Crunching numbers: More Dega drama

April, 19, 2011
04/19/11
2:08
PM ET

Well, that was something, wasn't it? And yet, you can't please everybody.

Participating in the live ESPN.com chat during the race (why haven't you joined the party?), I found that many miss pack racing (drivers not included in that mix) and disapprove of the two-car drafts that have dominated restrictor-plate racing at Daytona and Talladega.

You can't argue with the results: a four-wide finish, something unforeseen at this level of racing. I mean, the NHRA did a four-wide event this week, but those cars already were locked into their lanes.

Maybe it's the dependence on another driver to make a run, or maybe it's how the packs are more spread out now than before, but the two-car draft has caused unrest among many who vote with their remotes and wallets.

However, how can you argue against a form of racing that allows underdog Dave Blaney and Tommy Baldwin Racing to lead the second-most laps in a race? Or one that results in the top eight cars being separated by .145 seconds? By the way, it takes 0.1 seconds to blink.

During the middle of the race, I was still trying to figure out what I thought of the two-car drafts. But by the end of the race, you could consider me sold on anything that gives us a finish unlike anything we've ever seen before.

By a hair

As I write this little blog, I'm hanging out in Studio G at ESPN, with the NASCAR Now Monday Roundtable being aired behind me. Among the panelists is Ricky Craven, who previously set the series record for closest win when he beat Kurt Busch by two-thousandths of a second at Darlington in 2003.

Ricky, my friend, you've got some company.

Jimmie Johnson's victory over Clint Bowyer was by the same margin, tied for the tightest finish since the series started electronic scoring in 1993.

If you're curious, it takes a hummingbird five times longer to beat its wings once. It takes 50 times longer to blink.

Trivia break! Which two drivers are tied for the third-closest wins, with .005-second victories?

Just another Dega race

Talk about a letdown. Last year at the spring Talladega race, there were 88 lead changes among 29 leaders, both Sprint Cup Series records.

This year, we matched only the number of lead changes, with one on each of the final five laps. And there were only 26 leaders, tied for third-most in series history.

Oh, yeah, and now it's eight of the past 12 Talladega races that have been decided by a last-lap pass. I'm going to go ahead and qualify Talladega as must-see TV.

Trivia break! Who beat Johnson with a last-lap pass at Talladega in 2007?

Milestone weekend

The win was the 54th of Johnson's already remarkable Cup career, tying him with Lee Petty for the ninth in series history. Rusty Wallace is just one ahead of that duo in eighth.

But Johnson wasn't the only Hendrick Motorsports employee to hit a milestone this weekend.

When Jeff Gordon won the pole, it was the 70th of his legendary Cup career. That broke a tie with Cale Yarborough for third in series history.

He's got a way to go to reel in first, however. Richard Petty had 123, and David Pearson 113.

Trivia break! Who is seventh all time with 76 wins?

Trivia break answers

1. Jamie McMurray (2007, Daytona) and Dale Earnhardt (1993, Talladega) both had .005-second wins.

2. Jeff Gordon got by Johnson on the last lap in 2007.

3. Earnhardt is seventh all time with 76 wins.

Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.

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