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NASCAR: Fan-favorite Talladega still not a big hit with the drivers

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Jeff Gordon doesn’t like the Talladega Superspeedway. But if he was a fan, he’d be the first in line to watch a race there.

“From an entertainment standpoint, they should be lined up to the highway out there,” he said after missing a 31-car crash on the final lap of the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 Sunday to finish second. “If I’m a big race fan, I want to see two- and three-wide racing all day long, passing back and forth. I want to see guys shoving each other. I want to see the ‘big one’ at the end of the race because guys are being so aggressive, knowing that is something you could never imagine putting yourself into and sort of defying danger.”

Only five of the 36 cars remaining were involved in the fourth-turn crash that started when Tony Stewart tried to block Michael Waltrip’s pass. Matt Kenseth was ahead of Stewart, so he was ahead of the melee. Gordon was one of four other drivers to find an opening in the pileup.

Despite missing the crash, he doesn’t like the three-wide, 10-deep packs of traffic that generally leads to big accidents.

“I remember coming to Talladega when it was fun,” he said. “I haven’t experienced that in a long, long time. That was bumper cars at 200 mph. I don’t know anyone who likes that.”

Jack Roush, Kenseth’s car owner, was happy to win Sunday. But he’s not sure if he likes the style of racing at Talladega and its sister track at Daytona Beach, Fla.

“I figure the car’s a write-off when we leave the shop,” he said.

KURT BUSCH GOES OUT WITH A BANG: Kurt Busch made a grand exit from James Finch’s No. 51 Chevrolet Sunday, running out of gas and crashing on the 99th lap, then drawing the ire of NASCAR for not stopping after the accident.

Busch was running second when his Chevrolet suddenly slowed after running out of gas and was struck from behind. Rescue workers arrived at the car, but he quickly drove off with their equipment falling off the roof of his car and scattering along the backstretch.

NASCAR ordered him to stop, but he already had removed his helmet and couldn’t hear.

By the time he got to the garage, NASCAR ordered the car off the track for the rest of the race.

“I remembered with these engines they will run at 20 percent of fuel pressure to get it back to the garage, so I tried like heck,” Busch said. “That is the competitor in me, which is the desire that I have and that is what gets misconstrued all the time.

“This is the way my life works. Today is a perfect example. I am leading, I wreck, I run out of gas, I’m still that competitive guy that tried to get back in the race and now NASCAR is yelling at me because I don’t have my helmet on and I’m trying to get it to the garage so the guys can work on it. Now I’m in trouble, now I have this little storm right here. This is my life.”

Busch will move to the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet next week at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

TALLADEGA COMEDY CLUB: Comedians Kevin James and Larry the Cable Guy were at the speedway Sunday promoting new projects.

James was the grand marshal to offer a spirited command to start engines. He came to Talladega in advance of his new movie, “Here Comes the Boom.” Larry the Cable Guy was there as a spokesman for Prilosec OTC Wild Berry.

James laughed about sharing the bill with Larry the Cable Guy.

“Competing with Larry the Cable guy is like trying to wrestle with a penguin on the beach,” he said.

Larry the Cable Guy told several NASCAR-themed jokes, including:

“The price of gas is so high, I heard Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle and Danica Patrick decided to car pool during the race. They drew straws and Harvick rode shotgun. Danica sat in the back and complained about the way Biffle drove all day.”

He also talked of the infield atmosphere, saying: “This is like my family reunion, except nobody’s kissing my sister.”

PIT STOPS: Regan Smith will drive the James Finch’s No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet next week at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Finch said he will decide week by week for the rest of the season. Finch also met with truck series driver Nelson Piquet Jr. for nearly an hour Sunday morning to talk about running some Nationwide Series races in the future … The next race is the Bank of America 500 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night … In winning, Matt Kenseth became the second lame-duck driver in a row to win the fall race at Talladega. Kenseth will move to Joe Gibbs Racing next year. Clint Bowyer won last season after announcing his move to Michael Waltrip Racing.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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