The race was there to win. All Bobby Hamilton needed was a little push.
"I couldn't believe it," Hamilton said Sunday after shooting out of the pack two laps from the end to win the caution-free Talladega 500 at Talladega, Ala. "I was running maybe fifth or sixth on the outside and I could hold on by myself. To win it, though, I needed some help."
It came in the form of Andy Petree Racing teammate Joe Nemechek, who suddenly popped up behind Hamilton's No. 55 Chevrolet and gave him a big push past Tony Stewart.
Just like last October's race at Talladega Superspeedway and the disastrous Daytona 500 in February--which included a terrifying 19-car crash and another accident in which NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt was killed--this race featured nearly constant two- and three-wide racing by most of the 43-car field.
Nobody was able to dominate, although Sterling Marlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Stewart did take turns leading for extended periods.
In the end, though, it was Hamilton at the front of a long line of cars on the high side. He chased down Stewart's Pontiac two laps from the end of the 188-lap event.
It was the first NASCAR race without a caution period in nearly two years and the third-fastest 500-mile race in NASCAR history, with Hamilton averaging 184.003 mph.
A motorcycle racer was killed at Bakersfield Speedway after he reportedly crashed and was struck by another competitor.
Daniel Hart, 25, was pronounced dead at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital on Saturday night, a nursing supervisor said.
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Start Your Engine
* What: NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Grand National Series races.
* Where: California Speedway, Fontana.
* When: Friday-Sunday
* Races: NASCAR Busch Series and Winston Cup make their annual stops in Fontana with Busch qualifying scheduled for Friday at 12:30 p.m. and Winston Cup qualifying at 2:30 p.m. The Auto Club 300 is scheduled for Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The Napa Auto Parts 500 is scheduled for Sunday at 11:30 a.m.