May 9, 2012
By Chuck Abrams
Last week I said that this could be Brad Keselowski’s break out race. I guess he decided that too.
With the laps winding down, Keselowski put himself in position to be there at the end and that is all you can do at Talladega.
With a Green-White-Checker restart, it looked like Matt Kenseth might pull off his second restrictor plate win of the year but he and Biffle got separated. Special K (Brad) had Rowdy (Kyle Busch) pushing his bumper and they blew past the two Fords like they were standing still. Brad tried a move he had been thinking about to get separation from Busch and that left Special K alone at the stripe.
This win gives Special K two wins for the year and a seeming death lock on making the Chase. But it is still early in the year and a lot can happen. Even if he drops several places in the standings before race 26, a lot of other drivers will have to do better than 2 wins, and be ahead of him in the standings, to keep him out of the Chase this year.
After the race, Tony Stewart went on a sarcastic rant that had Chevy scrambling to make sure everyone knew he was “joking”. I am not sure I would call that joking.
Last week, Smoke went after a prominent media member when he asked about the lack of accidents in the previous weeks. The question was posed in the form of “are you surprised at how clean the racing has been” not “fans think racing without wrecks is boring, what do you think of that?”
Stewart went after the media guy and obviously has a bit of a hangover about that topic. His Talladega rant was about how he thinks there needs to be far more wrecks at Talladega and they are not doing their job if half the field is not taken out. As an owner, they love to replace $150,000 cars and why not run a Figure 8 race while they’re at it. You can read the whole thing here.
His rant got me thinking a little bit.
First of all, I enjoyed the race. Even without the accidents. It was exciting and there were plenty of lead changes with lots of good racing. I felt the wrecks were unfortunate especially considering the way they occurred.
NASCAR changed the restrictor plate rules after a couple years of tandem racing that some fans hated, and some fans liked. I think the haters were in the majority. And more than a few drivers weren’t fans of that style of racing. Just like some are not fans of pack racing. To top it all off, fans were staying away from races that are normally sold out and they were not tuning in.
NASCAR has always claimed to listen to the fans and be open to adjusting the rules for racing to give the fans the best experience. In this case, that meant closing the grilles up and reducing the spoiler height to keep the tandem from dominating. Now we have returned to pack racing with the ever-present threat of a major accident taking out a quarter of the field.
Martinsville can also be a track where a single accident can take out a slew of cars, but for different reasons. Tight quarters and a smaller track means there is less time and room to react and you wind up tearing up a lot of equipment.
At Talladega, high speeds and high banking means that there is less time to react even though there may be more room. Unlike Martinsville, the high speeds of Talladega carry with them the specter of greater bodily harm.
So basically, whether it is Martinsville or Talladega, a single driver mistake, or inopportune mechanical failure, can cause a decent sized wreck that takes out a lot of cars.
This weekend, there was a lot of talk about watching the gauges to avoid high temps in the oil and water.
Pointing to the restrictive rules, some drivers were complaining that racing while watching your gauges is not really the way to race. A couple of drivers lost their engines but none of those caused a big wreck. And one wreck was caused because of a blown tire.
What caused the bigger wrecks were driver errors. Pulling up into another car because you were below the yellow line or blocking during a restart seems to have carried for more consequences than a blown engine. Is that the fault of pack racing?
So while Smoke can complain all he wants, the issue really lies with the drivers. You can’t create a set of rules to protect Smoke from wrecking a car. While it may be easier to avoid The Big One while tandem racing, hitting a wall at 200 mph is still a hard lick no matter what. And we saw plenty of cars being wrecked in tandem racing due to driver error while bump drafting through the corners.
I sympathize with Smoke’s angst, I really do. And I often appreciate his sarcasm and off beat answers to what must be a lot of inane questions. But to go after the fan base that fill the track arenas that pay your salary seems a bit out of place. If he has some constructive ideas he can share with NASCAR to improve the racing product, then do it.
What are your thoughts on Smoke’s fuming rant?
Drive fast, turn left and keep the shiny side up.
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.