I'm back at Talladega today. Our paper prefers that we commute rather than stay at area hotels, so it's been a busy 12 hours for yours truly and columnist/driver Josh "Bag" Moon.
I'll just go through things that hit me as we move along today. Understand that I know very little about racing overall.---PRE RACE---
*The crowd is absolutely epic. The grandstands hold 140k allegedly. There are LOTS of people here who will not be in seats.
*We attended the driver introductions at the start/finish line. Fans here do not like Jeff Gordon. Fans here love Dale Jr. They're split on Jimmie Johnson. Most everyone else received lukewarm support.
*Walked along the pits just before the cars fired up. I counted three black pit-crew members, which seemed odd to me. We're talking about a population of at least 300.
*There must be a memo that goes around to driver wives/girlfriends about how to dress. They have a homogenous look about them. Tight jeans. Loose light-colored tops. Sunglasses with huge rims. Long hair.
*Jeff Gordon received a pre-race check for $80,000 provided by Nextel. He earned that money by winning last week's race at Phoenix while leading the points race. That's a lot of money!
*Denny Hamlin received a $5,000 check from DirecTV for spending "the least amount of time in the pits last week." I hope that money goes to Hamlin's pit crew.
*It was neat to see Ryan Newman's pit crew throwing the ol' pigskin around along pit road before the race. You do what you have to do, I suppose.
*A member of Mart Truex's pit crew poured Coca-Cola along the perimeter of their pit area. He said it's a tradition. He didn't do this the easy way. He blasted a hole near the bottom of the can, then walked slowly as the drink sprayed out slowly.-----IN RACE-----
*Darrell Waltrip opened the FOX broadcast with this fine description of Alabama: "The capital of 'boogity'". I hope you're proud to be part of this commonwealth.
*Lap 74: Yellow flag for debris. Tony Stewart gets a lap back. That's an ironic development considering Stewart's complaints last week about debris cautions
. He later retracted the comments. Stewart was in that lap-down position because he was black flagged for speeding on pit road.
*Lap 80: Clint Bowyer grazed the wall in turn 2. His spotter radioed: "You just made (the car) a little smaller. No problem." Two laps later, one of Bowyer's right tires blew and he spun into the wall. Yes, a problem.
*Lap 126: Casey Mears crashes after being bumped by teammate Jimmie Johnson. It was a hard lick against the wall. I'll bet Mears will say he was trying to get into pit road. Not sure why two teammates would hook up like that.
*Lap 132: Big wreck. Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton and Joe Nemechek are out. Not sure whom to blame: Tony Raines or Jimmie Johnson. They started it. Ricky Rudd was hit but he's back out there after losing three laps. Mart Truex was bumped around, too, but remains on the track.
*Laps 150-160: I went down to pit road. It's a really bustling place. Saw some guys from Kenny Wallace's team giving kids some used (broken) lugnuts. The kids were stoked. When teams are knocked from the race, they vacate their spot along pit road. That lets people like me roll in there and watch the race from the wall. It's pretty incredible.
42 J.P. Montoya (lap 162) -- clipped by Ryan Newman, right side crushed.
25 Mears (lap 126) -- spun, hit inside wall on turn 4. In a bad mood.
5 Kyle Busch (lap 132) -- inside wall
13 Joe Nemechek (lap 132) -- inside wall
31 Jeff Burton (lap 132) -- rebounds
CRASHED BUT BACK OUT:
07 Bowyer (lap 82) -- right tire blown, hit turn 3.
OTHERWISE OUT OF THE RACE:
15 Paul Menard (oil-pressure issue)
99 Carl Edwards (engine valve)
7 Robby Gordon (tba)
88 Dale Jarrett (tba)