Phoenix Rising;

Spartanburg’s Phoenix Racing wins at Talladega

                                                     April 2009          Dale WIlkerson



David Pearson, Bud Moore, Cotton Owens, Rex White, James Hylton, Jack Smith, Joe Eubanks, Crawford Clements, and Mario Rossi are names on the list of drivers and team owners from Spartanburg County that have won top level NASCAR Sprint Cup races.

            Add to that list, team owner James Finch, as rookie driver Brad Keselowski charged his way to the front Sunday at Talladega.

            This win marked the first by a Spartanburg based team, at the Sprint Cup level, since Geoff Bodine won for Bud Moore at Sears Point in 1993.  

            The Aaron’s 499 featured over 50 lead changes, two huge pile ups, and a last lap heart stopping crash by Carl Edwards.

            Edwards and Keselowski hooked up in a high grove draft and ran down the leading duo of Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Keselowski looked high coming off turn four and Edwards moved up to block. Keselowski then dove to the inside, getting his nose to the inside of Edwards Ford. Edwards moved low to block and he clipped Keselowski’s Chevy. Edwards turned sideways, and the car lifted off the track. Just as the car started to set back down, Ryan Newman, with no where to go, hit Edwards, launching him into the air. The car flipped over and tore into the catch fence, very reminiscent of Bobby Allison’s 1987 crash, before landing up right on the race track.

            Edwards was quick to remove any blame from Keselowski, saying due to the current rules at Daytona and Talladega, Keselowski did all he could.

            If Keselowski had turned left to avoid the contact, he would have dipped below the double yellow line. If he had completed the pass, he would have received a five second penalty just like Reagan Smith did last fall. Smith felt that he was forced below the line last year by Tony Stewart, and he avoided causing a wreck. NASCAR ruled that he was not forced below the line and awarded the win to Stewart.

            This wreck, with the impact with the catch fence, will have NASCAR looking at doing something different on the last lap perhaps, in regard to the yellow line and blocking . Reports after the race stated that as many as eight spectators were transported to the hospital with injuries from cuts to broken bones.

            Looking ahead to the Brickyard 400, NASCAR has another looming tire problem, much like what happened with last year’s stop at Indy. Recent tire tests have seen the tires only lasting 12 laps. Last year, due to so many tire failures, NASCAR was forced to throw the caution flag in ten lap intervals, in an attempt to keep drivers from blowing out tires and testing the SAFER barriers.

            The problem faced by the Sprint Cup teams and the tires at The Brickyard is speed. Those long 5/8’s of a mile straights lets the cars flirt of the magic 200-mph mark each lap. Combine that high speed, with a car that has a lot of down force, combined with the flat near 90 degree corners, and the tires just can’t hold up to the stress.

            Perhaps NASCAR will look at smaller carburetors or restrictor plates to slow the cars down. I am not a fan of the plates, but I didn’t like what we say at The Brickyard last year.

            Inman’s James Hylton, 74 years young, stayed on the lead lap all day last Friday in the ARCA race at Talladega. Hylton, the 1972 Talladega 500 winner, finished 15th in the race even with some front end damage during a chain reaction bump up on a late race restart.

            Hylton’s good run Friday afternoon, added to another good weekend at the Alabama speed factory for Spartanburg County teams. Last Thursday, former team owner Bud Moore was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. With Keselowski winning the race Sunday for team owner James Finch, Spartanburg based teams and drivers now have ten wins at the track that should be called the Spartanburg Super-Speedway.

            If some things could have been done differently and Big Bill France could have built this track where he wanted. Well, I can only think of a line from a country song; “What might have been..”