Talladega Rear View Mirror

Rear View Mirror

Sunday's race saw 52 lead changes among 20 drivers. (Photo: Getty Images)

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Talladega Superspeedway. It continued this weekend.

There isn’t another track on the NASCAR schedule that puts my stomach in as much of a knot as Talladega. The anticipation of watching packs of cars and trucks running three and four wide at speeds in excess of 200 mph is at once breathtaking and paralyzing.

Coming off last week’s less than exciting 500 miler at Charlotte, Sunday’s Talladega race was in one sense a welcomed relief. My eyes were glued to the track most every lap both in Saturday’s truck series race and Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 500. That was a far cry from the at times mind numbing sight of a single file parade that dotted most of the Charlotte race.

But of course as is always the case at Talladega a bucket of cold reality gets tossed in your face pretty quickly. The terrifying last lap truck race crash was a somber reminder of what can happen when things go awry.

There is no answer to changing anything about Talladega short of extracting the track from the NASCAR landscape, something that will never happen. Whatever NASCAR does rules-wise to impact the racing won’t really make a difference, as has been the case in the aftermath of Bobby Allison’s frightening 1987 accident that created the birth of restrictor plates.

So twice a year we’ll approach Talladega with equal parts of anticipation and fear.

  • As plate races go I thought Sunday’s was one of the better ones. While some drivers employed a hanging back strategy, the majority were content with mixing it up near the front of the field. The tightening of the noose kept happening as the extremely clean race wound down to the final laps building tremendous tension and until the last lap crash it was spectacular to watch. However like many of the drivers I was shocked the single file racing went all the way to halfway through the last lap. Nobody seemed to want to make a move and when they did it was way too late. But the beauty of racing at Talladega and Daytona is the emotions both tracks elicit from fans. Some love the racing, other despise it but everyone has an opinion. That’s a good thing from where I sit.
  • Rather than allow the drivers to race back to the finish line on the final lap NASCAR elected to throw caution and end the race about a half a lap short. There have been many other similar situations when all hell was breaking loose on the final circuit and yet the race was allowed to play itself out to its conclusion. Conversely we’ve seen many end the way Sunday’s did at Talladega. There is no consistent answer and NASCAR’s approach is to take each on a case-by-case basis. Apparently the severity of the impact by Casey Mears into Austin Dillon was enough to spark the decision to end the race in the name of safety.
  • NASCAR reiterated its 100 percent rule would not be violated by drivers choosing to drop to the rear of the field for most of Sunday’s race. The sanctioning body’s view was the strategy was being done to provide the best opportunity to win. All well and good, but that doesn’t mean you as a fan have to like it. I personally think drivers and teams owe it to fans to actually race the whole day, meaning at the front of the field as many did on Sunday. Dropping back technically isn’t breaking any rule but sure is a hard sell in terms of a spectator sport unless you’re good for watching only 10 of 188 laps.
  • It was a rough weekend for Sam Hornish Jr. Not only did he fail to make Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race as a third Penske Racing entry when rain wiped out qualifying, Hornish remains completely uncertain about his 2014 plans. The official announcement this week that Martin Truex Jr. will join Furniture Row Racing means the music is about to stop on competitive Cup rides for next season and Hornish will be without a seat. Penske does not plan to run a third full-time Sprint Cup entry in 2014 and may very well size down its Nationwide Series program. Is there a chance Hornish follows Juan Pablo Montoya’s lead and returns to the Indy Car Series? Based on the financial woes of many open wheel teams that seems an unlikely option as well. The next few weeks could very well decide the future of Hornish’s racing career.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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