Taming tumultuous Talladega

Columbia’s Carl Edwards crashed but held onto Busch Series lead
Sunday, May 1, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:12 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

TALLADEGA, Ala. — Martin Truex proved he is just as good at restrictor-plate racing as his boss is, winning his second consecutive Busch Series race at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday.

Truex, who drives a car co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., battled back after an early accident damaged his Chevrolet. Then he avoided several other crashes, a flurry of late cautions and an intense overtime finish to win the Aaron’s 312.

With Kerry Earnhardt, Junior’s big brother, right on his rear bumper, Truex jumped out on the restart of the three-lap overtime and pulled away.

Kerry Earnhardt got pushed out of the draft, and rookie Jon Wood pulled up to challenge Truex. But Wood never had enough to make a run for the lead, and Truex drove away for the victory.

The reigning Busch Series champion has won both races he has entered at Talladega.

“That’s two-for-two at Talladega,” he said. “That’s a pretty good record and something I’m real proud of.”

His boss is even better: Earnhardt Jr. has five Nextel Cup victories here and a Busch win two years ago. Junior and Truex, his protege, have won the past three races here.

Wood finished second in his first race on the 2.66-mile oval. David Stremme was third, followed by Ashton Lewis Jr. and Kerry Earnhardt.

Despite losing his chance to win here and join his family’s restrictor-plate legacy, Kerry Earnhardt was pleased after coming back from starting in the 34th position.

“We had a fast car. We just didn’t have enough friends there at the end,” he said.

The start was delayed more than three hours because of rain, and the race was slowed by 10 cautions — including a 15-car accident that brought out an 18-minute stoppage in action so NASCAR could clean the track.

Truex was involved in that early mishap, which happened 17 laps into the race. But he suffered just minor damage to his Chevrolet, and his crew worked feverishly during the caution to fix the car and not cost him any track time.

“What about this pit crew? They were throwing screws through the hood and beating on fenders,” he said. “We got tape all over this thing, and it still ran pretty good.”

There was a spectacular crash near the end of the race, when Casey Mears’ car flipped over onto its roof and slid several hundred yards down the track as cars dodged and darted around him, trying desperately to avoid hitting him.

The wreck started when at least 20 lead-lap cars were all jockeying for position at the front of the pack. Joe Nemechek was moving along the outside to make a pass on Denny Hamlin and Mears but instead came down too low on the track. His car touched Hamlin’s and spun out of control, collecting cars behind him.

“I am going to have to take responsibility for that,” Nemechek said. “I had a move going on the outside, and I tried to squeeze back in. I knew it was going to be close. I needed about another inch. It’s terrible we wrecked so many race cars.”

The accident also collected Paul Menard, who started from the pole and led three times for 25 laps before his day ended.

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