Dreams Come True For Joe Gibbs Racing
It was indeed a dream weekend for Joe Gibbs Racing, which had two of its drivers come up with breakthrough victories at Talladega Superspeedway in the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday, April 26 and the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup race on Sunday, April 27.
Tony Stewart got the party started for JGR by winning a race at Talladega for the first time in 24 career starts at the track. Stewart held off an attempted last-lap pass by Dale Earnhardt Jr. along the backstretch, and then pulled away to win the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday.
Stewart had competed in 18 NASCAR Sprint Cup races and five Nationwide events before Saturday. He had posted runner-up finishes seven times, including four in a six-race span from 2005-07, and on three occasions he finished second behind Earnhardt.
That all changed Saturday with a victory that Stewart admitted was one of the most emotional he has ever had.
“I finally won a race at Talladega,” Stewart said. “I’m so excited. This is not like winning just any Nationwide race. To me, this is the biggest one I’ve had, to finally win at Talladega.
“This place means a lot to me. Everybody knows how close I am to Red Farmer and Donnie Allison. It was important for me to win here in this state in front of people who I consider family, and we’re close like family. Now I can go to Red Farmer and Donnie Allison and say, ‘I finally won one here.’ ”
Kyle Busch also had been frustrated about his trips to Talladega. He was unable to finish four of his six career Sprint Cup starts at the track and failed to crack the top-10 in the other two.
Busch broke that streak in a big way in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499, making a pass with five laps to go and then holding off several challengers down the stretch.
“Considering what’s happened to us here in the past, today means a whole lot,” said Busch, who overcome an early pit-road mistake and battled his way back from 27th place with less than 50 laps to go.
There were 52 lead changes in the race among 20 drivers, leading third-place finisher Denny Hamlin to call the Aaron’s 499 “the best race we’ve had this year.”
“I thought the racing here was really good,” Hamlin said. “There were a lot of exchanges for the lead. It was really fun.”
It was also a big weekend for Joe Nemechek, who qualified on the pole for the Aaron’s 499 despite driving for a single-car team, Furniture Row Racing.
“It takes a lot of work and a lot of innovative thinking to get your cars to go fast and cut through the air here,” Nemechek said. “We’re just a small team. We don’t have that many employees. You look at the mega companies, and we were able to beat them today. We’re very proud of that.”
Now is the time to make plans for the October 3-5 AMP Energy 500 Event Weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. Witness 1,000 miles of racing, featuring the ARCA RE/MAX Series 250 on Friday, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Mountain Dew 250 on Saturday and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AMP Energy 500 on Sunday, October 5. The AMP Energy 500 is also the fourth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Kids age 11 and younger are admitted free of charge on Friday and Saturday of race weekends in the general admission grandstands at Talladega Superspeedway. To order tickets, call 1-877-Go2-DEGA (1-877-462-3342). For our hearing impaired guests, please call TDD 1-866-ISC-TRAK (1-866-472-8725). Tickets also are available online at www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or in person by visiting the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. CDT, Monday - Sunday.