If there's one thing about the Talladega Superspeedway that is the most expected, it is that the unexpected will happen. When you aren't looking, something will catch your attention and make everyone gasp and awe.
On Sunday afternoon it was not about finishing the race, it was more about surviving the race. This week's edition of "Parks' Race Reactions" will look at the drivers who did well, the ones who did poorly, the ones who survived, and the race itself.
First, you have got to give a lot of credit to Jamie McMurray and his team for running a smart race. He did not lag back and make a move late, he stayed up front leading laps. When it mattered most, he had the best position.
Unfortunately, the win for McMurray is more an audition for next year. The No. 26 team will not exist in 2010 as Roush had to reduce his field to only four teams.
With Crown Royal making the move to Matt Kenseth, it has left McMurray without a ride for next year. The win will look good on his resume, and he does deserve to have a team sign him. He has a lot of talent behind the wheel and could really give any team a chance at victory.
Speaking of a strong run, you cannot help but be amazed at how Kasey Kahne dealt with his afternoon. After getting some early damage in the race, he fought all the way back to finish second.
Considering how the Chase has gone for him and the Budweiser team, he must feel good about getting out of Talladega with a strong run.
But the strongest run and the highlight for many people was seeing the No. 88 Amp Energy Chevrolet running out front.
All the struggles, all the frustrations, and all the disappointments were nowhere to be seen on Sunday. Dale Earnhardt Jr. made sure he was in the mix all afternoon as he led laps, used the draft to help his teammates, and stayed a contender.
Running out of fuel just before the green-white checkered finish set him back. But, with the way Talladega is raced, he made his way to the front. That kept him out of the way when the last wreck occurred and gave him an 11th-place finish.
It may not have been exactly what the fans wanted, but it was a definite boost for the team. It was their best finish since Michigan in August, and one of the few highlights the team has experienced in 2009. It was a great run by the entire No. 88 team.
Unfortunately, like has become expected at Talladega, there were a few moments that left teams angry and upset. NASCAR warned the drivers in the pre-race meeting that bump-drafting in the corners would force a penalty.
The drivers obeyed, but it was bumping that led to the biggest accidents of the afternoon, both of which happened with less than five laps left.
On lap 183, Tony Stewart was pushing his teammate, Ryan Newman, when he pushed a little too hard. Newman went sliding down the track into oncoming traffic and spun backwards. Suddenly, the rear of the car lifted off the ground.
The rear deck lid landed on the hood of Kevin Harvick, and Newman went sliding across the track on his roof. After hitting the grass, he spun in a complete circle, never once landing on his wheels.
Rescue crews had to first upright his U.S. Army Chevrolet, then they cut away the roof and some supports just so he could get out.
Afterwards Newman was critical of NASCAR and their decision making, stating that NASCAR must not think much of drivers these days.
Then, just as McMurray took the white flag, Kurt Busch gets bumped by Brad Keselowski, sending him across the front stretch into Mark Martin. Martin does a 360 both in a spin and flip before hitting the outside wall.
Behind him, the field begins to stack up as seven or more cars get damaged. Martin afterward admitted that he did not know what happened.
Both wrecks were a product of the kind of racing that Talladega produces. Late in the race, drivers know they need to make a move, and any opportunity to do so, they take.
The drivers that had the patience early in the race started to become aggressive. That aggression led to some quick moves and some blocking by others. Then, when one driver gets a big run, that sudden block could send one driver into another, and then chaos just ensues afterwards.
Talladega will always be the "wild card" or the "lottery" race in the Chase; that fact will not change. As long as there is bump drafting, blocking, and restrictor plates, the risk of having a big wreck will follow along.
The Amp Energy 500 is now behind the teams, and it is time to look ahead to the next race.
On the agenda will be the Dickies 500 at Texas. No restrictor plates, no "out of bounds," and no bump drafting. The racing will be different, and expect to see an old style shootout when the green flag falls.
Coverage from Texas will begin at 2:30 p.m. on ABC with NASCAR Countdown.