Talladega and Daytona are always linked together because they are the only two tracks on the entire Sprint Cup schedule that requires the use of the horsepowerrobbing restrictor plates. Without the use of the plates at these high speed tracks, the speeds would probably reach the neighborhood of around 220 mph and NASCAR doesn’t want its drivers and cars anywhere near that mark.
The governing body does a great job of keeping the cars just below the 200 mph barrier by not only using the restrictor plates, but by also working with spoiler heights and the front ends of the individual makes of cars. NASCAR’s goal has always been the safety of the drivers first and then to ensure that the race puts on a good show for the fans.
Putting on a good show for the fans has been a problem in recent years, as the rules have kept the speeds in the range with which NASCAR is comfortable, but in the process seems to change the kind of racing that we see. New rules were implemented right up to the dropping of the green flag for the Daytona 500 this year to try and break up the two car packs that had been dominating the restrictor plate racing, and for the most part the changes accomplished exactly what they were intended.
Even with all of the rule changes over the years, the one variable that NASCAR has a hard time of controlling is what most people refer to as the “big one”. It seems like most races at either one of these tracks always includes at least one large multi-car crash that changes the outcome of the race.
Since Daytona is the first race of the season when a driver gets caught up in one of these giant pile-ups, there is no concern of how it will affect his chances of making the Chase. The same can’t be said about Talladega because it’s the 10th race of the season and by this point the pecking order for the 12 spots in the Chase are already being drawn.
Some drivers have already entrenched themselves in the top 10 in points while some of the preseason favorites for one of the spots have already decided that their best avenue for gaining entry into the championship round is to start collecting wins. That leaves Talladega’s first race with the early season tag of “wild card” as oftentimes the favorites may not even be around at the end and the possibility of losing a big chunk of points makes getting through this race a must for most teams in the thick of the points battle.
The series will roll back into Daytona in July but once again the track just seems to get a pass because of its legendary status. A Daytona win can make help make a career even if it is in July and not February. Sure, a Talladega’s victory lane is one of the most sought pieces of real estate on the entire schedule, but wait and see when the series comes back in October that the you don’t once again hear “wild card” being used in describing the race. Those drivers in the Chase know that one bad race can kill their championship aspirations so just surviving is every bit as important as taking the checkered flag.
Talladega is in deed a “wild card” of sorts, but that only applies to how it changes the point standings after the checkers wave. The racing itself will be some of the best of the season as it produces the kind of racing only seen at the restrictor plate tracks. Some fans like it and some don’t, but you can’t argue the number of lead changes and the ending that is usually not decided until they come out of turn four on the last lap.
Talladega’s finish line is farther down the tri-oval than Daytona, giving the drivers more time to make their move heading to the finish line and in the process usually giving us another memorable finish that only restrictor plates can produce.
PIT NOTES: Last year’s Aaron’s 499 had 26 of the 43 drivers that started the race picking up a bonus point for leading at least one lap.
Event: Aaron’s 499
Track: Talladega Superspeedway
(2.66-mile tri-oval, 33 degrees of
banking in the turns)
Date: May 6, 1 p.m.
Defending Champion: Jimmie