Race Fans 'Treated' To Exciting Halloween Weekend at 'DEGA
It was a boo-tiful Halloween weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, where the crisp fall weather was ideal and the racing was as exciting as ever, with two finishes that left both drivers and fans wondering who would be crowned champion.
There were fantastic finishes in both the AMP Energy Juice 500 Sprint Cup Series race and the Mountain Dew 250 Fueled by Fred’s Camping World Truck Series race. The AMP Energy finish was so tight that it took NASCAR several minutes to declare a winner. Meanwhile, the Mountain Dew 250 featured a three-way battle for the victory that ended with the closest finish in the history of the Camping World Truck Series.
The weekend began with four-time Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. capturing the first Talladega pole of his lengthy career with a fast lap of 181.230 mph.
“People say that Ron Hornaday is a short-track driver, and to come to Talladega and sit on the pole is so cool,” Hornaday said. “I got that off my check list. It’s pretty awesome.”
Saturday began on a melancholy note, as it was learned that longtime NASCAR executive and former Talladega Superspeedway public relations director Jim Hunter had passed away at age 71. The press box at TSS was renamed in Hunter’s honor.
Juan Pablo Montoya captured the pole for the AMP Energy Juice 500 with a qualifying lap of 184.640 mph. Montoya dedicated his qualifying effort to Hunter, who had helped Montoya and other young drivers make the transition into Sprint Cup Series racing.
“He was such a good person. Everybody is going to really miss him,” Montoya said. “It’s nice to be able to get the pole here in his memory.”
Things really got exciting once the racing began Saturday afternoon. Kyle Busch won the Mountain Dew 250 by fishtailing across the finish line 0.002 seconds ahead of Aric Almirola. Johnny Sauter came in third, another thousandth of a second off the pace.
The finish was so close that even the drivers involved were not entirely positive what had just occurred.
“I was wondering, ‘Did I win? What happened?’ ” Busch said. “It was just crazy there at the end. … It’s pretty amazing the way this place races and what happens and how close the finishes can be.”
That proved to be true again on Sunday in the AMP Energy 500. This time, the frenetic finish was preceded by 87 lead changes among 26 drivers. That was just one shy of the Sprint Cup Series record of 88 lead changes set at Talladega Superspeedway back in April during the Aaron’s 499.
All told, there were 175 lead changes in two Sprint Cup Series races at Talladega in 2010, the most in one year at a single track in NASCAR history.
The final lead change occurred on the final lap, when Clint Bowyer managed to sneak in front of Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick seconds before a race-ending caution flag came out. The race was so close that for several minutes afterward, neither Bowyer nor Harvick knew who had won.
The only thing that was certain was that an RCR driver would be celebrating in Victory Lane.
“We didn’t know which one had won it,” Childress said. “And then my grandson Austin (Dillon) said, ‘Come on, we know we (RCR) won the race. Let’s go to the winner’s circle.’ I was sitting there kind of numb until he said that.”
Bowyer and Harvick both sat in their cars near the start-finish line while waiting for the verdict from NASCAR. Eventually, Bowyer began doing a celebratory burnout in front of the cheering fans, even though he had not yet officially been declared the winner.
“I thought I’d claim that baby before somebody else does,” Bowyer said with a wide smile.
“I’m very, very happy for a lot of reasons. Everybody at RCR has worked very hard to get us back. Really, you couldn’t ask for a better day.”
For thousands of race fans at Talladega Superspeedway, you couldn’t have asked for a better
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