Talladega delivers wrecks, Stewart sends message

Tony Stewart delivered a tongue-in-cheek message to fans who had

been clamoring for some bang-’em-up wrecks.

Happy now?

”Honestly, I think if we haven’t crashed at least 50 percent of

the field by the end of the race, we need to extend the race until

we crash at least 50 percent of the cars,” Stewart said after

Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. ”It’s not fair to these

fans to see any more wrecks than that, any more torn-up cars. I

mean, we still had over half the cars running at the end, and it

shouldn’t be that way.”

Barely over half. Ten drivers were knocked out by accidents,

including a nine-car pileup Sunday that swept up Stewart with four

laps to go and brought out the yellow flag.

Add on the mechanical problems, and only 23 of the 43 drivers

managed to stay on the track for the entire 194 laps in a race won

by Brad Keselowski.

So much for that month-long stretch of caution-free – boring? –

racing. The Sprint Cup Series hadn’t had a multi-car crash since

Martinsville Speedway, five races ago. The last six had been

uncharacteristically clean with few yellow flags.

Talladega took care of that, with five cautions for a total of

24 laps. And Stewart made his point, too.

”I’m upset that we didn’t crash more cars,” said Stewart, who

finished 24th. ”That’s what we’re here for. I feel bad if I don’t

spend at least $150,000 in torn-up race cars going back to the

shop. We’ve definitely got to do a better job at that.”

Juan Pablo Montoya was knocked out earlier, and didn’t bother

with any tongue-in-cheek assessments.

”It’s Talladega, you know,” Montoya said. ”Some people call

that exciting. I don’t. It sucks. We were running a smart race.

Somebody runs out of gas, somebody hit him and threw him right into

us.”

Keselowski said some races are more like chess matches, with

strategy and smart moves playing the big roles. Some, he said,

require the drivers to be more like daredevils.

Guess which driving style gets the biggest rise from the

announced crowd of 108,500 in Talladega?

”When we come here, we’re probably more daredevils,”

Keselowski said. ”You hope that you split the middle of the two,

and that’s what racing is.

”Chess matches aren’t on TV and not a lot of people watch them

and they sure as hell don’t get 100,000 people to come to the track

or the match. I’ll live with that.”

FRUSTRATED GORDON: Jeff Gordon thought he had driven safely away

from another late-race, nine-car pileup. Then he got clipped and

found himself surging up the track to smash into the wall 142 laps

in.

It’s that kind of season for Gordon, who started on the pole and

wound up watching the finish on TV.

”I thought I was in the clear,” he said. ”I was on the bottom

just kind of cruising by, then all of a sudden got nailed in the

door. Somebody hit somebody and knocked them into us. That’s just

the way this season’s been going for us. I want to laugh at it, but

I want to cry, too.

”It’s just ridiculous that we cannot catch a single break. And

they’re bringing these unbelievable race cars to the track.”

The misfortune dropped Gordon from the top 20 in the points

standings to No. 23. It also left him bemused, as well as

disappointed.

Gordon, a four-time series champion with six Talladega wins,

called it ”one of the most bizarre years” his team has been

through.

”At this point, we just have to kind of smile and laugh about

it and find it comical and go onto the next race and try to win,”

he said. ”That’s all we can do.”

The crash also knocked Carl Edwards, Dave Blaney, Landon Cassill

and Montoya from the race.

DANICA DISCUSSION: NASCAR officials will likely speak to Danica

Patrick next week about her incident with Sam Hornish Jr. after the

Nationwide Series race at Talladega.

Patrick intentionally wrecked Hornish on the cool-down lap of

Saturday’s race. She was upset that Hornish had run her up the

track on the last lap of the race.

The incident was unusual for those two drivers, who raced

against each other for years in IndyCar and by all accounts seemed

to have a good relationship. But Hornish angrily confronted Patrick

after the race.

”I’m mad to get wrecked after the race,” said Hornish, who

said his right front tire went down on the last lap.

”I couldn’t turn and couldn’t keep it down (off Patrick). And

then (Patrick) decided to turn me after the race was over into the

wall. So you’ll have that.”

Patrick said Hornish apologized for running her up the

track.

”He just came across the track and that’s all I know,” Patrick

said. ”I’m not really sure what happened. I’ve known Sam for a

really long time and I know what to be ready for around him and I

don’t know what happened.”

NASCAR did not summon either driver after the race for a

discussion, but officials said they’ll likely speak to Patrick next

week at Darlington.

ENGINE TROUBLES: Jimmie Johnson had another big-time, big-track

disappointment.

Engine troubles knocked the five-time NASCAR champion from

contention for a repeat victory on lap No. 62 after he had moved

from 19th to the front of the pack.

”We were up there leading the race,” said Johnson, who led

five laps but had to settle for 35th. ”I’m all excited, then I

smelled a little oil and I’m like, `Man, this is leaking oil.’ I

looked in the mirror and I was smoking. I was, `Oh, it’s me.’

”It’s disappointing, but there’s not much you can do.”

He still made it deeper into the race than he did at the Daytona

500, when Johnson wrecked on the second lap after getting nudged

from behind by Elliott Sadler. He finished 42nd.

This was another setback out of his control, but Johnson was

philosophical about the disappointment that dropped him two spots

to No. 8 in the points standings.

”It hurts when you’re up there leading the race,” he said. ”I

led for a while before we had the issue, but we don’t have many

parts failures. It’s just the way it is. I’d rather take it now

early in the season and hopefully learn something for the next big

track. Our car was super-fast. We started 19th and got up there in

the lead.”

Two other Chevrolet drivers had left earlier with engine

failure. Ryan Newman made it to the 43rd lap, while Regan Smith had

problems on No. 15.