(AP photo/Steve Helber)

Talladega wrecks result in just minimal changes in Sprint Cup points; Gordon, Kenseth still 1-2

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Okay, take the ‘Dega mulligan and move on.

That’s pretty much the scenario for most of the drivers in the Sprint Cup standings after Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Because so many of the top drivers in the rankings coming into the race were involved in wrecks, the overall standings didn’t really change all that much.

Jeff Gordon remained in first place in the Cup standings, three points ahead of Matt Kenseth, who stayed in second place.

Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. each gained one spot in the rankings, moving up to third (four points behind Gordon) and fourth (-19), respectively.

Carl Edwards dropped one place, into a tie for fourth with Earnhardt.

Rounding out the top 10 after ‘Dega, Joey Logano remained in sixth place (-42), Jimmie Johnson improved from eighth to seventh (-43), Greg Biffle gained three places to jump to eighth (-47), Ryan Newman remained in ninth (-48) and Brian Vickers remained in 10th (-50).

The biggest improvement in the standings by any driver Sunday was three positions, by both Biffle and by Clint Bowyer, who climbed into the top 20 and left Talladega in 18th position (-86).

Suffering the biggest drop in the standings was Tony Stewart, who fell six places, from 15th to 21st (-103).

Other changes of note:

* Brad Keselowski dropped four places in the standings, from seventh to 11th (-53).

* Jamie McMurray dropped five places, from 19th to 24th (-106).

* Kurt Busch fell out of the top 25 to 27th (-151).

* Last year’s spring Talladega race winner David Ragan dropped four spots to 35th after Sunday’s race (-216).

* In what he has previously said would be the final race of his three-plus decade Cup career, Terry Labonte finished

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UNOFFICIAL Provided by NASCAR Statistics- Sunday, 5/4/2014 @ 4:42 PM Central UNOFFICIAL

Points Report

Talladega Superspeedway

45th Annual Aaron’s 499

Pos Driver BonusPts Points Ldr Nxt Starts Poles Wins T5s T10s DNFs Money Won PPos G/L

1 Jeff Gordon 7 347 0 0 10 0 0 4 7 0 $2,382,113 1 0
2 Matt Kenseth 8 344 -3 -3 10 1 0 3 7 0 $2,028,762 2 0
3 Kyle Busch 10 343 -4 -1 10 1 1 3 5 0 $2,114,368 4 1
4 Dale Earnhardt Jr 10 328 -19 -15 10 0 1 5 6 1 $2,799,753 5 1
5 Carl Edwards 8 328 -19 0 10 0 1 2 5 1 $1,601,948 3 -2
6 Joey Logano 16 305 -42 -23 10 1 2 5 5 2 $2,293,318 6 0
7 Jimmie Johnson 9 304 -43 -1 10 0 0 3 5 0 $2,107,568 8 1
8 Greg Biffle 5 300 -47 -4 10 0 0 2 4 0 $1,814,683 11 3
9 Ryan Newman 3 299 -48 -1 10 0 0 0 4 0 $1,370,198 9 0
10 Brian Vickers 3 297 -50 -2 10 0 0 2 4 0 $1,659,513 10 0
11 Brad Keselowski 13 294 -53 -3 10 1 1 4 4 0 $2,577,893 7 -4
12 Denny Hamlin 9 292 -55 -2 9 1 1 2 3 0 $2,401,200 14 2
13 Kyle Larson # 0 286 -61 -6 10 0 0 2 5 1 $1,613,533 13 0
14 Austin Dillon # 1 281 -66 -5 10 0 0 0 1 0 $1,711,908 12 -2
15 AJ Allmendinger 2 279 -68 -2 10 0 0 1 3 0 $1,406,400 17 2
16 Marcos Ambrose 2 268 -79 -11 10 0 0 2 2 0 $1,527,933 16 0
17 Paul Menard 3 265 -82 -3 10 0 0 1 5 0 $1,800,698 18 1
18 Clint Bowyer 5 261 -86 -4 10 0 0 1 3 2 $1,575,053 21 3
19 Kevin Harvick 16 258 -89 -3 10 1 2 2 4 2 $1,901,923 20 1
20 Kasey Kahne 3 252 -95 -6 10 0 0 0 3 1 $1,372,383 22 2
21 Tony Stewart 1 244 -103 -8 10 1 0 2 4 1 $1,603,348 15 -6
22 Casey Mears 1 244 -103 0 10 0 0 0 1 0 $1,429,267 23 1
23 Aric Almirola 1 242 -105 -2 10 0 0 1 2 2 $1,517,363 24 1
24 Jamie McMurray 1 241 -106 -1 10 0 0 0 2 1 $1,578,368 19 -5
25 Ricky Stenhouse Jr 0 218 -129 -23 10 0 0 1 3 0 $1,648,363 26 1
26 Martin Truex Jr 0 209 -138 -9 10 0 0 0 1 1 $1,402,793 27 1
27 Kurt Busch 7 196 -151 -13 10 0 1 2 2 4 $1,283,708 25 -2
28 Justin Allgaier # 1 190 -157 -6 10 0 0 0 0 1 $1,328,504 28 0
29 Danica Patrick 2 176 -171 -14 10 0 0 0 0 1 $1,219,363 29 0
30 David Gilliland 3 152 -195 -24 10 0 0 0 0 1 $1,285,819 30 0
31 Michael Annett # 0 144 -203 -8 10 0 0 0 0 2 $1,168,724 33 2
32 Alex Bowman # 0 132 -215 -12 10 0 0 0 0 2 $1,135,470 34 2
33 Reed Sorenson 3 131 -216 -1 10 0 0 0 0 3 $1,108,794 32 -1
34 Cole Whitt # 0 131 -216 0 10 0 0 0 0 1 $1,062,083 35 1
35 David Ragan 3 131 -216 0 10 0 0 0 0 1 $1,210,228 31 -4
36 Josh Wise 0 119 -228 -12 9 0 0 0 0 0 $995,392 36 0
37 Ryan Truex # 0 77 -270 -42 8 0 0 0 0 2 $671,703 38 1
38 Travis Kvapil 2 72 -275 -5 8 0 0 0 0 0 $656,049 37 -1
39 Parker Kligerman 0 54 -293 -18 8 0 0 0 0 4 $829,833 39 0
40 Michael McDowell 1 49 -298 -5 6 0 0 0 0 3 $524,164 40 0
41 Terry Labonte 0 44 -303 -5 2 0 0 0 0 0 $479,744 44 3
42 David Reutimann 1 37 -310 -7 3 0 0 0 0 0 $255,665 41 -1
43 Bobby Labonte 0 29 -318 -8 1 0 0 0 0 0 $325,213 42 -1
44 Jeff Burton 0 27 -320 -2 1 0 0 0 0 0 $115,960 43 -1
45 Michael Waltrip 1 23 -324 -4 2 0 0 0 0 1 $384,038 48 3
46 David Stremme 0 22 -325 -1 3 0 0 0 0 1 $227,870 45 -1
47 Timmy Hill 0 7 -340 -15 2 0 0 0 0 1 $150,770 46 -1
Pos Driver BPts Points Ldr Nxt Starts Poles Wins T5s T10
s
DNFs Money Won PPos G/L
BPts – Bonus Points, -Ldr/-Nxt = Points behind Leader/Next higher, PPos = Previous Position, G/L = Points standing gain/loss, (i) Ineligible for driver points in this series48 Dave Blaney 0 4 -343 -3 2 0 0 0 0 2 $131,650 47 -1
49 Landon Cassill(i) 0 0 -347 -4 8 0 0 0 0 0 $958,783 49 0
50 Sam Hornish Jr.(i) 0 0 -347 -4 1 0 0 0 0 0 $107,410 50 0
51 Trevor Bayne(i) 0 0 -347 -4 4 0 0 0 0 2 $607,428 51 0
52 Brian Scott(i) 0 0 -347 -4 4 1 0 0 0 1 $573,865 52 0
53 Joe Nemechek(i) 0 0 -347 -4 6 0 0 0 0 2 $506,009 53 0
54 Blake Koch(i) 0 0 -347 -4 1 0 0 0 0 0 $72,946 54 0
55 J J Yeley(i) 0 0 -347 -4 1 0 0 0 0 1 $62,180 55 0
56 Morgan Shepherd(i) 0 0 -347 -4 1 0 0 0 0 1 $73,693 56 0
57 Eric McClure(i) 0 0 -347 -4 0 0 0 0 0 0 $24,763 57 0
Pos Driver BPts Points Ldr Nxt Starts Poles Wins T5s T10
s
DNFs Money Won PPos G/L
BPts – Bonus Points, -Ldr/-Nxt = Points behind Leader/Next higher, PPos = Previous Position, G/L = Points standing gain/loss, (i) Ineligible for driver points in this series

Massa fades to P10 late on in Belgium, but ends points drought

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 28: Felipe Massa of Brazil driving the (19) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW38 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo leads Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW38 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 28, 2016 in Spa, Belgium  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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Felipe Massa saw his run of four Formula 1 races without a point come to an end in Belgium on Sunday as he crossed the line in 10th place for Williams.

Massa’s last top-10 finish came at the European Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan, enduring a run of form that had seen him score as many points as Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein in the five races prior to the Belgian Grand Prix.

Massa capitalized on the dramatic start at Spa to rise into the top 10, and was running sixth after making his final pit stop.

However, the Brazilian struggled to manage his tires in the closing stages, causing him to fade to 10th place at the checkered flag.

“It was a very difficult race. Trying to look after the tires until the end and checking the tire pressures while we were racing was tough,” Massa said.

“It was difficult to stay out long enough on track. When the tires were there we were fighting for a great position.

“But when the tures went off we just couldn’t fight anymore.”

Massa’s teammate Valtteri Bottas only fared marginally better, crossing the line eighth for four points as Williams dropped to fifth place in the constructors’ championship.

“It was a disappointing day and a shame that we wasted the opportunity that we had at the beginning of the race,” Bottas said.

“We were in a great position after the start and when the safety car came in we should have pitted immediately. We then lost many positions.

“We tried to get the most out the race that we could after that, and I’m happy that we could at least get some points in the end, but overall it was disappointing.

“Looking ahead, we’ve got another race next week and obviously we need to learn from today. Hopefully we’ll be better in Monza.”

Alonso: Spa result ‘unthinkable’ a few months ago

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 28: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MP4-31 Honda RA616H Hybrid turbo leads Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H Ferrari 059/5 turbo (Shell GP)  during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 28, 2016 in Spa, Belgium  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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Fernando Alonso believes that a seventh-place finish at a track such as the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps would have been “unthinkable” for McLaren a few months ago.

Alonso was resigned to the back of the grid at Spa after a 60-place grid penalty following power unit changes and an issue in qualifying that prevented him from posting a time.

However, the decision to start on the medium tire, combined with a number of clashes for cars ahead at the start and a red flag period lifted Alonso to as high as fourth within the first 10 laps.

Although the Spaniard was powerless to stop Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez and Sebastian Vettel fighting past during the race, he was still delighted with P7, believing it to act as evidence of McLaren-Honda’s progress.

“It was an exciting race to drive and I had a good feeling throughout,” Alonso said.

“We had good pace this weekend. We did better than expected on this track. We were in the top 10 with Jenson yesterday in qualifying, and we’ve scored points today.

“Believe me: a few months ago that would have been unthinkable on a circuit like this. That’s progress – real progress.

“And, after all the bad luck we’ve had so far this weekend, we finally got some good luck today. We started last, but we managed to keep away from all the incidents, gain some positions thanks to the safety car and then a couple more because of the red flag.

“It’s great news that we overtook Toro Rosso in the constructors’ world championship – I think we can be regularly in the points from now on.

“This weekend we saw evidence of very good progress from the team; we’re moving in the right direction, that’s for sure.”

Teammate Jenson Button started the race from inside the top 10, but had any hope of points ended early on after a clash with Pascal Wehrlein at Les Combes.

“I had a really good start. I got ahead of a Williams, pulled in front of a Red Bull and drew alongside a Force India,” Button explained.

“But then I lost a lot of places at La Source and ran wide. I rejoined the track, but Pascal made contact with me at Turn 5, damaging the rear of my car.

“There was a lot of damage and we were unable to complete the race. After such a short race, there’s not much more to say!”

Force India leapfrogs Williams in constructors’ after strong Spa showing

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 28: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM09 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo battles for position with Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team McLaren MP4-31 Honda RA616H Hybrid turbo on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 28, 2016 in Spa, Belgium  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Force India starred in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix to leapfrog Williams in the Formula 1 constructors’ standings as Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez finished fourth and fifth respectively.

Force India arrived at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps hopeful of cutting the gap to Williams in the race for fourth place, having made significant inroads over the races before the summer break.

Hulkenberg and Perez both qualified inside the top 10 at Spa before a clash at the start between Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel lifted them further up the order.

Hulkenberg ran second briefly before slipping behind Daniel Ricciardo into P3, where he remained before making his first pit stop shortly before a red flag period.

Hulkenberg kept up a good pace throughout the race, rising back up to third when Lewis Hamilton made his final pit stop on lap 32.

However, with Hamilton running on fresh tires, Hulkenberg was powerless to stop the Briton taking the final podium position, leaving him to settle for fourth place at the checkered flag.

“Good day in the office, pretty happy. Overall a good race,” Hulkenberg told NBCSN after the race.

“Massive team result, fourth and fifth, to beat the Ferraris and a Red Bull in the circumstances was pretty good. You have to get the points.

“Bit unfortunate and disappointed on my side with the red flag. It was going really well in second and I was gapping the field. But it neutralized the whole race when I was in second. Made it a bit harder. Still happy otherwise.

“We’re ahead of Williams now which is good news, but still eight races to go. Keep our heads down and keep going.”

Teammate Perez started sixth and remained in the mid-points positions before a late charge took him past Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso to finish fifth.

“It’s been a great day for the team and I am very pleased to finish fifth, but it was quite a tough race from the start,” Perez said.

“I chose a wide line going into turn one, but had to go far on the outside to avoid the first corner accident and that cost me a few positions. I dropped down to ninth and that compromised my race.

“I managed to make some good progress early on, but every time I switched to new tires I found myself having to put a lot of stress on them as I needed to attack Felipe then Fernando. I still managed to make my way through and bring home a good result for the team.

“Moving to fourth in the constructors’ championship is a fantastic achievement for us, but we can’t get carried away because there’s still a very long way to go in the season.

“Hopefully we can keep our momentum going and keep scoring strongly.”

Team owner Vijay Mallya expressed his pride over the result on Twitter after the race, with Force India moving two points clear of Williams in the constructors’ championship.

The result also saw Force India continue its love affair with the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. The track was the site of its only F1 pole to date and first podium in 2009 courtesy of Giancarlo Fisichella, as well as another fourth-place finish for Hulkenberg in 2012.

Sam Posey’s “Echoes of the Ardennes” honors Spa’s history (VIDEO)

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The buildup to the Belgian Grand Prix always manages to combine history, excitement and nerves of what’s next.

Sam Posey, who could best be described as the poet laureate of motorsports broadcasting, pens his latest essay on the challenge of Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in “Echoes of the Ardennes,” linked above.

The track’s only 4.3 miles – down from more than 8 in the past – but it remains the longest test of circuit on F1’s calendar and a classic circuit in every sense of the word.