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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Clint Bowyer pushed teammate Jeff Burton around and around Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday.
With the checkered flag in sight, he bailed.
Bowyer pulled around Burton as they closed in on the finish line, grabbing his first win of the season while giving Richard Childress Racing its 100th victory in the Sprint Cup Series.
“I knew he was going to make a move,” Burton said. “He was supposed to make a move. He ain’t expected to push me to the win.”
It was redemption for Bowyer too. He lost the spring race at Talladega when Dale Earnhardt Jr. pushed Jimmie Johnson past the Bowyer-Burton tandem and Bowyer settled for second. At New Hampshire last month, he led late but ran out of gas in the closing laps as Tony Stewart took the victory.
RCR grabbed the victory at NASCAR’s biggest and fastest track roughly 30 minutes after a memorial service for two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon ended in Indianapolis. Wheldon was killed in the IndyCar season finale a week ago at Las Vegas, and NASCAR honored him with decals on all the cars and a moment of silence before the start of the race.
The Wheldon death made for some poignant moments during pre-race, as Kevin Harvick clung tightly to wife, Delana, and many drivers were seen giving long embraces to loved ones.
And as expected, the race heated up in the closing laps.
Drivers jockeyed for position and partners in the new two-car drafting system. Although the race was not marred by “the big one,” there was a series of accidents, and the last, with eight laps remaining, was a hard hit by Regan Smith that required repairs to the SAFER barrier.
It made for a shake-up in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings. Harvick and Kyle Busch were both in accidents, and five-time defending series champion Johnson finished 26th as he and partner Earnhardt never made their charge to the front.
Carl Edwards, who came into the race up five points over Harvick, finished 11th and saw his lead swell to 14 points over Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth.