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NASCAR: Johnson/Earnhardt Jr. Nips Sprint Cup Pack at Talladega

Russell SchmidtContributor IApril 18, 2011

Jimmie Johnson won the closest finish at Talladega Speedway on Sunday, tying Ricky Craven's win over Kurt Busch at Darlington (.002 sec)
Jimmie Johnson won the closest finish at Talladega Speedway on Sunday, tying Ricky Craven's win over Kurt Busch at Darlington (.002 sec)Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Racin’ with Russ—Call him good, call him lucky, but the main thing you have to do is call Jimmie Johnson the winner of Sunday’s wild-ending NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega with some strong help from teammate and “pusher” Dale Earnhardt Jr.

You would have to call an eight-car charge at the stripe wild as it appeared Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin were the strong cars at the end, but Clint Bowyer hooked up with Kevin Harvick along with Carl Edwards and teammate Greg Biffle pushing him to the checkers still wasn’t enough. Enter Hendrick teammates Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. in the mix with a wild move to the bottom to capture the closest win (ties Ricky Craven over Kurt Busch at Darlington—.002) by a few ticks of the watch.

The race began with four Hendrick drivers occupying the front two rows as Gordon picked up yet another fast time of day. From the first lap to the last, this race had become a high-speed chess match with lots of patience and planning to put the driver in the best spot at just the right time. Each driver had to find a dancing partner to get to the front. Get the right combo and you could be a winner. Get the wrong combo and you could find yourself in the fence, just ask Ryan Newman or Brian Vickers among others that had short days with shortened race cars.

The drivers learned from Daytona, it would take two-car drafting to get to the front. Throughout the day and throughout the field, the cars were spread out in pairs of two. Some were teammates, some were friends and yet others weren’t even the same manufacturer. Whatever combo would power two cars to the front was the accepted combo.

If you lost a partner due to a wreck, find another. The day started with mostly teammates hooking up, but by the end, any working combo would do. Partners such as Martin and Gordon led at the beginning, then dropped back deep in the pack, just biding time and trying to avoid “the big wreck”.

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Late in the 88 lead change show, the pairing of Johnson/Earnhardt, Gordon/Martin and Edwards/Biffle rose to the occasion and zipped forward within a handful of laps remaining.

Two fairly big wrecks were kicked off by Kurt Busch, not really intentional, but part of the nature of the beast of two-car drafting. Trevor Bayne, Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Marcos Ambrose, David Ragan and Kyle Busch were just some of the cars finished for the day as a result of the incidents.

Wrapping up the super close battle at the line included the cars of Bowyer, Gordon, Earnhardt and Harvick.

The latest results finds Edwards just five points ahead of Johnson and 19 over Earnhardt in the big picture.

Nationwide Series - Another wild race took place with pairings needed to be successful and Kyle Busch narrowly edged the field for his 47th Nationwide win and fourth this year, this one under caution flags with green-white-checker conditions.

Joey Logano, Joe Nemechek, Brad Keselowski and Elliott Sadler wrapped up the top five finishers.

Nationwide regulars Jason Leffler and Justin Allgaier top the points charts.

Open Wheel News - Across the pond in China, the Formula One teams competed with Lewis Hamilton driving the wheels off his McLaren to beat points leader Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Vettel still sits comfortably out front in points.

Closer to home on the streets of Long Beach, CA, Mike Conway stunned the field by taking over the lead from Indy Car drivers Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti and went on to claim his very first career win. Being sidelined at last year’s Indy 500 from injuries suffered on a last lap crash made this win that much sweeter for the English Andretti Motorsports driver.

From Rumorville – Team owner and part-time wrecker, I mean driver Michael Waltrip is slated to compete in a Ferrari sports car in this year’s Lemans 24-hour endurance race. Can they bring that many body men with them?

—NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Greg Biffle has re-upped with Roush-Fenway Motorsports and sponsor 3M will remain aboard in a three-year deal. This is a good deal all the way around.

—After a long-time absence from the sport, STP has decided to jump back into Motorsports, that being mainly race sponsorships in NASCAR, sponsor money for Richard Petty’s No. 43 car in addition to track and drag racing backing. Welcome back!

Next week’s RWR will review the action from Nashville where the Nationwide and Camping World Truck teams will compete along with more racing news from around the globe.

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