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A NASCAR-record 28 drivers led and there were 31 lead changes. The race also featured several tire failures and lived up to its reputation as the "wild card" of the 10 Chase events. Because of its white-knuckle racing conditions, Talladega is the one Chase race every driver fears will ruin his title hopes.
It most certainly did for Denny Hamlin, who was taken to a Birmingham hospital after his tire exploded while he was leading and his car slammed into the outside wall. He finished 39th and dropped to last in the Chase field.
And it may very well have sunk the Roush Fenway Racing trio of Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth, who were at the front of a 12-car accident with 16 laps to go. It started when Edwards tried to give Biffle a shove to the front, but the bump caused Biffle to spin into Kenseth as all three Roush Fenway Racing cars crashed.
The carnage spread to Chase drivers Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch, but Johnson deftly maneuvered through the wreckage and pushed his lead in the standings to 72 points over Edwards. Biffle is in third, 77, out and Stewart jumped four spots with the victory to seventh.
"Hopefully this will give us a little momentum over the last few races and get us into the top five where we belong," Zipadelli said.
Edwards immediately accepted responsibility for the accident that sunk several Chase drivers.
"I was just pushing Greg as hard as I could. This is my fault, I apologize to everyone caught up in the wreck," Edwards said. "It's my fault. I feel bad I took my teammates out. I know Matt's mad, and I'm sure Greg is mad. I always worry about the idiots when I come here and today it was me."
Although most everyone agreed Edwards was at fault, the drivers seemed resigned to the Talladega conditions playing a role.
"Same old Talladega," said Biffle, winner of the first two Chase races. "This will hurt us in the points, but we've got six more. We knew this one was the wild card ... you just can't expect anything out of Talladega."
"He made a mistake and tore up most of the field," Harvick said. "It's Talladega, you have a 50-50 opportunity to come here and miss the wreck and today we got in it."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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