Talladega, where we watched Matt Kenseth dominate, where we saw Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards contend, and where we watched a lot of cars torn up. It is also where we saw two cars from an underfunded operation charge up from out of nowhere to claim the top two spots at the finish line.
David Ragan, with help from team mate David Gilliland, changed the storyline for this one at the last minute on Sunday, one that also featured a 226 minute rain delay. In the end, it was all about the have nots having their moment as Front Row Motorsports and owner Bob Jenkins celebrated their first ever victory after nine years of trying. With Josh Wise finishing 19th, they had three in the Top Twenty. No Mickey, no Goofy, no Cinderella castle, but definitely a Cinderella ending.
That was not so for some big names who got caught up in big crashes. Outside the Top 25 on the day were a long list of drivers we might have expected to be challenging for the win. Tony Stewart, at 27th, was the best of a lot that included Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin (with Brian Vickers providing backup), Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Kasey Kahne. They were not happy, with Newman particularly upset about the whole deal. Then again, he had Kurt Busch flipping over and on top of his car as Newman got involved in his third Talladega wreck in his last eight attempts.
As an observer, I liked what I saw. I liked the shocking ending to the race, I liked seeing part timer Michael Waltrip finishing fourth, I liked that they outlasted the rain and finished the race, and, God forgive me, I liked the carnage. It was damned exciting, and who doesn’t like some excitement? Okay, a lot of excitement. There is just one problem, and only one that I can see. These drivers are not cartoons characters, they are not gladiators out there to spill blood for our amusement. Maybe having them drive in the dark to conclude the affair might not have been the best of ideas.
The actual race timed in at 3 hours and 26 minutes, or about 20 minutes shorter than the rain delay. It took more than seven hours from start to finish, starting at 1pm local time with sunset Sunday at about 7:30pm. Dusk is a concept that does not last very long in the south, so it had to have been dark enough so that anyone on the highway had their lights on, a feature not part of the package for those out on the track. There is a reason they were going to have just one green-white-checker, for the light was fading fast. Was it too dark? Only those behind the wheel know for sure.
Rating Talladega – 9/10 – As someone seeking television entertainment, I got everything I wanted, with the exception of the long rain delay. Bob Jenkins probably would have rated this an 11. Next on the calender is the Lady in Black, Darlington, and the Southern 500 this Saturday night. Enjoy the week.