Talladega Superspeedway has always provided some of the most exciting finishes on the NASCAR circuit. Last second passes at the 2.66-mile tri-oval are basically a must. The atmosphere at the biggest track on the schedule is one that you have to simply experience to fully understand. Think of it like a college fraternity party with 100,000 of your closest friends, and you just happen to get to watch a race at the same time.
I’ve been at Talladega for some memorable finishes including Dale Jarrett’s last win in 2005, Kyle Busch getting his first plate-track win in 2008 and when Brad Keselowski put Carl Edwards in the fence and took home his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) win for James Finch in 2009. Also, I was there last spring when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won his first MENCS race. All of these races are etched in my mind.
The most recent race was no different. While I do think the Geico 500 started out a bit stagnant and boring, the excitement began to build pretty quickly. After a slow Stage 1, Stage 2 was more exciting and included a wreck down the backstretch that took out some strong cars, including 2017 Champion, Martin Truex Jr. Kyle Larson, Trevor Bayne, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, and Jamie McMurray were also involved in the crash that occurred when Jones drifted up into McMurray. Jones was turned into Bayne. Bayne and Jones were eliminated from the race due to the wreck, while Larson was sent to the garage when his vehicle damage clock ran out.
The second stage ended with Paul Menard taking his first stage win, which was pretty exciting to see. The crowd really enjoyed seeing that No.21 car get the green-checkered flag.
The beginning of Stage 3 was boring. Not much was going on. Drivers just kind of riding around the top side of the track running out laps. Honestly, as a race fan, I hate to see that. I know the drivers do it to run out the laps and get to the end of these races, but as a fan, I want to see more racing.
But then it happened. It only took 165 laps of the 188 run, but it happened. Jimmie Johnson got loose and made contact with the right front of teammate William Byron’s No. 24 Chevy and sent Johnson spinning. The Big One. Fourteen cars in total were collected in the carnage, including several drivers with a real shot at taking the checkered flag, such as Brad Keselowski, William Byron, and Paul Menard. Johnson was fortunate enough to continue on after making an amazing save on the apron and driving away from the wreck that ensued behind him.
The stands were going wild all day long. There wasn’t a fan in the place that wasn’t enjoying themselves. I was sitting with fans of every different driver and we all were having the times of our lives. We couldn’t have asked for a better day to be at the track. Barely a cloud in the sky, and a mild 71 degrees.
But, there was something that I noticed, and several drivers commented on it after the race; the lack of the ability to pass. Chase Elliot was in the fifth position in a group of Fords. Obviously, the Fords weren’t going to help him win, but none of the Ford drivers, with the exception of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., made an attempt to make a run at Joey Logano, who won the race.
I don’t know if this was because the cars were, to quote several drivers, “evil”, or a product of the aero package of the cars, or the fact that NASCAR reduced the size of the restrictor plates after Jaime McMurray’s wreck in Friday’s practice.
My opinion is this. NASCAR needs to take a look at the stark difference from Daytona in February and Talladega and make some changes. The finish of the race, again, in my opinion, was the most boring part of the race. Runs didn’t develop, drivers who had a legitimate chance at victory didn’t seem to make any moves to try to pass Logano.
What say you?
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