Talladega Rear View Mirror
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on May 4, 2014 | 6:15 P.M. EST
Intense racing was the order of the day in the second restrictor plate race of the season. (Photo: Getty Images)
If there is such a thing as a “typical” Talladega race, Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 was it.
Intense racing, big wrecks, high emotions and controversy were the order of the day in the second restrictor plate race of the season.
After the intensity level drivers demonstrated in the season-opening Daytona 500, the question was would the same type of competition be on display at Talladega. The answer early on was yes.
From nearly the start of the race, three and four wide racing was the order of the day. While things calmed down for a time during the middle portion of the race, the bulk of the 499 miles featured breath taking and scintillating pack racing all around the mammoth 2.66-mile track.
Although there were “only” eight cautions, the majority were for variations of Talladega’s “Big One.” It seemed nobody was immune from the potential to be involved in the carnage and the list of victims included former series champions Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon among others.
Unfortunately the day’s last caution robbed fans of what was shaping up to be a quintessential Talladega shootout to decide the winner. But NASCAR had no choice but to end the race with the yellow when Justin Allgaier’s bumper wound up in the middle of the track at the start-finish line from another multi-car crash after the field took the white flag.
It was a rather anti-climactic ending to what was for the most part a thrilling afternoon in Alabama.
- Maybe the best thing to say about NASCAR’s new “knockout qualifying” format being used for the first time at Talladega is that it was different. Was it weird? Yes. Was it perfect? Nope. But Saturday’s Sprint Cup Series qualifying session was certainly more entertaining than the old single car system that took more than three hours to complete. The bottom line to remember is that it is qualifying and the big prize is the race. So while some drivers complained about what transpired and others - like surprise pole sitter Brian Scott – celebrated, let’s take a breath. It’s a work in progress and like anything else will take time to evolve.
- Sunday wasn’t a great day for Brad Keselowski. The 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion was involved in a pair of controversial incidents, the first when he made contact with Danica Patrick racing down the frontstretch. After Keselowski’s car was clipped by the front of Patrick’s, the Miller Lite Ford went on a slide for life through the apron and the driver made a miraculous save. Unfortunately Keselowski wasn’t as fortunate later when he bobble in the middle of the pack and triggered what turned out to be a 12 car crash in turn four. Keselowski was six laps down at the time and drew much criticism for racing with the leaders while so far out of contention.
- Now with 10 races in the books there are still a number of heavy hitters still seeking their first win of the season. Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne top the list of those looking to break into the victory column, a quintet that combined for 16 wins last season.
- Sunday’s race didn’t produce one of Talladega’s patented surprise or upset winners but there were still some underdog stories that should not go unnoticed. AJ Allmendinger continued his impressive early season with JTG Daugherty Racing and scored a fifth-place finish, his first career top five at Talladega. Landon Cassill scored a career best 11th-place finish for the Hillman Racing organization to go along with his 12th-place run in the Daytona 500. And Germain Racing’s Casey Mears turned last week’s fight spotlight with Marcos Ambrose in Richmond into an impressive 14th Sunday at Talladega.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.