5 Lessons Learned: Hendrick Boys Stick Together Again

By Jared Turner

The Earnhardt Legacy Lives At Talladega

An unusually emotional Dale Earnhardt Jr. opened up in Victory Lane about how much winning at Talladega meant to him. This was Junior’s sixth win but first since 2004 at the venerable 2.66-mile track where his legendary father won 10 times before his death in February 2001. “I love when we go to Victory Lane because I feel like I add to his legacy there. All I ever want to do is make him proud,” said Junior, whose win came just a few days after what would have been his dad’s 64th birthday. “I feel like when we win at those tracks where he was successful, that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

The ‘Big One’ Can’t Be Avoided

You didn’t really think we could go 188 laps Sunday at Talladega and not have at least one major multicar pileup, did you? With the pack bunched together in vintage Talladega fashion on Lap 46, chaos erupted when Trevor Bayne’s Roush Fenway Racing Ford broke loose exiting Turn 2. With nowhere to go, 14 others – including reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, 2015 Daytona 500 champion Joey Logano and Danica Patrick – were involved. NASCAR then red-flagged the race for more than 11 minutes to clean up the mess. Amazingly, only two of the cars caught up in the wreck were officially knocked out of the race.

The Hendrick Boys Stick Together

As we have seen in past Talladega races, when it comes down to the final laps, the Hendrick Motorsports boys usually stick together. It happened again Sunday as Jimmie Johnson pushed teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the victory, holding the rest of the field at bay. Could Johnson have pulled out and made a move on Earnhardt Jr.? Probably, but Earnhardt stood to gain a lot more by winning since Johnson, with two wins already under his belt this season, had already locked up a berth in the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Earnhardt, on the other hand, had been winless in the season’s first nine races and needed a victory to cement his place in the Chase.

Ryan Blaney Is Impressive

Running just a partial Sprint Cup Series schedule this season for Wood Brothers Racing, Ryan Blaney had finished no better than 19th in three outings. But on Sunday at Talladega, the 21-year-old second-generation driver was competitive all race long and when it came time to go for the win was running in the lead pack with a chance to pull off a stunner. He ultimately finished fourth, but it was an all-around solid effort for the young driver and the legendary Wood Brothers organization which last went to Victory Lane in the 2011 Daytona 500 with Trevor Bayne. In the process, Blaney felt like he earned respect from several veteran drivers.

NASCAR Doesn’t Want To Throw Yellow

NASCAR opted not to throw the caution for several wrecking cars on the last lap at Talladega, instead letting the leaders race back to the start/finish line for the victory. The decision to leave the race under green drew criticism from multiple drivers, however. Among them were Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth. After his Toyota spun and slid into the grass and then back onto the track into the path of oncoming traffic, Edwards said drivers racing past a spinning car is “the most dangerous thing in the sport right now.” Kenseth said he was “dumbfounded” that NASCAR didn’t wave the caution flag.