Event: Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 (Round 30 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (2.66-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 4th/22nd (Accident, completed 188 of 189 laps in a green-white-checkered finish)
Point Standing: 7th (2,133 points, 46 out of first)
Winner: Matt Kenseth of Roush Fenway Racing (Ford)
Tony Stewart had victory in sight entering the last corner of the last lap of the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. But coming out of that final corner, Stewart’s No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) was pointed upside down instead of straight ahead toward the finish line.
Stewart, the three-time and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, was protecting the low line as he came off turn four of the 2.66-mile oval, where the Toyota of Michael Waltrip touched the rear of Stewart’s Chevrolet. The Big One was on, as 24 cars were collected in the ensuing melee, none in more spectacular fashion than Stewart, whose car flipped upside down and served as a ping-pong ball among the spinning cars around him.
Stewart’s smoldering No. 14 machine came to rest in the apron just before the tri-oval, and safety crews were immediately on the scene. Stewart emerged from the accident unscathed, climbing out of the car and walking to a nearby ambulance for the mandatory trip to the infield care center. Upon being evaluated and released, Stewart spoke about his wild ride.
“I was trying to win the race, and I was trying to stay ahead of Matt (Kenseth),” said Stewart, who came into Talladega as the most recent restrictor-plate race winner, as he won the Coke Zero 400 in July at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. “Michael (Waltrip) got a great run on the bottom, had a big head of steam. When I turned down, I turned down across the right-front of his car. A mistake on my part. It cost a lot of people a bad day because of it.”
Jeff Gordon, who had a clear view of the accident and was able to sneak by all the chaos, offered his take on the circumstances that led to the crash.
“Tony is a guy that takes blame for things and you’ve got to respect him for that, but I think there’s a little more to it,” Gordon said. “You’re trying to judge making that move, but it’s almost impossible to judge it because they’re coming so fast. That’s aerodynamics, that’s power and that’s just the nature of the type of racing that we have right now at Talladega.”
Stewart’s SHR teammate, Ryan Newman got a much better result. Behind the wheel of his No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet, Newman finished ninth to score his 12th top-10 finish of 2012 and his eighth top-10 in 22 career Sprint Cup starts at Talladega.
Matt Kenseth won the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 to score his 23rd career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his first at Talladega.
Gordon finished behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot as the race ended under caution. Kyle Busch, David Ragan and Regan Smith rounded out the top-five. Greg Biffle, Brad Keselowski, Travis Kvapil, Newman and Jeff Burton comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 17 laps, with 17 drivers failing to finish the 189-lap race, which was extended one lap by a green-white-checkered finish.
Stewart is representing SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, and came into the fourth race of the 10-race Chase in fifth place among the 12 Chase drivers, 32 points behind Chase leader Brad Keselowski. Stewart leaves Talladega seventh in the standings, 46 points behind Keselowski.
Newman climbed one spot to 14th in the standings with 865 points, 47 back of 13th-place Busch.
With six races remaining before a champion is crowned following the season finale Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the top-12 drivers competing for the title rank as follows:
1. Brad Keselowski (2,179 points) +/-0 positions
2. Jimmie Johnson (2,165 points, -14) +/-0
3. Denny Hamlin (2,156 points, -23) +/-0
4. Kasey Kahne (2,143 points, -36) +2
5. Clint Bowyer (2,139 points -40) -1
6. Jeff Gordon (2,137 points, -42) +4
7. Tony Stewart (2,133 points, -46) -2
8. Martin Truex Jr. (2,131 points, -48) +/-0
9. Greg Biffle (2,130 points, -49) +2
10. Kevin Harvick (2,130 points, -49) -1
11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2,128 points, -51) -4
12. Matt Kenseth (2,117 points, -62) +/-0
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the fifth race of the 10-race Chase – is the Charlotte 500 on Oct. 13 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The race begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ABC beginning with a pre-race show at 7 p.m.
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