Brad Keselowski survived an incredibly wild race at Talladega to take his second victory of the season…but you already know about that. Instead of re-hashing the win, though, here are five other things we noticed from the weekend of racing at NASCAR’s biggest track:
1. Talladega has the best fans: All season long, we’ve had to witness embarrassingly small crowds that make it look like the sport is struggling (OK, Phoenix looked pretty good, but still…), then along comes Talladega. We already know that ‘Dega has legendary infield parties, and I’m sure they kept that tradition alive – along with the tradition of filling the stands. The crowd looked great Sunday afternoon, were into the race, and stayed until the very end – even with the looming possibility of rain. Fans in all of the other NASCAR cities are on notice – Talladega fans set the bar high, now it is up to you to match it. Well done.
2. Amelia ain’t lucky anymore: In 2015, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s favorite No.88 car chassis – dubbed “Amelia” – was almost unstoppable; netting two wins, a second, and a third in four restrictor plate races. 2016 hasn’t been quite so kind to Junior’s favorite ride; Dale spun in the Daytona 500, finishing 36th, and he fared even worse Sunday afternoon, spinning out on his own early then later getting caught up in Carl Edwards’ wreck. After an average finish of 1.75 last year, the same car has been 38th this season. Sadly, the magic for chassis No.88-872 may be gone.
3. Pit road was more dangerous than the track for Denny Hamlin: What happened to the No.11 car? Usually the standard by which other teams are measured on pit road, Sunday at ‘Dega was a complete disaster – Hamlin had not one, but two run-ins with other drivers during yellow-flag stops, the second leaving him facing the wrong direction. The latter mistake left Denny back in the field when all the late-race craziness started, and he got caught up in the melee, finishing 31st. Hard to believe that the best team in the pits lost a chance to win the race…in the pits.
4. There is NO solution for the Big One: This weekend was filled with insane, thrilling wrecks – in both the Xfinity and Cup series. And whenever we have the Big One (or in this case, Big Ones) it always leads to a debate about how to prevent it in the future. In reality, though, there is no magic fix. Pack racing is created by restrictor plates, but the plates are only in place because of the incredible speeds cars were running in the late 80’s. Drivers argue that taking the plates off will give them the throttle response to break up the pack and stretch the field out, and that may be true. But the cars would also probably be pushing 220mph by now, and a single-car wreck at those speeds could be really bad, safer barriers or not. So NASCAR has effectively painted themselves into a corner: risk a big wreck in a pack at 190mph, or a solo or two-car wreck at 220? It’s an impossible situation, so things are destined to stay the way they currently are.
5. ‘Dega always produces an unexpected Top-10 (or 11, in this case): Plate tracks always introduce some interesting drivers to the front of the field, and while Sunday’s race wasn’t completely unpredictable, there were still a few surprises. Tony Stewart finished sixth, even though he wasn’t in the car: Ty Dillon jumped in the car at the first caution, and ran a great race. Clint Bowyer had a rare good finish coming home seventh, Ryan Blaney was an impressive ninth, and Trevor Bayne – who looked like he had a legitimate shot of winning in the closing laps – was tenth. And despite touching off the final wreck that forced the Cup race to end under caution, Landon Cassill wound up 11th.
Next Week: Saturday night at Kansas! Be sure to listen to this week’s In The Draft Show with news, our analysis, the Paint Scheme Preview and Picks!