Going into the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega, much of the talk in the series centered on the lack of wrecks and whether or not the trend was good for the sport. It was just another issue that had people talking — if the lack of twisted sheet metal might actually have something to do with the sagging attendance numbers that the sport seems to be seeing at each stop on the schedule.
The theory that the lack of wrecking in the Sprint Cup Series was causing fans to stay away from the track first picked up steam after the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Bristol owner Bruton Smith polled the fans about the kind of racing that his track was producing and the results now have him grinding the upper groove of the all-concrete surface before the series returns for the annual August night race.
Bristol is its own unique animal and shouldn’t really be used to judge whether or not the action on the track is becoming boring to fans. The schedule has stopped at Fontana, Martinsville, Texas, Kansas, Richmond and Talladega since Bristol, and going into Sunday’s race at Talladega the last multi-car crash had occurred at Martinsville.
Those tracks that followed Bristol with the exception of Richmond and Martinsville were never known to produce a lot of wrecking but the media had already jumped all over the lack of wrecking and the effect that it was having on the series. All of that is now history as Talladega once again lived up to its reputation of producing a “big one”, but just to make sure all was right with the sport, the track produced a total of four multi-car crashes that by the end of the race had sent 19 cars to the garage area.
So it appears that there wasn’t anything wrong with the sport, all it needed was a trip to Talladega that always has the ingredients to make sure that the flagman’s arm gets a good workout waving the yellow flag. NASCAR’s new set of rules for racing on the restrictor plate tracks of both Daytona and Talladega had broken up the two-car tandems that dominated racing at the tracks last season, and had once again returned the racing to large packs of cars running together.
Drivers were content for much of the race to find another car they could draft with and just put in some laps, but there is just something that happens at both of these restrictor plate tracks when the number of laps left begins to quickly go off the board. Suddenly it is time to get into position to make your move for the end of the race and that usually involves changing drafting partners. That can become tough when you are racing bumper to bumper three and four wide.
That’s the perfect storm, so to speak, for producing multi-car crashes and it seems that it is during the final laps at a restrictor plate track that the pack just gets so tight that the slightest of bumps produces the sight of cars spinning out of control. Talladega’s greenwhite checkered finish on Sunday was the track’s seventh since the sport started extending the length of a race to make sure fans saw a green flag finish. That total is second only to Daytona’s nine green-white-checkered finishes.
This week when the series rolls into Darlington for its annual Mother’s Day weekend race, there will be no restrictor plates but there will be a throwback track that has built its reputation on wrecked racecars. That reputation was earned long before the Chase began and the new point system was used. Those two items may have more to do with the clean racing we are seeing than any other factors. Call it “chase racing” or “points racing”, either way it’s all about putting your team in a position for the post season and it is the reason that caution laps have been so few and far between this season.
Event: Bojangles’ Southern 500
Track: Darlington Raceway
(1.3.66-mile oval, turns 1&2- 25
degrees of banking, 3&4 – 23 degrees) Date: May 12, 7 p.m.
Defending Champion: Regan