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Talladega gets drivers' goats

Ryan Newman has theories about a lot of things, but his latest might make a lot of sense.

"I was thinking about when I was out there, these shouldn't be points races," Newman said after crashing (as usual) Sunday at Talladega. "If they want to have these races for the fans, just let us come here and do this, but don't let it affect our championship because it's not racing."

As it often does, Sunday's race in Talladega left many drivers wondering what role they play in the race itself. More will get vocal about this track during the Chase, when Talladega matters that much more.

Because of how little handling matters at the Alabama track, drivers feel a bit helpless out there. Even Dale Earnhardt Jr., a great restrictor-plate racer, spoke on the randomness of Talladega's outcomes.

Sunday's Cup race didn't involve a huge, car-flipping, fiery wreck, but caution after caution in the race's final 20 laps followed more than 100 preceding laps of calm.

Drivers want some control, and they should have it when racing for a championship.

Ten things we learned this week:

1. Rick Hendrick really values his crew chiefs. He soon will announce contract extensions for Chad Knaus and Alan Gustafson, the two Hendrick-grown crew chiefs that battled for last year's championship.

2. After a surprising and brilliant debut season, Stewart-Haas Racing has slipped a bit out of the NASCAR radar. Neither Tony Stewart nor his teammate/employee Newman are in the top 12 in points. Stewart has just three top-10 finishes this year. At this time last year he had six. Newman has two, compared with three last season.

3. Mind games really suit Kevin Harvick. There wasn't a better time for him to win a race than in a controversial week in which his sponsor ducked out?

4. Casey Mears has a full-time ride again. Just a few years removed from his time with Hendrick Motorsports, he will be the full-time driver for Tommy Baldwin Racing.

5. Nationwide cars scare Jamie McMurray a little bit. McMurray said the Cup cars are so safe, he doesn't worry about his safety much. But in the Nationwide car he said he is 100 percent more concerned during wrecks.

6. "I'm not getting a Twitter!" Earnhardt exclaimed as he finished his media availability.

7. Harvick thinks anonymous sources are worthless. Especially when they say things about him.

8. With a fifth-place finish at Talladega — his third consecutive top-10 — Mark Martin improved to sixth in points standings.

9. Teammates McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya each jumped four places in points after a 2-3 finish at Talladega.

10. NASCAR succeeded in keeping its cars on the ground. Not one went airborne in the Aaron's 499.

— Tania Ganguli

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