Talladega Rear View Mirror
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on May 5, 2013 | 9:04 P.M. EST
Not everyone was happy with Ragan’s triumph including defending series champion and race winner Brad Keselowski. (Photo: Getty Images)
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Talladega Superspeedway.
On the one hand the racing at the Alabama track is unlike anything else in NASCAR. But on the other there isn’t another track where I feel such an impending sense of doom like Talladega.
Talladega Superspeedway has been in the middle of controversy from the minutes the gates opened at the mammoth Alabama track in 1969. The much-publicized driver boycott of the very first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was the first in a long line of stories that has made Talladega maybe the most talked about track on the schedule.
The high speeds generated racing around the 2.66-mile track have been at the center of the issues and that holds true today more than 40 years after Talladega’s first green flag. Since Bobby Allison nearly sailed out of the ballpark and into the grandstands back in 1987, NASCAR has tried to find ways to slow cars down and make racing at Talladega safer.
The introduction of the restrictor-plate and subsequent aerodynamic packages are all the result of that fateful May afternoon when Allison nearly flew over the front stretch fence and into the packed stands after getting turned around by contact and flying high into the air.
The new Gen-6 Sprint Cup car doesn’t seem to share those tendencies with previous incarnations and NASCAR’s work has lessened the chances of cars becoming airborne.
But there’s still danger racing at Talladega as the weekend’s multitude of multi-car accidents punctuated once again.
There’s no reason to think the “Big One” or two or three won’t be part of the Talladega experience as long as NASCAR keeps returning twice a season. It’s unfortunately a by-product of the insane racing.
Love it or hate it.
- Talladega’s reputation of surprise winners continued Sunday with David Ragan’s run to the checkered flag. The win couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy in Ragan and was a great Cinderella finish for the upstart Front Row Motorsports team with David Gilliland making it a one-two performance for owner Bob Jenkins’ organization. But many are questioning NASCAR’s decision to restart the race in such dark conditions and the safety element of the call. There’s sometimes a point when it’s better to err on the side of safety rather than perhaps pushing the envelope too far. You certainly have to applaud the sanctioning body’s desire to get a full race in the books but the dark conditions definitely were a risk. Thankfully it worked out and Ragan provided fans with a thrill.
- Denny Hamlin was able to start Sunday’s race and then get out in favor of the Brian Vickers during the first caution flag. Unfortunately for Hamlin, Vickers got caught in the 16-car melee on lap 42 and the FedEx Toyota finished near the bottom of the race results. The good news for Hamlin was at least he wasn’t behind the wheel of the car when the crash occurred, perhaps furthering his injuries. The bad news is obviously the team’s finish didn’t do much in his hopes of making the Chase.
- Not everyone was happy with Ragan’s triumph including defending series champion and race winner Brad Keselowski, who claimed after the race the eventual winner made an illegal move on the last restart. “Mad as hell about that finish. We were suppose to line up 10th when the 34 switched lanes entering 3 before green. That lane won. "BS” is what Keselowski tweeted after the checkered flag. NASCAR obviously didn’t see it that was and no call was made, but Brad K. certainly disagreed.
- While Saturday’s Nationwide Series race was another wild Talladega affair, I disagree with NASCAR’s decision to throw caution and freeze the field rather than letting the leaders race to the finish line. It was another example of the inconsistency officials utilize in these situations. Certainly safety should always be a factor, but there was no way any driver could have reacted to the yellow flying as cars crashed behind the lead pack. The call robbed the fans of an epic run to the checkered flag and was a complete reversal of the decision in the same exact situation that took place in 2007 Daytona 500, when Kevin Harvick was able to pass Mark Martin for the win as mayhem broke out behind them.