I really don’t know what to say after all that happened in Sunday’s race. There was insanity, there was controversy. It had rain, sunshine, hail, and lightning. It was a day that started early but ended before sunset…minutes before sunset. There were angry drivers, confused drivers, and jubilant teams at the end of the day.
It was almost like a script to a movie, which in the end it sort of was.
I’ll start out with the controversy, specifically NASCAR’s idea that they wanted, and needed, to get the entire race in as advertised. Sounds like a good idea in theory, but when the rain came after the halfway point, I knew that the option was to either run the race after drying the track, or to call the race depending on the weather. After one shower, it certainly seemed like there was a chance. But when the second round of rain hit, this one more severe, majority of everyone at the track and watching on FOX had the feeling it was going to be called. Considering the fact that Talladega doesn’t have lights, it seemed like it was the best option…call the race done.
Not this time, NASCAR waited through over a three and a half hour rain delay, including track drying, to go back to racing. But darkness was approaching, and quickly. In the end, it actually went to a green-white-checkered finish in the dark. On TV, it didn’t look bad, but television has visual effects to make it bright. In reality, drivers had trouble seeing out the windshield, and spotters had issues seeing the cars.
To coin a phrase from Ryan Newman, who was involved in the wreck that led to the final caution, “NASCAR needs to take their head out of their ass.” Now, first I apologize for the language used there, and second I have to agree. When drivers are saying they cannot see, well see anything but the lights on the pace car, something is not right. Talladega has some lights on the front straightaway, but it’s to help teams get out of the track, so they at least can see where they’re going.
Sorry, NASCAR, I understand the commitment to getting the race in fully, but come on…nearly seven hours of waiting, and after having a similar situation in the Nationwide race as well, blown call on both sides.
At the same time, the most unexpected thing in the end was seeing a team that costs an owner mostly in the pocketbook to run finish the race as the top two on the scoreboard. To give an idea, the odds of seeing Front Row Motorsports’ drivers David Ragan and David Reutimann finishing 1-2 in any race is about 9000:1, sort of like having a race horse that hadn’t even seen a track win the Kentucky Derby. But at Talladega, anything can, and normally will, happen. In this case, a team that is run mostly out of the pocket of owner Bob Jenkins can say they beat the best drivers in the sport, not just by winning, but by sweeping.
Those of you that have read this column the last few years know I make no bones about it, Talladega is the one track on the circuit that scares me to my bones. Even me being at the track one year gave me more respect for it, but maintained the fear. I certainly will give credit where credit is due though. Talladega has a knack for bringing out emotions, both good and bad, and is capable of having some feel-good stories at the end of the day.
So despite my anger and disapproval of NASCAR going late into the night to finish the race, to see an under-funded team sweep the top two spots certainly is what I’m going to remember this time around.
RESULTS: 1-Ragan 2-Gilliland 3-Edwards 4-Waltrip 5-Johnson 6-Smith 7-Truex Jr. 8-Kenseth 9-Speed 10-Almirola
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Gordon 15-Keselowski 17-Earnhardt Jr. 27-Stewart 33-Patrick 37-Kyle Busch 40-Harvick 42-Kahne
CAUTIONS: 5 for 31 laps. Lap 24-28 (Fluid on track), 44-51 (#18, 56, 5, 29, 11, 1, 16, 31, 30, 78, 83, 13, 95, 14, 24 accident-T1), 124-130 (Weather [Red Flag: 3 Hrs, 36 Mins, 6 Secs.]), 175-178 (#98 Accident-T1), 184-190 (#15, 24, 1, 78, 9, 39, 36, 10, 47, 30, 17, 55 accident-BS).
LEAD CHANGES: 30 among 17 drivers. Edwards POLE, Truex Jr 1-5, Kenseth 6-24, Harvick 25, Menard 26, Kenseth 27-28, Burton 29, Kenseth 30-47, McMurray 48-49, Kenseth 50-55, Newman 56-57, Kenseth 58-89, Keselowski 90, Ragan 91, Gordon 92, Kenseth 93-116, Johnson 117-120, Stenhouse Jr. 121-122, Edwards 123-126, Kurt Busch 127, Ragan 128, Labonte 129-133, Kenseth 134-166, Kurt Busch 167, Ragan 168, Speed 169, Almirola 170, Johnson 171-182, Kenseth 183-190, Edwards 191, Ragan 192.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 26 Mins, 2 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 148.729 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.212 Seconds
POINTS: 1. Johnson, 383 points; 2. Edwards, -41; 3. Earnhardt Jr, -59; 4. Bowyer, -67; 5. Keselowski, -69; 6. Kahne, -84; 7. Almirola, -90; 8. Menard, -93; 9. Kyle Busch, -98; 10. Biffle, -103; 11. Kenseth, -104; 12. Harvick, -107