Bowyer edges Burton at flag, Chase standings receive jolt
10/24/2011 12:00 AM
10/24/2011 12:08 AM
TALLADEGA, Ala. —Teamwork meant very little in the closing laps at Talladega Superspeedway.
Unless, of course, you were driving a Ford.
Emporia native Clint Bowyer bailed on teammate Jeff Burton on the last lap of Sunday's race, pulling around him when the checkered flag was in sight to pick up his first win of the season and the 100th in the Sprint Cup Series for Richard Childress Racing.
"You hate that it comes down to that; it is what it is," shrugged Bowyer. "You owe it to your team, to your sponsors to go out and win the race. Unfortunately, it came down to that situation."
Burton and the RCR bunch understood that's how the game is played.
The grumbling was far behind the leaders, where Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne ditched Jeff Gordon because Bayne was part of a pact made by Ford drivers to only push fellow Ford drivers in an effort to help Roush Fenway Racing drivers Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth in the championship race.
Gordon was seventh on the final restart and thought Bayne was committed to pushing him over the last two laps. Instead, Bayne backed off, and Gordon, with no help, faded to 27th. An animated Bayne went immediately to Gordon's car after the race, then posted his thoughts on Twitter.
"I'm not happy about what this has become," he posted on Twitter in reference to Talladega's two-car drafting style and the reliance on partners.
"It's too premeditated. We should be able to go with whoever is around us. I would have rather pulled over and finished last than tell (Gordon) I would work with him and then be strong armed into bailing."
Gordon said he was deceived.
"The Fords made it very clear about what they were doing in working with one another," Gordon said. "So I didn't expect him to commit to me on the radio. I expected him to say, 'Man, I'm sorry, I can't.' And when he said, 'Yeah, I'm pushing you, we're good,' I believed him. I think they had a different plan."
It made for a shake-up in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings. Harvick and Kyle Busch were both in accidents, and five-time defending series champion Johnson finished 26th as he and partner Earnhardt never made their charge to the front.
Edwards, who came into the race up five points over Harvick, finished 11th and saw his lead swell to 14 points over Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth.
Bowyer, the defending race winner, snapped a 34-race losing streak and thanked Burton from Victory Lane.
"We just were really good together. We thought about it, we talked about it a lot before the race and things really did play out just how we planned," said Bowyer, who is moving to Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of the season.
"It was a pretty calm day, to be honest, kind of methodical. We wanted to stay up front. I told him we needed to stay up front, that way when the time comes, we're ready for it and we can race the way we should race. I was trying to figure out where to pass him, and said 'I'm at least going to give a shot at it.' And I knew it was going to be a drag race."
Kurt Busch, who was involved in an accident with Bobby Labonte, also griped about the tandem racing after his 36th-place finish. Busch ran directly into Labonte, partly because he was pushing another car and didn't have any time to see Labonte spinning ahead.
"Our championship hopes are done just because of this two-car Talladega draft," said Busch, who is sixth in the standings, 50 points behind Edwards.