After last years wild finish at Talladega, the NASCAR Sprint Cup series made national attention for the last lap pass that saw Carl Edward’s car in the air and Brad Keselowski win the race.
The question was there, would this years finish at Talladega be just as dramatic?
Check out the winners and losers of the Aaron’s 499.
It had been a long time since Kevin Harvick had won points paying event in the NSCS. In fact it has been since the Daytona 500 in 2007 since we saw him in victory circle.
Harvick wasn’t up front all day and his team really stuck to their plan of riding in the back until about 50 to go.
With three green, white checkers everyone knew things were about to get crazy on the track. Two big accidents later and on the final attempt to finish under green leader Jamie McMurray and Harvick pulled away from the field.
Harvick timed his pass perfectly and the two crossed the finish line side by side, with Harvick taking the checkers.
After being in the news for sponsorship changes last week, Harvick did the one thing a driver can do to bring in sponsorship interest, that’s winning the race.
Harvick carries all the momentum coming to Richmond International Raceway, his most recent win at the track was in 2006. He has a strong average finish of 9.1 at the short track, it was this race a year ago after starting seventh he finished 34th .
In the last few restrictor plate races, Jamie McMurray has proven to be the guy in the spot when it matters the most. Sunday, he once again proved that when it comes to tracks like Talladega, he will be there at the end.
McMurray was another driver who did not run up front all day long. Early on, both him and teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, both lost the draft.
McMurray though was patient all day long and really only once or twice ran near the front.Their plan was to go with 50 to go.
He was leading the race on the final of three attempts and was even leading coming to the line.
A late pass by Harvick had McMurray finishing second. He was going for three restrictor plate wins in a row, dating back to the fall race in 2009.
At RIR he has an average finish of 27.1 with only two top 10 finishes, one of which was the spring race last season.
He has not led a lap at RIR but on Saturday night he will be hoping to lead the one that counts, the last one.
2010 is a very important year for David Ragan, he needs to show results on the track.
After just missing the Chase in 2008, Ragan has been a non factor since. On Sunday, at a track where he collected his first Nationwide series win a year a go, Ragan delivered.
He ran in the top 10 for most of the day and he was able to avoid the trouble at the end of the race. Ragan finished a seasons best sixth and his best finish since Texas in the fall.
Ragan ran in top 10 all day long, he led eight laps on Sunday.
Ragan needs to put together more top 10 runs; it might be difficult this weekend at RIR where his average finish is 21.3. Ragan’s best finish at RIR is sixth in 2007.
He is more than capable of contending for wins it’s all a matter of putting the pieces together.
If there was one driver to watch on Sunday Paul Menard was it. He has had a strong start to the season and up until Phoenix was sitting in the top 12 in points. Sunday his day ended way too early and quickly.
Menard was running mid pack when contact between Kyle Busch and Johnny Sauter, sent Sauter spinning down the track and right into Menard. He suffered damage to his car and the team made repairs but the damage was done. He finished 25th .
Menard is looking to turn this stretch around with a strong run and finish on Saturday. He is another driver looking to improve his average finish of 27.5 at RIR. His best finish was 16th in 2007, but he finished 30th here last Spring.
This is a different team in 2010 and I do think they will be able to run up front.
It is funny how this sport works. For most drivers there is always a track they love to run at whether it is past success or they have a real feel for the car.
Regan Smith, Talladega has become a track where Smith has run well at. His finishes though are another story.
Sunday was looking to be a good day, Smith led some laps and showed he was able to work his way from the back to the front. He had just lost the lead when smoke came billowing out of the back of his car, his engine expired. He finished 38th .
I know you can’t predict on what ifs but I really think that had Smith not suffered engine problems he would have been contending for the win. Now they turn their attention to RIR, in three starts his average finish is 28th . Not very impressive but that’s only three starts prior to this weekend.
Of all the drivers that don’t look forward to Talladega, Ryan Newman might be leading the pack. He hasn’t finished on the lead lap in the last three races at Talladega.
Last season both races saw him suffer hard hits in the final stages of the race.
Sunday, Newman was running mid pack for most of the day. His plan was to make a run in the final stages of the race.
On the second attempt to finish under green, Newman and Logano had a run on the outside. They took it four wide when Logano clipped Newman and sent him spinning down in front of the field. Newman finished 35th .
At RIR he has an 11.3 average finish at the track, also he runs in the top 15 over 80 percent of the time.
Newman should have a solid race on Saturday. This team has showed steady improvement with each race this season. I would not be surprised to see him up front leading some laps.
I have to say the race on Sunday was one of the best races this season. That says a lot since we haven’t had one bad race in 2010. We saw a record amount of lead changes, the perfect pass for the win. Of course we saw some big wrecks that late in the race changed the game.
Now they head to RIR for a 400 lap race under the lights. There have been some incredible races here in the past. I would expect no different this weekend. This season has been full of surprises and Saturday night will be no different.
My picks to watch on Saturday are: Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Jeff Burton. What do they all have in common? They have all been close to winning this season but could not close the deal.
Will one of them be in victory lane Saturday, find out by watching the Heath Calhoun 400 is Saturday 7:30ET on FOX.