Posted on: October 31, 2010 5:52 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2010 5:53 pm

Charting the Chase - Talladega

The race thought of as the "Wild Card" of the Chase was just that - pretty wild, especially at the finish. When the smoke cleared (literally) the championship standings were the closest with seven races in the book since the Chase was introduced in 2004:
(1st) - Clint Bowyer
How important is that 150 point penalty Bowyer was assessed after the New Hampshire infractions? He has no chance of winning this year's championship but enjoyed a sweet Halloween treat with his win Sunday at Talladega.

(2nd) - Kevin Harvick
Somehow brought his battered car home to a runner-up finish behind his Richard Childress Racing teammate Bowyer to slice into Jimmie Johnson's Chase lead and prove he will be a player in the title fight right down to the bitter end.

(7th) - Jimmie Johnson
Tried to work some late race magic with a two car draft to the front with teammate Jeff Gordon but came up short of stealing a win after playing it safe all afternoon.

(8th) - Jeff Gordon
Worked perfectly together with Johnson until engine problems forced Gordon to drop off the pace. Was able to rally back for the top ten finish but was in contention for a whole lot more.

(16th) - Matt Kenseth
Found a strange partner early in the race in Chevrolet driver Jeff Burton who helped push Kenseth's Ford to the front. Was forced to settle for a middle of the pack finish.

(17th) - Carl Edwards
Considering how past Talladega experiences have gone including crashing a teammate a few years ago and almost winding up in the grandstands after his celebrated crash with Brad Keselowski, maybe a 17th place finish isn't so bad after all.

(19th) - Greg Biffle
Had flashes of drafting to the front of the field but couldn't find that definitive partner to make a difference.

(25th) - Kyle Busch
Actually worked with former arch-rival David Reutimann in a two-car drafting effort that got Busch to the lead at one point. Faded back late.

(30th) - Kurt Busch
Strong effort early on made Busch a solid pick as possible winner. But fizzled at the close of the race and the last lap melee handed him a second straight 30th place finish.

(31st) - Tony Stewart
Somehow made it back to the lead lap after an early cut tire sent Stewart to pit road and two laps behind the field. Now enough to come back all the way.

(41st) - Jeff Burton
Had the same power as RCR teammates Bowyer and Harvick but the end results much different. Looked capable of winning until inadvertent tap from Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended his day.
Category: Auto Racing
Tags: NASCAR, Talladega
Posted on: October 6, 2008 12:03 am

Out of Bounds?

Daytona and Talladega not only bring restrictor plate racing to NASCAR four times a year but a rule that has been nearly as controversial as the horsepower-choking engine modifications the sanctioning body imposes at the two longest oval tracks on the schedule - the yellow out of bounds line.

Only at these two speedways does NASCAR impose the rule of drivers not being able to pass or improve their position if they dip below the yellow line around the bottom of the track.

Unfortunately enforcing the rule is not as cut and dried as one might think.

Regan Smith's apparent race-winning pass of Tony Stewart Sunday at Talladega was regarded as illegal by NASCAR officials and rather than the rookie driver scoring his first career Sprint Cup Series win, he was penalized to 18th position.

However a similar last lap pass by Johnny Benson in a Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona in 2007 was okay.

At the time, Benson's dramatic drive to the lead and the win was deemed to be acceptable because " if you can see the checkered flag on the last lap, anything goes" according to a NASCAR spokesperson working that race.

But that was not the case Sunday in Talladega and there was no free pass on the rule simply because Smith tried it as the field raced to the finish line.

"At the driver's meeting, we clearly state that you cannot improve your position by going below the yellow line," said NASCAR's vice president of communication Jim Hunter.

When informed of the sanctioning body's response to the similar Daytona truck scenario of 2007, Hunter replied "I don't recall making that statement and I'm not going to comment on it."

But sources have reported there were rumors floating around the Talladega garage area that the "anything goes" thinking would be allowed on the last lap Sunday.

Race winner Stewart hadn't heard about it however and felt he was playing by the right rule at the finish.

"All I'm going to say about that is they never said that at the drivers' meeting," he said. "I don't know it was ever understood anywhere. I sat in the drivers' meeting like everyone else did. ...If you hear it in the drivers' meeting, I guess we'll all stand corrected."

For now Stewart's win stands. But the next time someone drives below the yellow line to win a NASCAr race on the last lap at a superspeedway...who knows?

Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Talladega
Posted on: October 5, 2008 11:01 am

RaceDay: Talladega

The argument over whether restrictor plate racing is a legitimate form of NASCAR competition or not always comes up on Daytona and Talladega weekends.

The horsepower-choking plates, put in more than 20 years ago by NASCAR in an effort to slow down the insane speeds at the two fastest tracks on the schedule, do equal out the field and force drivers to spend the day locked in a pack of 20 or 30 cars.

It's a combo platter of excitement and nerves. As a fan it has to enjoyable to watch these cars scream around the track in a pack looking like they are chain-linked together. As a driver or crew chief or team owner it's no doubt nerve-wracking to know that in a single instant a pile-up of massive proportions can happen.

I am always at the edge of my seat whenever a plate race rolls around. Saturday's truck series race at Talladega was maybe the most incredible thing I've witnessed all year and how those drivers kept from wrecking the entire field in the final laps still amazes me.

The same will no doubt happen in Sunday's Sprint Cup race, although at double the length of Saturday's truck race, there will no doubt be drivers hiding in the safety of the rear of the field for most of the day before charging to the front when the checkered flag draws nearer.

I'm not sure what NASCAR could do instead of mandating plates at Talladega, shor tof bulldozing the banking through the turns and turning the place into a flatter version of itself. That would certainly scrub off speed and make things somewhat safer, but I'm not sure the competition level would be up to par in most fans' eyes.

Like it or not, restrictor plate racing is part of NASCAR and won't be going anytime soon. I say sit back and behold the spectacle, keep your fingers corssed and like we've done more than 50 times since the first place race, hold your breath for four hours.

Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Talladega
Posted on: October 4, 2008 4:41 pm

Talladega Belongs

The Chase for the Sprint Cup wild card has always been Talladega Superspeedway. The horsepower-muzzling restrictor plates run at Talladega and its sister track Daytona always bunch the field and the slightest bobble can cause "The Big One," the dreaded multi-car crash that could easily wipe out 20 cars or more.

With that potential disaster lurking around every high-speed lap, some drivers believe Talladega shouldn't be part of the Chase and that restrictor plate races are unfair to title contenders.

“I would prefer it not to be a Chase race,” said Jimmie Johnson. “I would like to have races where we can control the outcome. I love Talladega. I think the spring race is a blast. I like Daytona as well. When you get in the Chase like this, it’s tough to not have that control. And this is coming from a competitor’s standpoint, obviously. If you talk to the fans or maybe even ask what corporate America wants to see and think, it’s probably more appealing for that aspect than from the competitor’s live.

“If it was up to a driver and his point of view on it, I’d get rid of it. But I’m not sure many other people feel that way if they’re not in this garage area.”

Not all share that view.

“Oh, I think this is a great race for the Chase because you just really don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Kevin Harvick. “At any given moment it could turn upside down and you can trigger a pileup. There are just a lot of things that can happen at this particular race and Talladega is just kind of its own beast. So it’s a good race for the Chase.”

Jeff Burton has a scientific theory for including Talladega in the Chase.

"My theory on races that ought to be in the Chase, I think it ought to be representative of the regular season,” he said. “The example of that that I give is road-course racing. A lot of people say, ‘Hey, we ought to have a road course in the Chase.’ I disagree with that because if we had two road-course races and one of them was in the Chase, 50 percent of the races of the races would be represented in the Chase.

“We run three regular-season superspeedway points-paying races so I believe it is fair to have one of these to be in the Chase.”

I am all for having a restrictor plate race in the Chase. However I think it should be the last race of the season and that should come at Daytona. Move Talladega out of the championship ten race stretch and end the year where it all begins, at the birthplace of the sport in Daytona.

Now that would be exciting.



Category: Auto Racing
Tags: Talladega
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com