Talladega had everything on Sunday a race fan or adrenalin junky could desire. It provided incredible action, with leaders driving looking at their mirrors rather than out the windshield, running at close to 200 miles per hour just inches apart. We watched in awe as they managed to avoid disaster lap after lap, at least until disaster struck. Even at the end, Kevin Harvick channelled his inner Negan when confronting teammate Kurt Busch on pit road after the event. It had everything.
It was a countdown to heartbreak, but whose? Just over a hundred miles in, we thought we had the answer. Joey Logano left the pits under green dragging his jack underneath the car for a full circuit before coming back to pay the penalty and remove the piece of equipment. At the same time, Denny Hamlin got tagged for speeding. It could have meant the end of their title hopes, but it was not.
Three laps later, Martin Truex Jr.’s auto went up in a beautiful white plume of smoke to bring out the caution. No engine, no chance, with his only hope being for Logano to somehow wind up no better than 27th on the day. That did not work out so well for him.
Anyone else visiting the Heartbreak Hotel? Why, yes, there was one more. Brad Keselowski was the guy to beat, but he spent so much time in front he collected a bit of trash that would not go away. Finally, he let Ryan Blaney slip by him so he could tuck up behind to have the air turbulence clean off his grill. It worked like a charm, but it proved too late. The engine was cooked, and Keselowski’s day and his championship dreams went up in a Truex-like puff of smoke.
That left Logano to take the win, as Brian Scott came home right behind him for a season-best finish. Hamlin, Busch the elder, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the Top Five. Along with Keselowski and Truex, the Chase ended for Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott as they all regroup for this weekend in Martinsville.
Before that, maybe there needs to be a peace summit at Stewart-Haas after Busch ran into the side of Harvick’s car on the cool down lap. If Busch could let out his inner Rick Grimes, I guess Harvick could release his inner Negan, a reference you might understand if you watch a certain AMC program. Harvick leaned into his teammate’s car on pit road and seemed to initiate some kind of physical interaction.
“He’ll understand it and I’m sure he’ll clear it up in his interview,” Busch said in his, though Harvick did not clear up much of anything. “We’re great teammates, we’re going good together,” Busch continued, and he was right. They had got together, in a bit of a bad way, which was the root of their problems. Now they have to talk. Just hope nobody brings Lucille.
His forced exile from the cockpit did not prevent Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is ranked third in restrictor plate victories all-time, behind Jeff Gordon and his father, from showing up as a guest commentator. In the booth wearing his glasses, I could not help but wonder exactly when Junior developed an inner accountant. There was no question about his knowledge of the track and that kind of racing. No question either as to where he would prefer to be sitting and it was not high in the sky.
That was Talladega, but can anyone tell me the official name of the race? Who cares, it was at Talladega. That track creates its own traditions, no matter what they call the event. On Sunday, the first of three semi-final races takes place at Martinsville. Once again, I am reminded how NASCAR has tossed aside traditional branding to make a buck. I mean, which sounds better to you, the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 or the Old Dominion 500?
Let me conclude by presenting, if I had my way, what the NASCAR schedule would look like. Sadly, 10 events have always had changing sponsored names, with no opportunity to establish some kind of identity. One day…one day. Tell me what you think.
Daytona 500 – Daytona, FL
Dixie 500 – Atlanta, GA
Las Vegas 400 – Las Vegas, NV
California 400 – Fontana, CA
Virginia 500 – Martinsville, VA
Texas 500 – Fort Worth, TX
Southeastern 500 – Bristol, TN
Richmond 400 – Richmond, VA
Alabama 500 – Talladega, AL
Kansas City, Kansas
Mason-Dixon 400 – Dover, DE
World 600 – Charlotte, NC
Pocono 400 – Pocono, PA
Motor State 400 – Brooklyn, MI
Firecracker 400 – Daytona, FL
New Hampshire 301 – Loudon, NH
Brickyard 400 – Indianapolis, IN
Pennsylvania 400 – Pocono, PA
355 at the Glen – Watkins Glen, NY
Volunteer 500 – Bristol, TN
Yankee 400 – Brooklyn, MI
Southern 500 – Darlington, SC
Capitol City 400 – Richmond, Tn
Delaware 400 – Dover, DE
National 500 – Charlotte, NC
Kansas City, KS
Talladega 500 – Talladega, AL
Old Dominion 500 – Martinsville, VA
Fort Worth, TX