it, but today made his chances a bit dimmer than they were before the race.
Kurt Busch was also involved in a wreck. Bobby Labonte was spun out by Michael Waltrip, his drafting partner, and then hit the wall in turn three. He bounced off the wall and right into the oncoming Busch who had no time to react. Today also eliminated the elder Busch from contention.
Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth made it through the race by staying in the back and away from trouble for much of the event. Neither finished in the top-10, but they stretched out their points lead over the other drivers. Edwards now has a 14 point lead over Kenseth who sits second.
Brad Keselowski was able to get a top-five out of today's race and throw his name back into the championship talks. Keselowski is 18 points behind Edwards in third.
Team orders also became prevalent today. Teammates mainly worked with teammates, but Jack Roush took things a step further. He told all Ford drivers to only work with other Fords.
That made things interesting on the final restart when Trevor Bayne (Ford) and Jeff Gordon (Ford) were both without partners. They came to a verbal agreement that Gordon would push Bayne, but Trevor ditched Gordon after the gree flag flew for fellow Ford driver Matt Kenseth.
The move backfired for the Fords as no Ford finished in the top-10. Edwards was the highest finishing Ford in eleventh.
The End of An Era:
After crashing hard with 13 laps to go last week in Charlotte, the prospects of a sixth straight championship for Jimmie Johnson looked dim, but after today they are all but gone. Johnson stayed in the back to avoid trouble, but he still found trouble when Andy Lally got spun out and slammed the right-side door of the 48. The damage wasn't too bad, but Jimmie wasn't able to rebound.
The 48 finished 26th. Johnson is now 50 points out of the lead in seventh with four races remaining. It is pretty safe to say that Johnson will not win a sixth straight title. But what an incredible run he and that team have had.
RCR Get's Their 100th Win:
Clint Bowyer's win today gave Richard Childress Racing their 100th win for the organization. RCR had a 1-2 finish with Bowyer winning and Jeff Burton crossing the line in second, his best finish of the season.
2) Kenseth -14
3) Keselowski -18
4) Stewart -19
5) Harvick -26
6) Kyle Busch -40
7) Johnson -50
8) Kurt Busch -52
9) Earnhardt Jr. -74
10) Gordon -82
11) Hamlin -84
12) Newman -88