Winners and Losers from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Talladega
Well, that was fun, wasn't it?
We sat through more than three hours of rain delays before resuming Sprint Cup action at Talladega. Those who stayed at the track had to weather heavy rain and even hail, while folks watching at home sat through hours of filler programming (and perhaps even a segment of the local news).
And most who persevered got exactly what they were waiting for.
Sure, there were still major accidents that ruined a few people's days, but the final laps still came down to a hard-fought, clean battle. When all was said and done, gutsy Front Row Motorsports teammates David Ragan and David Gilliland got by all of the heavyweights, including Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, to score the team's first-ever 1-2 finish.
So who else had good days and bad days at the sport's biggest wild-card track?
Winner: Front Row Motorsports
Driver David Ragan may not be a first-time winner, but Front Row Motorsports sure is. After languishing as a start-and-park team early in their history, Front Row switched to Fords, picked up the aid of Roush Yates engines and signed Ragan when Roush Fenway Racing downsized in 2012.
All of that hard work and patience paid off with a last-lap charge to the front by Ragan and teammate David Gilliland, as the Georgia native scored his second career Cup victory.
Loser: Matt Kenseth
Both Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing are on top of their game as of late, there's no doubt about that. But each of the past two weeks, the No. 20 car could have (or should have) won, to no avail. This weekend at Talladega, Kenseth led a race-high 142 laps and was leading on the final restart, only to be shuffled back at the finish to eighth place.
Winner: Denny Hamlin
It wasn't meant to be at his home track in Richmond, and Brian Vickers got caught up in a wreck in relief, but Hamlin finally got back into the No. 11 car after missing a month due to a back injury. He ran 25 laps before yielding to Vickers, ensuring he would score points on Sunday and effectively giving himself another week to heal.
Hamlin also appeared on Fox's race broadcast alongside Chris Myers and Michael Waltrip, picking his spots and adding valuable analysis.
Loser: Kurt Busch
The guy who might have wanted a win worse than anybody else all weekend couldn't quite pull it off. He was outfoxed on the final lap of the Nationwide race to fall out of contention for that victory, while a late-race accident on Sunday sent Busch's car rolling across the track and into the field.
Winner: Michael Waltrip
Once again, Waltrip put himself in position to win late in a Talladega race, biding his time for much of the afternoon in both his car and the Fox studio. But this time, instead of being involved in a 25-car pileup, the four-time restrictor-plate race winner came home in fourth place.
He also salvaged his ride home, as guest commentator Denny Hamlin joked during a caution segment that he wouldn't bring Waltrip home without a top-10 finish.
Loser: Ryan Newman
Think Newman is sick of restrictor-plate racing yet? For the second time in recent memory, another car landed on his hood as the result of somebody else's aggressive driving. In a post-accident interview on Fox, the 2008 Daytona 500 winner insulted a group of people he neglected to name (assumedly, either NASCAR or his colleagues), saying they had their "heads up their asses" and couldn't keep the cars on the ground.
Winner: Aric Almirola
With his 10th-place finish, as well as the struggles of some of the drivers around him, Almirola gained four spots in points, ranking seventh. Few have paid attention to the Richard Petty Motorsports driver this season, but flying under the radar has worked so far for the No. 43 team, which is at its most competitive right now since Bobby Hamilton and John Andretti helmed the car in the 1990s.
Loser: Kasey Kahne
An early accident and 42nd-place finish knocked Kahne back from third to sixth in Sprint Cup points. Talladega marked the second restrictor-plate race in a row where his day ended with an accident in the early stages of a race, as the same thing happened at Daytona earlier this year.
Not that anybody particularly enjoys red-flag programming, but Fox handled Sunday's lengthy rain delay magnificently. From replaying the top 10 finishes in NASCAR's 13-season history on the network to a fantastic profile of Clint Bowyer, the pre-canned content was strong across the board.
Meanwhile, Matt Yocum and the rest of the network's pit team kept the interviews fun and light during the delay, with Bowyer providing comedic gold on more than one occasion.
Loser: Trevor Bayne
Ever since winning the 2011 Daytona 500, Bayne has been snakebit (or spider-bit, if you take his 2011 injury into account), and this weekend at Talladega was no exception. Despite starting third in the Nationwide race, he fell victim to an accident that claimed many top cars; on Sunday, his engine blew early on, relegating him to a disappointing 43rd-place finish.
For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.
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