html

ThatsRacin.com


Race Rewind: Looking back at the Aaron's 499

- rbonnell@charlotteobserver.com
Sunday, May. 05, 2013

Observations

bull; It's shocking how few people showed up for Sunday's race in Talladega. Granted, the track is massive, so whatever crowd was there was spread out. But Sunday demonstrated fans' preference to stay home and watch on the HD flat screen.

bull; NASCAR is obviously the most technology-heavy of the major sports. You know what counts for as much as anything? Great weather radar. Sunny as it was for the first lap, every team was estimating when the race would be half-over (earliest it could be declared complete) and plotting strategy to be out front if/when it started pouring.

bull; You know that Talladega is a massive track when it's sprinkling on one end and dry at the other.

Notebook

Hamlin exits the car: It was an open question whether Denny Hamlin would get out of his car at the first caution in his first race back from a fractured vertebra suffered in late March. He did, exiting the FedEx Express Ford through a roof flap 24 laps into the race.

Brian Vickers replaced Hamlin behind the wheel. Hamlin was medically cleared to drive as long as he chose to, but he saw that driving "half-throttle' to avoid potential crashes wasn't doing his team any good. The changeover to Vickers took about a minute in the pit. Hamlin expects to stay in the car full-time starting Saturday in Darlington.

"The exchange went great,'' Hamlin said. "Obviously we've had a few repititions at it. I had a checklist in the car with things that I needed to do before I got out to switch over to the next driver. Everything went seamless and painless.''

Oil slick: Trevor Bayne's engine blew just 24 laps into the race. It was conspicuous, in that Bayne's car blew while smoke for nearly a full lap before he coasted into pit road. But that wasn't the real issue for other drivers.

"I'm surprised the whole field didn't crash with so much oil that's pouring out of this thing,'' Bayne said of his car. "We were lucky to hold onto it and keep this car in one piece, because it's gonna be fast at Daytona in July.''

Did he sense a problem?

"There was no warning at all. I got to turn one and it let go.''

A little rain dance: Knowing he'd win the race under caution if the rain became heavy and continuous, Carl Edwards had a funny line for Fox: "I think it looks real bad out there. People should run for cover.''

Labonte up front: For a brief time after the rain delay, veteran driver Bobby Labonte got to the front. Labonte, who's driven 700 races at the Sprint Cup level, last led in Indianapolis last summer, according to the Fox telecast.

5 key moments

1. Hamlin uses an early caution (Trevor Bayne's engine trouble) to turn his Toyota over to Brian Vickers before any crashes occur.

2. The Big One, 44 laps in. There is always a huge crash at Talladega, This one happened a little earlier than you might have anticipated.

3. Danica Patrick - right behind the contact between Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne that started the big crash - weaves her way to the bottom of the track, avoiding what almost certainly would have been a collision.

4. Sprinkles start falling on the track nearly two hours into the race. It took 3 * hours for the race to resume.

5. Teammates David Ragan and David Gilliland blow through the field on the final restart, with just enough daylight to complete this race.

Next race

Bojangles' Southern 500

Where: Darlington (SC.) Raceway

When: 6:45 p.m. Saturday

TV: Fox

More racing news, blogs, photos and more at www.ThatsRacin.com.