May 10, 2012
By Nicholas Schwartz
Talladega delivered exactly what Talladega usually delivers when the Sprint Cup Series stopped in Alabama this past weekend -- big crashes, controversy, overheating, door-to-door racing and a close finish.
Brad Keselowski drove away with a victory after he had instigated a costly accident earlier in the race, and fans ate it up. Drivers, however, voiced their concerns as they typically do following a race at Talladega, and Tony Stewart went as far to mock the concept of superspeedway racing in an extended rant teeming with sarcastic quips.
From Stewart’s perspective, I can see where he and all the other drivers who tweeted with dismay after the Aaron’s 499 have a gripe with Talladega and Daytona. Finishing in the top 10 is akin to winning the lottery, and at any given time a mistake by a fellow driver can cost you dearly in the points standings.
Furthermore, with the current car specifications and size of the front grille opening, drivers are likely to overheat their engines just by staying with the pack. Talladega is a game of Russian Roulette, and on Sunday, Stewart and 18 other drivers ended up losing. He made his feelings known with little reservation.
“We didn't quite crash half the field, which is what we normally look to do here.... I thought it was a pretty good race. I made it further than I thought I would before I got crashed. I call it a successful day. Stewart told reporters post-race. “I'm sorry we couldn't crash more cars today. We didn't fill the quota for today for Talladega and NASCAR.”
What Stewart only sarcastically acknowledges is that, despite what a race at Talladega may mean for the drivers, it consistently delivers great television, capacity crowds and close finishes. It is currently one of two tracks on the circuit where the same can be said, the other being Daytona, another superspeedway.
"Honestly, I think if we haven't crashed at least 50 percent of the field by the end of the race, we need to extend the race until we at least crash 50 percent of the cars, because it's not fair to these fans for them to not see any more wrecks than that and more torn-up cars," Stewart continued.
No matter what Stewart thinks, the television ratings don’t lie.
The Sunday broadcast on FOX drew a 4.7 Nielsen rating, which is 34 percent better than the ratings for the race at Darlington that occurred during the same weekend a year prior. The Richmond race only drew a 3.7 rating in primetime.
The Fall Talladega race had the highest rating of any Chase race save for the season finale at Homestead. Like it or not, fans across the country crave these types of races, and who can blame them? The competition is easy to follow -- every fan’s favorite driver is usually within a couple seconds of the lead, rather than spread out across a track, with lap cars peppered in between every other car.
That isn’t to say that the racing at Talladega could not be improved -- there is a long way to go before NASCAR eliminates the ever-present worry of overheating cars. Although the measures NASCAR has taken has successfully dampened the amount of tandem racing -- a response to fan and driver criticism -- the outcome isn’t much better.
"This temp thing is kind of a joke," Jeff Gordon said after the race. "They are going to have to fix that. We all knew that was going to be a big issue, but when you can't really even race because the temps -- even in a regular pack -- are an issue, we have to address that.“
If you would like to learn more about Nicholas, please check out his web site at Sports By Schwartz. Nicholas is a Managing editor and sportswriter for The Duke Chronicle at Duke University.
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.