Asleep At The Wheel

Dale Earnhardt Jr. called it boring. Ryan Newman said it wasn't really racing. And even race winner Jeff Gordon zoned out behind-the-wheel.

While the last lap provided a thrilling finish with Gordon's dramatic pass of Jimmie Johnson to win the UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the rest of the race left something to be desired.

The combination of the Car of Tomorrow's handling attributes with the realities of restrictor plate racing led many drivers to take a conservative approach in Sunday's race.

While there were a few flashes of the three and four-wide racing that has become commonplace at plate races in Talladega and Daytona, there were other stretches of single file racing that left a bad taste in a lot of drivers' mouths.

"I think the racing was not very good," said Ryan Newman, who was near the front of the pack most of the day in the Alltel Dodge and settled for a fith place finish. "I think the racing was disappointing. To see single file racing and the guy that wins the race is sitting in the back all day just lounging around. That’s not racing to me. I hope it wasn’t what NASCAR intended with this car."

"I’m not complaining about the car because the old car did relatively the same thing, Newman continued. "We gotta do something where we can race a little bit. I mean I was driving around with one hand running 15th just riding, on and off the gas. It’s not racing. If we’re going to do that why don’t we just make it a 100 mile race and we’ll tear them all up in the first fifty."

Newman wasn't alone in blaming plate racing for the hold back and save your car strategy, rather than the COT, which was making its restrictor plate track debut.

“It’s the same as every other plate race," said Matt Kenseth. "You didn’t really get to see a race because even the leaders rode around for the first half because everybody was afraid of wrecking. I don’t know if you really saw a race. I think out of 188 laps, you probably saw 30 laps of racing."

Even race winner Gordon wasn't completely pleased with the way things progressed for most of the day as he was forced to employ a tentative strategy in the early going in order to be around to challenge for the win in the end.

“I have never yawned in a race car in my life,” said Gordon. “But I yawned back there. I like to think I have pretty good patience, but that’s beyond patience. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in a race car. There’s just nothing fun about that, but I knew it was the smart thing.”

Earnhardt, Jr., who led early before being retired with a blown engine, summed the day up bluntly.

"It was really, really boring," Earnhardt said.

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