Monday, April 18, 2011

Open Weekend Storylines: Talladega Aftermath

When it gets dark and the lights go on at Richmond, the freaks come out
Need something to chew on as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series hits its second open weekend of the season?

Dissecting a record-filled Talladega Superspeedway race should occupy some time. The storylines coming out of that event should last until the series picks up again at Richmond International Raceway in two weeks.

And don’t forget…there are still a couple of NASCAR national series races on the docket.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts the weekend at Nashville Superspeedway, with the Bully Hill Vineyards 200.

On Saturday, the NASCAR Nationwide Series runs the Nashville 300.

Storylines follow…


Wild Finish At Talladega Among Closest Ever
The margin of victory between race winner Jimmie Johnson and runner-up Clint Bowyer was .002 seconds, which matches the closest finish since the inception of electronic scoring in 1993.

There were a few other “closest since” marks set. All of the below are in the Loop Data era (2005-Present):
· Closest MOV between first and fifth (.064 seconds, previous closest was .134 in the fall Talladega ega race last season)
· Closest MOV between first and sixth (.074 seconds, previous closest was .190 in the summer Daytona race in 2007)
· Closest MOV between first and eighth (.145 seconds, previous closest was .275 in the summer Daytona race in 2007)

Anybody’s Race: Competitive Balance Up In 2011
Jimmie Johnson became the seventh different winner in the first eight races this season. That’s the most different winners through eight races since 2003 (eight different winners through the first eight races).

In Sunday’s Talladega race, there were 88 lead changes among 26 drivers. Both number raised averages that were already the highest in series history.

The numbers…

There has been an average of 14.6 leaders per race, the most through eight races in series history.

There has been an average of 38.5 lead changes per races, the most through eight races in series history.

Earnhardt Jr. Launches To Third In Standings
Junior is a three-time winner at Richmond.
With his second top-five finish of the season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. vaulted to third in the series points standings, the highest he has been this late in the season since 2008. Earnhardt was second in the standings after last year’s runner-up finish in the Daytona 500. Prior to that, he was third after race No. 24 at Bristol in 2008.

Earnhardt is on pace to far surpass his statistics from the last two seasons. Already, he has two top fives and five top 10s. He had those same exact number ALL of 2009. Last season, he had three top fives and eight top 10s.

Calling ‘Card’: Marquee Driver Might Need To Rely On Wild Card Spots
Talladega didn’t do much to help some big guns still outside the top 10. Some marquee names are far from Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contention.

Some of those names: Denny Hamlin (17th), Kasey Kahne (18th), Jeff Burton (22nd), Jamie McMurray (24th) and Joey Logano (24th).

There’s a couple of reasons for optimism – the Chase Wild Card spots, and Matt Kenseth.

In 2005, Kenseth charged back from 28th-place after eight races to make the Chase – which was then made up of only 10 drivers. That’s the furthest back any drivers has come to make the Chase.

But more likely, one of those aforementioned drivers will need to rely on the Wild Card spot.

After race No. 26 at Richmond, the top 10 drivers in the points standings will earn Chase berths. Spots 11 and 12 will go to the drivers with the most wins, provided they are in the top 20.

Best bet: Hamlin. He has nine career victories at the remaining tracks between now and the Chase.

2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominees To Be Announced
The 25 nominees for the 2012 Hall of Fame class will be announced on Tuesday, April 19. The list, which will be for the third class, will be announced on SPEED from 7 p.m.-8 p.m. ET.

- NASCAR Media Services

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