It was surviving the late stages that led Brad Keselowski to victory at Talladega, his second win of the 2012 season.
Expect the unexpected…anticipate, don’t predict…save your equipment for the end. It’s exactly how racing with a restrictor plate has been the last few years. Everyone is riding around all afternoon, biding their time, then when the last few laps come up…everyone goes full bore to the finish.
I’m all for that style, and I know the consequences. But the race at Talladega brought back a rules package that I was critical of at Daytona, and am critical with again…just for new reasons.
Let’s first start with what the current package is meant to do. Last year, at all four races at Daytona and Talladega, the drafting was pairs of cars together for an entire race, bumper-to-bumper, and yet no one overheated or had engine issues. Fans didn’t like it, and some drivers loathed it. So, during the off-season NASCAR officials decided to make changes to ensure that if the tandem draft was to occur, it would not last but a couple laps.
The changes first were a smaller rear spoiler and a lowered rear bumper, which first would make the car in front harder to handle in the draft, and the car pushing would not get as much air to the engine. Out front, the grille opening was moved from just above the spoiler up to the bumper, just below the grille decal. To also make sure drivers were aware if the engines were getting hot, a lower pressure valve was added to the cooling system. Plus, the radiator for the motor was reduced to a smaller size, meaning less water, and thus a quicker time to overheat.
At Daytona, I was critical of the rear spoiler size, as in it was too small. One slight bump in the wrong spot and a car can go spinning. It possibly would have at least helped out in preventing Jimmie Johnson from wrecking on just the second lap.
I hated seeing that, and at the same time I knew something had to be done. In anticipation of wanting to see changes for Talladega, I talked with other fans, writers, and read up on what both drivers and teams believed. On my weekly podcast on BlogTalkRadio.com (Lugnuts and Horsepower, 6 p.m. on Saturdays), it was a big topic that I and my co-hosts simply were passionate about, and still are.
Following last week’s race, I was hoping that entering the biggest track, knowing how big the risks were, I was hoping for change…and it never came.
So, I was figuring that I’d at least let the aerodynamics slide for this race. I’ll admit, I was a bit wrong, at least in some sense, but what also came about was yet another problem that unless addressed, will actually cost teams a lot of money.
The grille on the front of the car not only was not large enough for the kind of racing that was seen. Cars were getting hot quick, and hardly any driver wanted to try the tandem draft. The fact that an abnormally warm weekend in Alabama for spring did not help matters. The high-80s spring temperatures meant warmer engines, and warmer water in the radiators. That in essence made the motors run at a higher temperature, and the water was gonna flow out very quick.
That being said, NASCAR now looks like they made the wrong decision in bringing the exact same package from Daytona to Talladega. Now, with Daytona two months away, it’s a matter of asking if NASCAR will change anything for the night race on Independence Day weekend.
We all know how warm Florida gets in the summer, so I think NASCAR will need to look into at least giving these drivers either a bigger radiator, a bigger grille opening to cool the engine, or both.
Either way, NASCAR can’t risk teams running hot and blowing up engines. That means a lot of wasted money in a motor program for 43 cars.
RESULTS: 1-Keselowski 2-Kyle Busch 3-Kenseth 4-Kahne 5-Biffle 6-Bowyer 7-Ragan 8-Bayne 9-Earnhardt Jr. 10-Burton
NOTABLE FINISHES: 14-Ambrose 20-Kurt Busch 23-Hamlin 24-Stewart 25-Harvick 31-Edwards 33-Gordon 35-Johnson
CAUTIONS: 5 for 24 laps. Lap 17-20 (#78 engine, oil on track), 144-150 (#20, 24, 32, 36, 42, 43, 56, 83, 99 accident-T3), 177-179 (#9, 13, 21 accident-T2), 182-184 (#2, 51 accident-FS), 186-192 (#11, 14, 16, 20, 22, 23, 27, 29, 55 accident-T1).
LEAD CHANGES: 34 among 17 drivers. Gordon POLE, Stewart 1-16, Menard 17, Kvapil 18, Kenseth 19-24, Waltrip 25-45, Johnson 46-50, Kenseth 51-59, Burton 60-61, Earnhardt Jr 62-71, Kenseth 72-86, Kahne 87-94, Montoya 95, Kahne 96-98, Montoya 99-100, Biffle 101, Harvick 102, Menard 103-104, Biffle 105-111, Burton 112, Biffle 113-119, Kurt Busch 120-121, Kenseth 122-133, Kurt Busch 134-135, Kenseth 136-142, Kyle Busch 143, Menard 144-150, Keselowski 151-158, Hamlin 159-161, Mears 162-163, Hamlin 164-166, Kenseth 167-174, Hamlin 175-176, Kenseth 177-192, Keselowski 193-194.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 13 Mins, 17 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 160.192 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.304 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS: 1. Biffle, 378 points; 2. Kenseth, -7; 3. Earnhardt Jr, -9; 4. Hamlin, -27; 5. Harvick, -45; 6. Truex Jr, -46; 7. Stewart, -50; 8. Johnson, -54; 9. Kyle Busch, -70; 10. Bowyer, -76; 11. Edwards, -78; 12. Keselowski, -79