Bowyer wins thrilling Talladega race; or was it a boring race?
That’s the question I was asking myself after watching a Talladega race that was hyped as a spooktacular Halloween event, but left me underwhelmed most of the time, despite a neverending stream of lead changes up front.
Before we get into the specifics of Sunday’s race, I have to say that Talladega is a strange place to begin with.
For starters, you never know what’s going to happen, which is why it’s called the wild card in the Chase so often. It offers people a chance to win who might not usually contend (think Brad Keselowski in the #09 car, for example). And of course, there is the Big One, which can change the entire complexion of the race at any time.
More than any other track, there is a huge risk of getting in a wreck not of your fault at Talladega. Because of these factors, this is a race that’s among the most anticipated of the year, especially since it plays such a key role in determining the champion.
On Sunday at Talladega, we didn’t see a 20-car pileup, which is a very good thing. I do not get enjoyment on Sundays by watching racecars turn into balls of tangled sheet metal. There may be fans who like that, but I just want to see good racing.
And to be fair, I did see some good racing on Sunday. Early in the race, there was great battling up front for the lead. Joe Nemechek even led a lap, which made me think it was 1999 for a second.
But my problem with Sunday was that so many of the lead changes and the racing up front seemed fake. Two guys would get up front and play around, letting each other pass back and forth and testing their cars to see what they could do at the end of the race. In my mind, the majority of the race turned into more of an extended test session than an actual race.
Talladega has evolved into a race where the drivers only care about the last 20 laps … which begs the question, what’s the point of watching the rest of the race? I know it’s an awesome site to see the cars racing four and five wide all day, but the novelty wears off eventually. Especially this race, I kept getting the impression that it all didn’t mean very much. I didn’t really care who was leading all day, because I knew none of the drivers really cared at that point and were just thinking about the end of the race.
What annoyed me most was that we didn’t get to see a race to the checkered flag. That’s the highlight of every restrictor plate race, and if you watched Saturday’s Truck series race, you saw a dandy.
Three trucks crossed the start-finish line in record proximity to each other, with Kyle Busch nipping out a win over Aric Almirola by just .002 seconds. That’s 2 thousands of one second, an impossibly close margin, and there was added controversy because an out-of-control Busch went below the yellow line before crossing the start-finish line. (Funny how that kind of move cost Regan Smith a win, but it’s not taken from Kyle. I know the situations weren’t exactly the same, but there’s a hint of favoritism to the stars in my view.)
This kind of great finish is what I wanted to see in the Cup race, and it might have happened if the race didn’t end when the caution flag flew for a scary incident involving A.J. Allmendinger. Instead, we had to look at a replay to see who was the victory – Clint Bowyer or Kevin Harvick.
I would be hard-pressed to come up with a more boring ending to a race, but that’s how the rules work.
So, getting to the answer to my question, I suppose it is possible for a race with 80+ lead changes to be boring, as least partially, when you realize that many of those lead changes are basically fake. And as a fan of racing, I have a fundamental concern with a race where half the drivers purposely drop to the back for most of the race and don’t try to race to the front. It seems to go against the very nature of racing.
Is there a solution to the Talladega race that will make the drivers more concerned about racing all the way through it, and not just at the end?
There is one: Take off the restrictor plates (and find another way to keep the speeds in check) so there’s no quick route to the front at the end and they have to race all day. But that’s about as likely as Kyle Busch winning a personality contest.
Points leaders dodge a bullet
So the wild card race is done, and all the top 3 drivers in the Chase are still alive, since all 3 avoided trouble at Dega.
Jimmie Johnson has the ball in his court as he goes for five straight titles, and he’ll need to stumble to lose that fifth title. But he’s not far ahead of the determined Denny Hamlin, who has tunnel-vision focus on bumping Jimmie from that throne.
These two were considered title favorites all year, so the only other contender, Kevin Harvick, has to be considered the dark horse for the title. Despite him leading the points for much of the regular season, lots of pundits believed he would fall off in the Chase; but that didn’t happen, and Harvick is determined to prove his doubters wrong.
As far as the other Chasers go, they’re battling for fourth and lower, as they are all more than 200 points out of first.
Become a fan of the Facebook page NASCARBeyond