Tires Troubles, Two "Big Ones" Prove Fatal For Many At 'Dega

Jen PrestonSenior Analyst IOctober 5, 2008

As if Talladega, the wild card race in the Chase, isn't hard enough with the infamous "Big One" lurking.

Tire problems, however, gave a "Big One" a run for it's money-causing problems.

The issues began Friday, when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. lost an engine, causing him to lose a right side tire.  The incident caused damage to teammates Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin, along with Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, David Reutimann and David Gilliland.

However, the worst came during Sunday's main event.

It began as a beautiful day in Talladega, Alabama as the 43 best drivers in the world took the green flag for the Amp Energy 500.

While the first two cautions of the day were for debris on track, it was lap 53 that saw David Reutimann lose a tire and collect defending Talladega winner Jeff Gordon.  Gordon would also end up having trouble at lap 138, when fluid and smoke began to fall from his car.  It would end his day and see the former four time champ finish thirty eighth.

With Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the lead at lap 69, Brian Vickers suffers a fate similar to Reutimann's and loses a right front tire, causing the dreaded "Big One"- Aric Almirola, Jamie McMurray, Terry Labonte, Tony Raines, Kasey Kahne, Mike Skinner, David Gilliland and Martin Truex, Jr. were all collected in the melee.

A mere twelve laps later saw the fourth RCR entry driven by Mike Wallace blow a tire, but managed to prevent a multi-car incident.  He would go on to finish 30th, 21 laps behind eventual winner Tony Stewart.

Denny Hamlin, Stewart's teammate, was the next victim of tire drama.  While leading the race, Hamlin had his tire violently explode, sending him into the Turn 2 wall.  After taking a while to get out of the car, an awake and alert Hamlin was later transported to an area hospital.  As if this writing, there's no update on his condition.

With a long green flag stretch ended by Jeff Gordon's problems and a tap from David Ragan that sent Kevin Harvick spinning, things began to clear up in Alabama... or so we assumed.

But, you know what they saw about the almighty "assume" makes an ass out of you and me.

A second, and bigger, "Big One" occurred on lap 174 when Carl Edwards wrecked teammate Greg Biffle.  Biffle was sent into third Roush-Fenwayteammate Matt Kenseth, which began a collection of Juan Pablo Montoya, Kevin Harvick, Michael Waltrip, Reed Sorenson, Kyle Busch, polesitter Travis Kvapil, Dave Blaney, Joe Nemecheck and a sixth championship contender Dale Earnhardt Jr.  The incident also brought out the day's second red flag.

And if you once again assumed that the tire trouble was over, you would once again be wrong.  With only ten laps to go, Jamie McMurray blew a right front, causing the tenth caution on the day.

The tire problems and big wrecks left Tony Stewart, Jeff Burton, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer as the only Chasers left in contention.

A shakeup occurred within the Chase standings, as Johnson saw his points lead ahead of Carl Edwards grow to 72 points.  Harvick dropped one spot to sixth, as well as being passed by RCR teammate Bowyer who moved up two positions to fifth.  Denny Hamlin is now in the basement in twelfth, and Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. each lost two spots to fall to eighth and tenth, respectively.

With the drama and points swapping that went on down south, you better believe the fifth race in the Chase next Saturday night in Charlotte is going to be even more important.