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Publication: NASCAR News
Stewart Wins First Race At Talladega

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          NASCAR NEWS - Thursday, May 1, 2008

Stewart wins first race at Talladega as Junior fades
NASCAR rookie Franchitti injures ankle in hard crash
By Sporting News Wire Service

TALLADEGA, Ala. - Pole-sitter Tony Stewart held off a last-
lap challenge from Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Saturday to claim 
his first victory at Talladega Superspeedway in any series. 

"Boys, we won at Talladega!" Stewart shouted as he crossed 
the finish line in the Aaron's 312 Nationwide Series race 
.302 of a second ahead of runner-up David Stremme. It was 
Stewart's third Nationwide win of the season. 

Bobby Hamilton Jr. ran third, Jason Leffler fourth and Mark 
Green fifth, as Earnhardt dropped to sixth after Stewart 
repelled his last-ditch run on the final lap. 


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"I didn't think leading was the place to be," said Stewart, 
who led Earnhardt to the line for a restart with two laps 
to go in the 117-lap event, after a caution for debris in 
Turn 4 had slowed the race on Lap 113. "I still don't 
think, even after winning the race, that being the leader 
there with two laps to go was the right place to be. 

"But we did what we had to do, and they got spread out 
behind us, and we got the push we needed there at the 

Earnhardt surged to the front on the final lap but faded 
on the outside when Stremme stayed with Stewart on the 
bottom of the track. 

"Me and Tony worked great together the whole race," 
Earnhardt said. It was down to the last lap, and I thought 
we had it timed good, but my run wasn't as strong as it 
could have been -- and Tony was just so strong." 

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The entire complexion of the race changed dramatically 
in an instant, 12 laps past the halfway point. 

Stewart was leading Earnhardt through Turn 1 on Lap 71 
when Kevin Lepage pulled onto the track from the pit 
road into the front of the field and triggered a chain-
reaction pileup that collected 14 cars, including the 
contending vehicles of Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, 
David Reutimann, Steve Wallace, Reed Sorenson and Kyle 

Casualties of the wreck included six of the top 10 in 
the Nationwide Series standings entering the race and 
the other two drivers of the Wallace contingent -- Mike 
and Kenny -- all of whom were running in the top 10 
when the melee occurred. Mike Wallace sustained minimal 
damage and was able to continue. 

Edwards, who could not get out of the way when Lepage 
entered the racing surface in front of him, was 
understandably frustrated. 


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"This restrictor-plate racing -- it's a great spectacle, 
but somebody could get killed," said Edwards, who escaped 
injury in the crash. 

Dario Franchitti, driver of the No. 40 Dodge, was injured 
during a crash on Lap 11. Franchitti blew a tire, hit the 
outside wall and slid down the track in Turn 3 into the 
path of Larry Gunselman, whose No. 91 Ford slammed into 
the driver's side of Franchitti's Dodge. Conscious and 
alert, Franchitti was taken to an ambulance on a stretcher 
and transported to a local hospital for further evaluation. 
Gunselman likewise was taken to a local hospital for 

NASCAR announced that Franchitti suffered a fractured left 
ankle and minor contusions. He was expected to be released 
from the hospital Saturday evening but will not race in 
Sunday's Aaron's 499. Stremme, who drove for Ganassi last 
year, will replace Franchitti. Stremme needed approval 
from Rusty Wallace Inc., his Nationwide team, and from 
Penske Racing, whom he recently signed with as a test 
driver, to have the opportunity. 

Clint Bowyer entered the race as the series points leader 
but was caught in the same wreck that sidelined Franchitti. 
After repairs to his No. 2 Chevrolet, Bowyer returned to 
the track and finished 25th, helping him hold on to the 
top spot in the standings. 

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