Top 10 Tuesday: Last-Lap Passes at Talladega

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Thank you for reading and I hope you are doing well.

On Sunday the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will close out the Contender round of the Chase at Talladega Superspeedway, one of the most exciting tracks in racing. Talladega has become synonymous with late passes for the win. Here is a look at the most memorable last-lap passes for the win in the track’s history.

10. 1983: Earnhardt’s First Talladega Win- After getting a controversial push from Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt overtook Darrell Waltrip and won his first of ten races at Talladega in the summer of 1983. The incident between Allison and Waltrip further ignited the rivalry among the two drivers.

9. 1993: Irvan Gets Past Earnhardt- After a lengthy rain delay in the 1993 spring race, the green flag waved with two to go. A lap later, Ernie Irvan got by Dale Earnhardt and went on to victory, but the msot memorable part of the finish came when Earnhardt clipped Rusty Wallace just before the start/finish line, sending Wallace into a violent airborne crash.

8. 2001: Earnhardt Jr.’s First Talladega Win: As the white flag flew in the fall 2001 race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead from Bobby Labonte. After a multi-car crash on the backstretch left Labonte’s car upside down, Earnhardt Jr. was able to keep Tony Stewart and Jeff Burton at bay. The win was the first of four in a row at Talladega for Earnhardt Jr.

7. 2006: Vickers Tangles with Johnson and Earnhardt Jr.- While trying to push teammate Jimmie Johnson to the win the fall 2006 race, Brian Vickers sent Johnson into Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the latter two crashed on the last lap, as Vickers went on to first career win.

6. 1981: Bouchard Stuns Waltrip and Labonte- The summer 1981 race featured one of the upsets that Talladega has become famous for. This time, it was Ron Bouchard driving past Terry Labonte and Darrell Waltrip to pick up his first and only win in a race that many people did not see the end of live after CBS experienced technical difficulties.

5. 1984: Earnhardt’s First Win with Childress- The summer race at Talladega in 1984 was long considered to be the greatest race in history. Earnhardt got drafting help from Buddy Baker and got past Terry Labonte for his second of a record ten wins at Talladega.

4. 1984: Yarborough Survives Late Duel: In the 1984 spring race, a motorsports record was established with 75 lead changes. The last of which came when Cale Yarborough went by Harry Gant on the white flag lap to win the race.

3. 2010: Harvick Nips McMurray: The last of a record 88 lead changes in the spring 2010 race at Talladega occurred when Kevin Harvick moved Jamie McMurray up the race track just enough to drive past him at the line, winning by .011 seconds.

2. 2009: Keselowski Gets First Win-After helping push Carl Edwards to the lead with less than two laps to go in the spring race,Brad Keselowski made contact with Edwards in the tri-oval on the last lap. Edwards got airborne and went into the catch fence, while Keselowski scored his first win and the only Sprint Cup win for James Finch’s Phoenix Racing.

  1. 2011: Johnson edges Bowyer- In the spring of 2011, the race seemed to be a battle between Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon. In the tri-oval on the final lap, Jimmie Johnson around the two with help from teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr and beat Bowyer by .002 seconds, tied for the closest finish since 1993 (introduction of electronic scoring) and tying 2010’s record of 88 lead changes. The win was the latter of two at the track in Johnson’s career.

Sunday Night Quick Takes

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Thank you for reading and I hope you had a great weekend. Here are some of the top stories from the weekend in racing.

  1. Joey Logano won for the second straight week after making contact with and passing Matt Kenseth with five laps to go. Logano’s win at Kansas means the remaining seven spots are up for grabs at Talladega next Sunday, making what is normally an eventful race that much more interesting to watch.
  2. In NHRA, Funny Car’s Del Worsham extended his points lead, as did Erica Enders-Stevens in Pro Stock. While Ritchie Crampton in Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Jerry Savoie won, Antron Brown and Andrew Hines remained in control of the championships. Just two races remain in the season, and although Brown and Enders-Stevens have sizable leads, the battles for the title will be very interesting to watch in each class.
  3. Kyle Busch won his 75th career Xfinity Series race at Kansas on Saturday, while Chris Buescher retained his points lead. Buescher’s ability to keep his lead at a stable margin has been impressive and although Chase Elliott was the preseason favorite for the title, Buescher may have the title all but wrapped up before the two-week break and the last three races of the year.

Have a great week and see you soon.

Pre-Weekend Quick Takes

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Thank you for reading and I hope you had a great week. Here are some of the top headlines for the weekend in racing.

  1. The Sprint Cup Series will be in action in Kansas this weekend, with several drivers looking to rebound after disappointing starts in Charlotte. Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch all ran into problems last week. Though they each have good records at Talladega, the goal for the three will be to win and not worry about next week. The goal will be the same for the other eight drivers remaining in the chase outside of Joey Logano.
  2. The NHRA will be back in action this week, as they series returns to Texas Motorplex in Dallas. With just three races left and drivers like Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) dominating of late, every chance the other contenders get will need to be taken as they fight for more points.
  3. NASCAR announced earlier this week that the rules package utilized for Sprint Cup at Kentucky and Darlington this year will be used at every non-restrictor plate race in 2016. NASCAR should also look into running a lower downforce package at the restrictor plate tracks to help decrease some of the risk with pack racing and add some excitement back to Daytona and Talladega.

Have a great weekend and see you soon.

Top 10 Tuesday: New Ideas for NASCAR

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Thank you for reading and I hope your week is going well. After the last race in Charlotte, many fans have voiced displeasure with the current state of NASCAR. While upset fans are nothing new, the decline in fan interest is always worth noting. Having that in mind, here are some ideas to help rejuvenate the sport.

10. Running Multiple Series on One Day: Part of the NFL’s success has been its ability to make people’s lives revolve around the games on Sunday. Like the NFL has done with Sundays during the fall, NASCAR could benefit greatly by adding as much racing to the schedule during Saturdays and Sundays to keep fans engaged in the events.

9. Connect with its Heritage : Like many sports, NASCAR has tried to bring itself into the new age. One of its biggest issues though, is the loss of longtime fans. Being able to show its roots, like last month at Darlington, will allow fans to connect with an earlier era of racing and give new fans a better understanding of NASCAR’s history.

8. Embracing Fantasy: Though Fantasy Auto Racing has been popular, including a new partnership with DraftKings, there is a huge segment of fans who may not be able to grasp the concept in NASCAR. Being able to increase promotion for fantasy games during the week leading up to the races will attract the younger demographic which NASCAR has often missed.

7. Weeknight Racing: Eldora Speedway’s Wednesday night Truck race in July has been tremendously popular. With only baseball to compete with during middle of the schedule, having some races on week nights could help attract more attention to the sport while football is out of the public eye.

6. Shorter Races: Fans have often complained about the lack of attention and that can easily be attributed to the length of races in many scenarios. Having shorter races would help create more urgency among drivers and keep fans interested.

5. Fewer Companion Races: The main argument for having Cup regulars in Xfinity and Truck Series events is that doing so increases ticket sales and television ratings. Though that argument does offer some validity, doing so has taken attention away from drivers looking to make their way up in racing. Even with drivers being able to rise to the occasion against the tough competition, several have not had quite the opportunity with more Cup regulars around.

4. Schedule Shakeup: Recently, NASCAR CEO Brian France said there will be no major shakeups to the 2016 Sprint Cup Schedule. In this instance, France missed a major opportunity. For a playoff system that has seen several changes in such as short span, the schedule has been relatively unchanged  and would undoubtedly add a spark to the final 10 races.

3. Fewer Races on Cable: When networks like FOX and NBC signed on to broadcast races, some were put on Fox Sorts 1 and NBCSN in order to help viewership of the channels. Although there is merit to the idea, many fans simply can not afford to pay to watch these channels. Adding more races back to network TV will help the old fans keep u with the sport and even attract new ones.

2. Rules Transparency: NASCAR has frustrated not only teams with its inconsistency in rules over the years, but now fans as well. Many times, decisions have felt almost arbitrary when it comes to cautions, penalties and more. Although it is good that the sanctioning body does have control over the sport, creating more consistency will help gain some of the credibility that has been called into question.

  1. Changes to the cars: In July, a low-downforce package was introduced at Kentucky with great applause. It has only been used once since then. Putting control back in the drivers has added intrigue to some of the races, and adding the horsepower back could be the missing piece for the on-track racing issues.

Enjoy your week and see you soon.

Sunday Night Quick Takes

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Thank you for reading and I hope you had a great weekend. Here are some of the to headlines after the weekend in racing.

  1. Joey Logano won a rain-delayed race at Charlotte on Sunday as several big-name contenders, like Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had problems during the race. The issues in the first race for some of the 12 drivers left fighting for the championship will make for an interesting race at Kansas next week, and especially at Talladega, which is a perennial wild card for all the championship contenders.
  2. After polesitter Nico Rosberg experienced throttle issues early in the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, teammate Lewis Hamilton¬† capitalized with a victory. Although Rosberg has often had the speed to keep up with Hamilton, mechanical¬† gremlins have gotten in the way several times and may be the biggest factor in Rosberg’s inability to win the championship.
  3. Austin Dillon won from pole in Friday night’s Xfinity Series, as Chris Buescher extended his points lead over Chase Elliott. With all four races remaining being companion events, wins may be hard to come by for Xfinity regulars, so getting as many points as possible will be imperative for Elliott and the rest of the field as they try to catch Buescher.

Have a great weekend and see you soon.

Pre-Weekend Quick Takes

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Thank you for reading. Here are the headlines for this weekend in racing.

1.NASCAR returns to Charlotte this weekend as the Sprint Cup Series starts the Eliminator Round of the Chase. Points leader Matt Kenseth will start on pole and will look to clinch a spot in the Contender Round, while Kevin Harvick will attempt to win the fall race at Charlotte for the second straight year and earn his second consecutive win.

2. The Xfinity Series will also be running at Charlotte this weekend. Regan Smith got his second win of the season at Dover last Saturday, moving him up to third place in the standings behind Chris Buescher and Chase Elliott. Austin Dillon will be on pole tonight with Kasey Kahne alongside. Do not be surprised if the race is dominated by Cup regulars, so every point for the championship leaders will be pivotal.

3. Rain has become a wild card early in the weekend at Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix in Sochi. Felipe Massa has been among the leaders in both of the practice sessions so far. If the rain continues Massa could be primed to break up the dominance by Mercedes and Ferrari in 2015.

Have a great weekend and see you soon.

Top 10 Tuesday: North Carolina Drivers

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Few sports have such deep roots in one state like NASCAR does in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State is home to almost every driver and team in the sport. With the Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series set to return to the Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend, here is a look at some of the top drivers to call North Carolina home.

10. Austin Dillon: The Lewisville native and grandson of team owner Richard Childress, Austin made his name by winning the 2011 Truck Series (7 career wins) and 2013 (then) Nationwide Series title (5 career wins). Dillon also started his first full-time Cup Series season by winning the pole in the 2014 Daytona 500.

9. Brian Vickers: The Thomasville native burst onto the scene in 2003 by winning the (then) Busch Series title). Vickers would move up to Cup and capture three wins, but has been sidelined by blood clots since March.

8. Harry Gant: “Handsome Harry” started in the Cup Series in 1973 as a 33 year-old rookie from Taylorsville. It would be nine years before he won his first race. In 1991, Gant earned the nickname “Mister September” winning four consecutive races in the month, including the Southern 500 at Darlington. A year later, Gant earned the last of his 18 career Cup wins.

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: The Kannapolis-born driver won two Xfinity Series titles in 1998 and 99 and has become one of the biggest stars in the sport since. Earnhardt Jr. has won 25 races, including the Daytona 500 in 2004 and 2014.

6. Dale Jarrett: The Conover product racked up 32 wins and 16 poles in his career, as well as the 1999 Cup Series championship. Dale now works for NBC as an analyst.

5. Ned Jarrett: Conover’s Ned Jarrett has built a legacy as one of the most popular figures in the sport. During his driving career, Ned won 50 races and 35 poles in 352 starts, along with two championships. Ned would later go on to be a broadcaster for ESPN and CBS.

4. Junior Johnson: One of the early pioneers of the sport, Johnson, who hails from Wilkesboro became an icon for the early years of NASCAR. Johnson won 50 races as a driver, including the 1960 Daytona 500, where he helped introduce drafting into the sport.

3. Lee Petty: The patriarch of the Petty family, Randleman’s Lee racked up 54 wins and three championships on his way to become one of the sport’s first stars. Petty also won the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959.

2. Dale Earnhardt: One of several second-generation drivers on this list, Earnhardt (a native of Kannapolis) won his first championship during just his second season in 1980. Over the next 20 years, he would accumulate 76 wins and six more titles before his untimely death on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

  1. Richard Petty: Originally from Level Cross, “The King” followed in his father Lee’s footsteps and went on to become the greatest driver in the sport’s history. Petty racked up 200 wins, seven championships and became one of the original superstars in the Modern Era.

Sunday Night Quick Takes

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Thank you for reading. Here is a quick recap of some of the top stories from this weekend in racing.

  1. Kevin Harvick won at Dover on Sunday to advance to the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, while Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray and Clint Bowyer were eliminated from the playoff. Johnson’s elimination is undoubtedly most surprising, but does highlight the intensity of this format, regardless of where your opinion of it lies.
  2. Antron Brown (Top Fuel) won his third race in a row, while Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won. Brown and Hines extended their points leads, while Pro Stock’s Erica Enders-Stevens and Funny Car’s Del Worsham maintained their leads. With just three races left in the countdown, the opportunity for drivers to catch the leaders is quickly evaporating, especially with how well the leaders have run.
  3. In Saturday night’s Truck Series race at Las Vegas, Austin Theriault suffered a compression fracture in his lower back after a head-on impact to the outside retaining wall. Since Kyle Busch’s accident in February, the subject of increased SAFER barrier coverage has permeated auto racing. As a fan, it is frustrating to watch such an obvious and urgent issue not be resolved. Hopefully once the season ends, tracks will have permanent fix for the issue.

Have a great week and see you soon.

Pre-Weekend Quick Takes

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Thank You for reading. Here are the top stories for the weekend in racing.

  1. Friday’s NASCAR action from Dover was wiped out due to rain and the field was set by points. This will make it even tougher on defending Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick. After finishing 42nd at Chicagoland and running out of fuel late at New Hampshire, Harvick is 23 points away from transferring to the next round and will likely have to win in order to advance.

Also worth noting is the expanded restart zone, which will now be 140 feet rather than 70. The expanded area will be worth watching as it will impact not only the race, but potentially the championship.

2. NHRA has their third race in as many weeks at Maple Grove on Sunday. As with NASCAR, today’s qualifying was rained, moving things to Saturday. If the weather clears up, look for drivers like Tony Schumacher and Jack Beckman to aim for national records as they look to reclaim the points lead in Top Fuel and Funny Car.

3. The NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series will be in Dover and Las Vegas this weekend. Chris Buescher will be looking for the season sweep and to extend his points lead. In Las Vegas, Erik Jones will be looking to extend his seven-point lead over Matt Crafton. With no Cup drivers in the field, do not be surprised if the race comes down to Jones and Crafton, especially considering how well the two have run on the intermediate tracks this year.

Have a great weekend and see you soon.

Top Ten Tuesday: Driver-Track Dominance

Spencer Neff

Twitter:@NeffOnSports11

Thank you for reading, hope you are having a great week.

On Sunday, Jimmie Johnson can clinch a spot in the second round of the Chase with his 11th win at Dover. Johnson set the record for wins at the track in June. Here is a look at other noteworthy performances by drivers at one track.

10. Kevin Harvick at Phoenix: Harvick ,who swept both events at the one-mile venue in 2006, has become even more successful since it was repaved prior to the November 2011 race. Harvick has won five of the last six races there, and will look to make it five in a row and eight overall when the series returns their in November.

9. David Pearson at Michigan: Like Darlington, Pearson may not have the stats to showcase his dominance, but he does have more trips to victory lane than anyone else in the speedway’s history, with nine.

8. Dale Earnhardt at Atlanta: Earnhardt’s wins at Atlanta came across two configurations, although he only won once at the current 1.54-mile venue. Earnhardt also has 26 top-fives and a 9.5 average finish (record-min. 10 starts), both are best for Atlanta.

7. Richard Petty at Daytona: Although all of Petty’s wins were before restrictor plates, Petty’s record of seven Daytona 500s are one of the most notable marks in the sport.

6. Dale Earnhardt at Talladega: After restrictor plates were implemented in 1988, Earnhardt became a master of the racing, winning eight times after plates were put in use. Earnhardt also has a record 23 top-fives, 27 top-tens and 1,377 laps led at the 2.66-mile superspeedway in Alabama.

5. Jimmie Johnson at Dover: Johnson swept at Dover his rookie year in 2002, an impressive feat considering how challenging Dover is for any driver, From there, he has won eight more times, including another sweep in 2009. Johnson will look for a third season sweep on Sunday.

4. David Pearson at Darlington: A driver’s home track will often elicit some of their best performances, and that was certainly true for Pearson. Pearson,a native of Spartanburg, won 10 times, including five in a row at the famed South Carolina Speedway.

3. Darrell Waltrip at Bristol: One of the most impressive feats of Darrell Waltrip’s career is his seven consecutive wins at Bristol from 1981-1984. Waltrip had two wins before and three after the streak, to bring his total to 12 at the track in Tennessee.

2. Richard Petty at Richmond: Another Virginia short track where Petty’s name is cemented all over the record book is Richmond International Raceway. Although most of his races were contested on the .542-mile layout, Petty’s 13 wins, 34 top-fives,41 top-tens, 8 poles (tied with Bobby Allison), 21,135 laps completed, and 5,136 laps led.

1. Richard Petty at Martinsville: With 15 wins, Petty holds the Sprint Cup record for most wins at a track still on tour with 15 at the oldest track in NASCAR. Petty also holds the record with 30 top-fives, 37 Top-tens, 67 starts and 27,891 laps completed.\

Have a great day and see you soon.

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