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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Talladega races bursting with excitement … but at what cost?

I think I held my breath for about six hours Sunday.

That’s what it felt like as I was watching 800+ miles of stunning Talladega racing, which produced two amazing finishes, and enough wrecked cars to keep the sheet metal industry in business for another year.

The last-lap pass by Kevin Harvick on Jamie McMurray was straight out of the textbook, and his predecessor in that car at RCR would have been proud. More than 3 years since his last Cup points race win, Harvick showed he still has the goods with his impressive performance Sunday. Regardless of whether he stays at RCR, he is determined to have this year be a successful one, and this probably won't be his only win in 2010.

After last fall’s snoozer at Talladega, when NASCAR was playing Big Brother and forbidding drivers to get too close to each other, this race was a sort of redemption. Groups of two cars rocketed past groups of 6 or more cars, only to be passed by the other group within a lap. A highly surgical chess game was taking place between 40+ cars on a track for many hours, and most laps it worked out – even when they decided to go 4 or 5 wide.

But it wasn’t pretty by any means. When things went bad, they were ugly and plenty of teams were cursing about another destroyed racecar.

We saw more excitement Sunday on the track in one day than I would say we’ve seen in a very long time. The lead in the Cup race changed 88 times among 29 drivers, setting new records.

But at what cost? Do we have to have all this carnage to see an exciting race?

Many drivers and fans don’t like the restrictor plate setup, and there are times I count myself in with that group. It’s the ultimate double-edged sword. A plate will keep them close like this and you’re bound to have big wrecks, but take the plate off and the speeds are unsafe. Also, most efforts to police the drivers in an effort to avoid huge wrecks (like last fall) will lead to more boring races … which will also prompt fan complaints. In short, there’s no simple solution.

I’d like to hope there is a happy medium that somehow, some way, we can achieve in the future. … I’d like to believe that there is a way to maintain the excitement of Talladega without creating a scenario that will likely wreck half the field.

But if we haven’t figured it out by now, it’s looking like the teams can just count on scrapping a car or two every restrictor plate weekend.

Newman cursed at plate tracks
Ryan Newman has the worst luck of anyone I’ve ever seen at plate tracks. Most of the time, he either ends up flying in the air, having other flying cars land on his hood, or otherwise getting involved in various ‘Big Ones’. This spring’s Talladega race was no exception.

He was once again very critical of restrictor plate racing, echoing the sentiments of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. that plate racing isn’t really racing. Many people may agree with him, but most fans absolutely love it so it’s not going away. I sympathize with the drivers, though, as it must be real annoying to know your day can be ruined because a guy 6 rows up from you taps the guy in front of him and you’re just in the chain reaction.

Bonehead moves of the race
Kyle Busch got into Johnny Sauter, leading to a 10-car accident that collected many drivers – including Michael Waltrip, who was running surprisingly well in a car from the usually start-and-park MSRP team. Waltrip and Sauter both called out Busch for this after the wreck, saying he should learn how to bump draft.

Jimmie Johnson gets an honorable mention for his triggering of an accident that led to his car and several others (including Jeff Gordon’s) being injured or destroyed.
Yes, you read that right. Jimmie Johnson made a big mistake on the track that led to him wrecking and finishing badly. Remember this, because you’re not likely to see me write it for a long time.

Just a couple days and they declared peace after last week’s battle, Jeff Gordon was once again with his young protégé turned 4-time champ.

"The 48 is testing my patience, I can tell you that," Gordon said after the race. "It takes a lot to make me mad. ... I don't know what it is with me and him right now."

I love it. Family feuds are always fun to watch in sports. I bet Rick Hendrick is planning another “milk and cookies” meeting like he did with Chad Knaus and Jimmie before they began their title run.

Too many G-W-Cs?
I’m curious what people think about the multiple Green-White-Checkered runs at the end of races. I know they are exciting, but at some point they go from being interesting to making us ask, “When will this race end?”

Is three too many? What do you think?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is what I don't get about the GWC finish. If you do it 3 times and you still end under caution, what have you accomplished besides more torn up race cars and probably not the best car that day being the winner? I think one is enough and it will make these guys chasing the leader a little more careful about who they run over to get there.

April 27, 2010 at 10:21 AM 

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