How do you control what you have no control over? What must be done when fate is at the mercy of someone else? Just how much trust does one have when all other elements are out of one’s hands?
That is exactly what Talladega is, and has been since NASCAR began using restrictor plates.
As many readers of this column know, this place scares the living daylights out of me. That’s coming from someone who has been at the track and experienced what this place is all about. It is no secret how I feel about this track and this style of racing. When the plates are put on the cars to restrict power, the draft becomes the necessary style adapted to run well both here and at Daytona. The difference is this track is much wider, and handling doesn’t play as big a factor as it does at Daytona. That means more risk of mistakes to happen, and bigger chance that fate is in someone else’s hands.
I’ve seen both the good and bad at this track. I’ve seen 15, 20 or 25-car accidents that happen because of one miscalculation and then every other driver involved simply cannot get out of the way in time. At the same time, I’ve been able to watch not one, not two, but three races go 188 laps with no caution flags. The latter certainly won’t happen again any time soon, but I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum and it still is surprising.
I’ve seen Dale Earnhardt come from 18th in just a few laps to take the lead and win the race, one that would eventually be his final victory. There have been races where the winning driver leads just one lap, and ones that were won by the most unexpected driver in the field.
If it could happen at this track, it has and I’ve seen it.
I have gained more respect for this track since my trip there in 2010, where I witnessed three different green-white-checkered attempts to finish the race, and a still-standing record of 88 lead changes, and that was just what was recorded at the start/finish line.
Still, every time NASCAR comes here I get nervous. It’s the same kind of nervous I get when someone I care about gets a medical procedure done. Even though I believe in the end everything will turn out well, the fear factor still lingers. Thankfully, the next race at this place does not happen until October, meaning now I can ease my mind and know that this place will stay dormant for a few months.
There is another restrictor plate race before that, but Daytona is a lot different than Talladega.
For now, I’m just grateful that every driver can walk to their motorhome, get out of their firesuits and can say they survived another race at the 2.66-mile super speedway.
RESULTS: 1-Hamlin 2-Biffle 3-Bowyer 4-Vickers 5-Allmendinger 6-Menard 7-Harvick 8-Kahne 9-Larson 10-Stenhouse Jr.
NOTABLE FINISHES: 12-Kyle Busch 23-Johnson 26-Earnhardt Jr. 30-Edwards 32-Logano 33-Kurt Busch 38-Keselowski 39-Gordon 43-Stewart
CAUTIONS: 8 for 31 laps. Lap 15-17 (#2, 10 accident-T1), 51-54 (debris-FS), 107-110 (debris-BS), 138-143 (#2, 7, 14, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 27, 33, 38, 48, 51 accident-T4), 152-156 (Oil on track), 176-180 (#3, 17, 22, 34, 36, 41, 48, 95 accident-T4), 184-186 (#17, 26, 31, 99 accident-T1), 188-188 (debris-FS).
LEAD CHANGES: 48 among 23 drivers. Scott POLE, Menard 1-5, Patrick 6-7, Gordon 8, Patrick 9-12, Keselowski 13, Menard 14, Cassill 15, Menard 16-19, Kenseth 20, Logano 21-31, Hamlin 32-34, Edwards 35-37, Logano 38, Edwards 39-40, Johnson 41, Logano 42-51, Gilliland 52, Kyle Busch 53, Logano 54-56, Biffle 57-58, Johnson 59, Biffle 60-94, Edwards 95, McDowell 96, Biffle 97-106, Ragan 107, Mears 108, Earnhardt Jr. 109-112, Bayne 113-118, Earnhardt Jr. 119-134, Ambrose 135-137, Sorenson 138, Newman 139, Mears 140-141, Biffle 142-145, Earnhardt Jr. 146-151, Biffle 152-158, Vickers 159-161, Hamlin 162, Vickers 163, Hamlin 164-165, Vikers 166-167, Harvick 168-180, Hamlin 181, Harvick 182, Hamlin 183-185, Harvick 186, Hamlin 187-188.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 17 Mins, 16 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 152.108 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: Under Caution
POINT STANDINGS: 1. Gordon, 347 points; 2. Kenseth, -3; 3. Kyle Busch, -4*; 4. Earnhardt Jr, -19*; 5. Edwards, -19*; 6. Logano, -42*; 7. Johnson, -43; 8. Biffle, -47; 9. Newman, -48; 10. Vickers, -50.
*Race Winner, Chase Eligible