Chase contenders in thick of Talladega madness


TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Two eight-car crashes in the first 65
laps of Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway
hurt the chances of several contenders in the Chase for the
Nextel Cup.

The first melee in the 188-lap UAW-Ford 500 came on lap 20 when
it appeared points leader Jimmie Johnson hit the back of
pole-winner Elliott Sadler's car and ignited an accident that also
included contenders Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace, took out fan
favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. and sent Michael Waltrip's car
barrel-rolling down the track.

On lap 65, contender Ryan Newman hit Casey Mears from behind
near the finish line on the 2.66-mile oval and started another wild
accident that took out Johnson's already damaged car, added more
damage to Wallace's Dodge and also caught up contender Greg Biffle.

Scott Riggs took the wildest ride, his car spinning on its nose
before flipping into the air and raining parts and pieces onto Jeff
Burton's car.
Jeff Gordon, who had won three of the last four races at
Talladega, was also in the second crash, knocking him out of the

There were no injuries in either accident.