2011 Aaron's 499
|Race 8 of 36 in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season
|Date||April 17, 2011|
|Location||Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Alabama|
|Course||Permanent racing facility
2.66 mi (4.28 km)
|Distance||188 laps, 500.08 mi (804.8 km)|
|Weather||Temperatures reaching up to 75 °F (24 °C); wind speeds up to 7 miles per hour (11 km/h)|
|Driver||Jeff Gordon||Hendrick Motorsports|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Clint Bowyer||Richard Childress Racing|
|Television in the United States|
|Network||Fox Broadcasting Company|
|Announcers||Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds|
The 2011 Aaron's 499 was the eighth race of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season out of thirty six total races. The race was held on April 17 at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Jeff Gordon won his 70th pole position, leading a Hendrick Motorsports sweep of the top four starting positions (Gordon and Jimmie Johnson in row 1; Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in row 2). Nearly the entire race, in similar fashion to the 2011 Daytona 500, was marked by the prevalence of 2-car drafting. On the last lap, four 2-car drafting teams contended for the win (Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.; Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin; Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick; Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle), and all eight cars finished within about three car-lengths of each other. Johnson, pushed by Earnhardt, won the race by .002 seconds over Clint Bowyer, the 2010 fall race winner at the track.
The finish is tied for the closest in the Sprint Cup since NASCAR adopted electronic timing in 1993. The race will also perhaps be known for as Dave Blaney, racing for the low-funded Tommy Baldwin Racing, led several laps, including 5 laps to go. Kevin Harvick was heard on the radio that he "was gonna have nightmares about kids eating free" (If Blaney got a top 10, his sponsor Golden Corral would give kids a free meal the next day). However, Blaney spun out with 3 laps to go and finished 27th, although the next Talladega race, he finished 3rd, and "finally got to feed a bunch of hungry kids", as Blaney put it.
The track, Talladega Superspeedway, is one of six superspeedways to hold NASCAR races, the others being Daytona International Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway. The standard track at the speedway is a four-turn superspeedway that is 2.66 miles (4.28 km) long. The track's turns are banked at thirty-three degrees, while the front stretch, the location of the finish line, is banked at 16.5 degrees. The back stretch has a two-degree banking. Talladega Superspeedway can seat up to 143,231 people.
Before the race, Carl Edwards led the Drivers' Championship at 256 points, and Kyle Busch stood in second with 247 points. Matt Kenseth was third in the rankings with 243 points, tied with Jimmie Johnson in fourth, three points ahead of Kurt Busch.
To start the race, the front row drivers, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, picked up their respective teammates, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Mark Martin, as drafting partners. Gordon, with help from Martin, claimed the lead, leading the first few laps. On lap 3, the hooked-up pair of Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip began to challenge the two Hendrick pairs for the lead. On lap 10, Denny Hamlin pushed Ryan Newman through the field for the lead, but was passed a lap later by Brad Keselowski. Another lap later, Bowyer and Waltrip passed Keselowski for the lead. On lap 13, Kurt Busch claimed the lead with help from Landon Cassill, but was passed a lap later by Johnson and Earnhardt, who had momentarily fallen back to 15th and 16th places a few laps earlier. They were, in turn, repassed by Bowyer one lap later.
On lap 19, Kasey Kahne, who had started in 31st place, claimed the lead with help from Brian Vickers, marking the eighth lead change of the day. David Ragan briefly took the lead on lap 22, hooked up with Paul Menard, but was soon passed by Kurt Busch and Landon Cassill on the next lap. One lap later, coming off turn three, they were passed by Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Busch managed to maintain a lead over Bowyer for several laps. On lap 28, the first caution of the day waved as Cassill turned down and accidentally knocked Brian Vickers out of control in the back straightaway. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. also got some damage as he brushed with Jimmie Johnson while dodging Vickers' car, which had come to a rest in the middle of the track. Most of the drivers pitted under this caution. Cassill was penalized for pitting too early, and had to be moved to the back of the fieldied Carl Edwards briefly maintained the lead under the caution flag before he pitted.
On the lap 31 restart, Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip led the field. Bowyer then abandoned Waltrip and hooked up with his teammate Jeff Burton. On lap 34, Matt Kenseth briefly was in the lead, but Bowyer regained it before the field returned to the finish line. On lap 35, Kyle Busch and Logano pushed to the front on the inside line, but were passed by Kurt Busch when they were changing positions. A lap later, Bowyer used the advantage of Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski switching places to take the lead. On lap 38, David Ragan pushed Kenseth back to the lead. Kenseth led for three laps before being passed by Joey Logano and Kyle Busch on lap 42. Two laps later, Paul Menard pushed Regan Smith into the lead. Within one lap, they had switched positions and Menard was in front. On lap 46, Bowyer pushed Jeff Burton to the front, where he led until being temporarily passed by Kurt Busch and Keselowski. Burton and Bowyer maintained a lead until lap 50, when Kenseth passed them.
On lap 52, Brad Keselowski claimed the lead from Kenseth. On lap 53, Jimmie Johnson pushed Dale Earnhardt, Jr. into first place, duelling with Kenseth for the lead. On lap 56, Earnhardt and Johnson had a big lead, but were passed one lap later by the pair of Greg Biffle and Trevor Bayne. Kenseth and Ragan moved to the outside lane on lap 58. On lap 59, Bayne switched positions with Biffle to lead a lap, before being passed by Earnhardt and Johnson on lap 60. Clint Bowyer claimed the lead from Earnhardt on lap 62, but Earnhardt repassed him one lap later. One lap later, Bayne reclaimed the lead for three laps before Earnhardt repassed him as well.
The field cycled through green flag pit stops from lap 69 to lap 75, beginning with Carl Edwards and Marcos Ambrose on lap 69, and ending with Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton on lap 75. Earnhardt, Jr. and Jimmie Johnson briefly lost the lead for one lap to Trevor Bayne when they pitted, but when Bowyer and Burton pitted a few laps later, Johnson was leading, pushed by Earnhardt. This pair led for several more laps, until lap 83, when Ryan Newman claimed the lead with help from Kyle Busch. He was repassed by Johnson one lap later. Newman eventually maintained a solid first place position on lap 89.
One lap later, the second caution flag waved for a wreck on turn 3. This was the largest crash of the race, as the Big One did not happen. It started when Kurt Busch turned Brad Keselowski into the wall, causing a chain reaction that collected Kasey Kahne, Marcos Ambrose, David Ragan and Trevor Bayne. Kahne's car coasted down the apron on fire, and replays showed that Ragan's engine blew up heading into the wreck. During this caution, most of the field pitted, and Kurt Busch, pushed by his brother Kyle, led at the restart on lap 96. The Busch brothers were passed a lap later by the pair of Bowyer and Burton, but Kyle repushed Kurt to the lead on lap 98. Busch held onto his lead until lap 100 when he was passed by Dave Blaney. Within a lap, Carl Edwards claimed the lead. He maintained the lead until lap 104 when Kurt Busch repassed him. He held that lead until Clint Bowyer passed Regan Smith and Busch on lap 109.
Both Busch brothers shot back to the front on lap 111, leading for several more laps until Bowyer once again took the lead on lap 116. On lap 112, Terry Labonte and J.J. Yeley pitted. Paul Menard pushed Regan Smith to the lead on lap 117. Smith maintained this lead for one lap before being repassed by Bowyer, who led for one lap before being passed by Blaney, receiving a shove from Kevin Harvick, on lap 119. On lap 121, Terry Labonte received a penalty for speeding on pit road. Kurt Busch regained the lead on lap 122 as Blaney and Harvick switched positions. On lap 128, the third caution flag waved for debris that appeared to have come off of Clint Bowyer's car. Another round of pit stops began under the caution. The 61st lead change happened on lap 130 when Casey Mears momentaril assumed the lead before pitting, giving the lead back to Paul Menard, who led at the lap 132 restart. Regan Smith claimed the lead on lap 133 by pulling in front of and hooking up with Menard. On lap 134, Burton and Bowyer reclaimed the lead, with Burton in front, but were repassed by Dave Blaney one lap later. Burton reclaimed the lead on lap 139.
On lap 140, the fourth caution flag waved for a wreck on the backstretch. It started when Kyle Busch got loose from Joey Logano, causing Busch to veer left into Matt Kenseth, collecting him, and causing A.J. Allmendinger to spin out. Most cars pitted on lap 141, causing Bobby Labonte to lead for a pace lap, before he pitted and Kevin Harvick assumed the lead on lap 143. At the lap 144 restart, the four Richard Childress Racing cars - Harvick, Jeff Burton, Paul Menard, and Bowyer were in front. Harvick was passed on lap 147 by Martin Truex, Jr., whom he repassed a lap later. Truex reclaimed the lead on lap 150. By lap 152, Jeff Burton had claimed the lead from Harvick. On lap 154, Jamie McMurray claimed the lead with help from his teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, but one lap later, Blaney edged McMurray for the lead. On lap 158, Bowyer passed Blaney for the lead with help from Harvick.
On lap 163, the fifth caution flag was waved for debris on the track. Bowyer maintained his lead as other drivers pitted, and continued to lead at the restart on lap 167. Harvick fell back on the restart as a result of miscommunications with Burton and Bowyer. On lap 169, Menard gave Regan Smith another push to the lead, but was repassed by Bowyer a lap later. On lap 171, Ryan Newman nearly lost control of his car and bumped into Juan Pablo Montoya, inflicting minor damage to Montoya's car, but the green flag stayed out. Three laps later, the sixth caution flag was waved when Newman spun out on the back straightaway. By lap 176, Jeff Gordon moved up to third, with Mark Martin restarting behind him on lap 177, with Blaney in the lead. On lap 178, Harvick and Bowyer passed Gordon and Martin to claim the lead. Kurt Busch pushed Blaney back to the lead on lap 180.
On lap 184, Carl Edwards claimed the lead with help from Greg Biffle. On lap 185, Blaney spun out off of Kurt Busch's bumper, falling out of line, and Bowyer claimed the lead. Edwards and Biffle passed Bowyer and Harvick a lap later. Jeff Gordon overtook Edwards to claim the lead at the white flag. Heading down the back straightaway, Gordon and Mark Martin were on the inside lane, and were soon overtaken by Bowyer and Harvick. Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. began to move up and were a car length behind the two lead pairs exiting turn 4. They squeezed to the far inside lane between Martin and Gordon and the double yellow out-of-bounds line. Going through the tri-oval, Bowyer on the high side was a car length ahead of Gordon. Earnhardt, Jr. and Martin rubbed fenders, and Gordon briefly lost momentum. Johnson accelerated, and Bowyer lost speed as he hit a pocket of air, and Johnson inched ahead to beat Bowyer to the finish line by 0.002 seconds, the closest ever recorded finish at a restrictor plate race. At the finish line, the first eight cars were four wide, as Edwards and Biffle were running on the far outside, squeezed between the wall and Bowyer.
All four of the Hendrick cars had top ten finishes: Jeff Gordon finished third, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished fourth, and Mark Martin finished eighth.
|Wikinews has related news: NASCAR: Johnson beats Bowyer for victory in Aarons' 499|
- "Weather information for the 2011 Aaron's 499". The Old Farmers' Almanac. Retrieved 2013-06-26.
- "NASCAR Race Tracks". NASCAR.
- "NASCAR Tracks — The Talladega Superspeedway". Talladega Superspeedway.
- "Talladega". NASCAR.
- "Driver's Championship Classification". NASCAR. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
- "Race Summary". NASCAR. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
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