"Expect the unexpected." That is a true slogan for restrictor plate racing, because more often than not what ends up occurring is something no one would anticipate.
But what happened Sunday at Talladega wasn't just the unpredictable, nor was it just the unexpected...it was simply the unfathomable.
Sure, unexpected winners are nothing out of the ordinary at Talladega. It was in 2001 when Bobby Hamilton took the checkered flag, no less in a caution-free race. In 2008 it looked like Regan Smith upset the field, only to have it taken away because of a penalty. In 2009, no one had Brad Keselowski on the radar to upset the field.
But, to have a team that is under-funded, not the greatest track record, and weekly has to just try to make the race in order to even have a shot at paying employees to finish 1-2 at Talladega is unheard of.
Now, it is reality.
After waiting over three hours for a rain delay, and then having to fight darkness, sprinkles, and anything else that could happen, it was one green-white-checkered finish that made Front Row Motorsports the ultimate upset by not only winning the race with David Ragan, but also finishing runner-up with David Gilliland.
The only way something like this could happen would be to have it occur at Daytona or Talladega, where literally anyone could be in victory lane. Ragan certainly proved that even though he's with an under-funded team, his lessons at Roush-Fenway Racing paid dividends.
The writers, on the other hand, were all over the place, both during the race and at the finish. With 11 different picks among the 13 writers, and only four managing a top-10 finish, it was a typical Talladega race for everyone.
Here's how everyone somehow survived following the Aaron's 499:
Patti Rodisch (384) Jeff Gordon finished 11th (0)
Rob Tiongson (355) Jimmie Johnson finished 5th (1)
Billy Fellin (348) Matt Kenseth finished 8th (1)
Rob Blount (328) Clint Bowyer finished 18th (1)
Sal Sigala Jr. (315) Jimmie Johnson finished 5th (0)
Kara Martin (307) Brad Keselowski finished 15th (0)
Dustin Parks (306) Danica Patrick finished 33rd (0)
James Broomhead (303) Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 17th (1)
Ryan O'Hara (303) Kurt Busch finished 30th (0)
Kelly Crandall (297) Matt Kenseth finished 8th (0)
Michael Hirshbein (285) Kyle Busch finished 37th (2)
Christopher Leone (251) Denny Hamlin finished 34th (0)
Misan Akuya (250) Jamie McMurray finished 23rd (0)
Author Note: On Wednesday, the NASCAR Appeals Board reduced and rescinded some penalties to the No. 20 team of Matt Kenseth, which was penalized following his win at Kansas, where his team was docked points, money, and had team members suspended due to an engine part not meeting requirements.
Kenseth was docked 50 points following the win, and also had his pole award taken away, along with the win counting toward eligibility for the Chase, whether it be top-10 or Wild Card. The Appeals Panel reduced the points penalty from 50 to just 12 points, and all other sanctions were rescinded.
With that, the writer that picked Kenseth to win at Kansas, James Broomhead, has been given back 38 points to his total, and has also been credited with the win in the standings for Chase seeding.
Next Race: Talladega has always been a track where the unknown and the unexpected encompass the racing. Now that two plate tracks are in the past, teams are ready to move forward. The problem is, they now move to a track where history is deep, the track is difficult, and getting right against the wall is not only expected, in a way it's an honor.
This is a place where drivers truly earn their stripes...their DARLINGTON Stripe. Up next is the historic egg-shaped track in South Carolina, one that many have tamed, and others feel the wrath of the "Lady in Black."
Writers, it's time to tame your picks because they are due by 10 p.m. ET on Thursday, May 9, for the Bojangles' Southern 500.