Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rating the Good Sam Club 500: 5 Stars *****

After five relatively boring races to start the Chase, the excitement level jumped up a notch at Talladega. The final restrictor-plate race of the season gets the first 5 Star Rating of the Chase.

Clint Bowyer won yet another photo finish Sunday at Talladega, edging out his teammate Jeff Burton at the line. Bowyer made a great move coming into the tri-oval and just barely kept Burton from coming back to beat him.

This race was one of the best restrictor-plate races since the two-car bump draft has been used in full force. While NASCAR didn’t end the two-car draft with its rule changes heading into the race, it did keep the pack a little closer.

Sunday’s race kind of combined the two styles of drafting. Cars had to be touching to make any speed, but other than Bowyer and Burton at the end, nobody really jumped out from the pack.

Plus, the emotional ride of a restrictor-plate race is unlike any other.

Before the gentlemen start their engines, there is a nervous tension that surrounds the racetrack. Talladega one of the two most exciting tracks on the schedule, but that also means it is one of the two most dangerous, as well, along with Daytona.

The drivers’ eyes tell the story on a Sunday morning at Talladega. There is a little more trepidation than normal, and Dan Wheldon’s wreck last week only made that feeling worse.

Then the race starts and all of the focus turns to the track. The first several laps are usually pretty intense as the field sorts itself out, but then the race settles into a rhythm. That rhythm remains until the laps wind down. Then the tension really starts to pick up.

The little bit larger packs Sunday brought back a few larger wrecks. A.J. Allmendinger and Mark Martin both got turned into the middle of the racetrack. Those spins would’ve taken out 20 cars a couple of years ago, but they also would’ve taken out maybe just a car or two in recent restrictor-plate races.

However, these wrecks are extremely dangerous. The hit Regan Smith took in Turn 4 was unbelievably hard.

After the big wreck, it’s time to settle the race among the cars that are left, and then things get wild as drivers such as Jeff Gordon manage to find their way through a hole that hadn’t even developed yet.

Finally, the final laps turn into a final lunge toward the finish line. This time Burton and Bowyer jumped out after the late restart and were able to settle things before the four-wide pack barreled across the finish line.

There is no other type of race with an intensity level as high for nearly as long. Once a restrictor-plate race is finished, fans often feel more exhausted emotionally than their favorite driver looks after he climbs out of his car.

Overall, this Talladega race was another wild ride. Many people might not like the two-car drafts, but this was the best version of that style of racing so far.

Now it’s time to finish the run to the championship. Carl Edwards extended his lead, Kevin Harvick took a big hit in the points standings, and Jimmie Johnson is 50 points out of the lead. That’s more than a full race, and doubts that he can come back get larger with every passing week.

4 comments:

  1. Exciting? Yes... A crap shoot? Yes again... Let's analyze the strategy shall we? By the numbers: (The Hendrick Motorsport's way)

    1. Establish early that your car and your drafting partner's car can drive to the front.
    2. Get your 1 point for leading a lap.
    3. Break the draft and move to the back of the pack.
    4. Maintain a lead lap position with enough of a cushion to be able to avoid the inevitable mistakes that lead to bad, multi-car accidents so you don't get collected in them.
    5. Once the field has been thinned out due to attrition, wait for the final 20 laps to move back to the front.
    6. If everything works out just right, do everything you can to beat that SOB who put you in position for a knife fight and stab your drafting partner in the back for the ultimate win!

    OR: (The Richard Childress Racing way)

    1. Establish early that your car and your drafting partner's car can drive to the front.
    2. Get your 1 point for leading a lap.
    3. Do everything you can to maintain track position at or near the front by continuing to draft race.
    4. By staying at or near the front you avoid the inevitable mistakes that lead to bad, multi-car accidents so you don't get collected in them.
    5. Wait for the final 20 laps to move into the lead.
    6. If everything works out just right, do everything you can to beat that SOB who put you in position for a knife fight and stab your drafting partner in the back for the ultimate win!

    OR: (Seemingly everybody else's way)

    1. Find a drafting partner and try not to wreck each other!
    2. Pray nobody gets hurt or worse...

    It certainly was exciting!

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  2. PeterGammonsTurkeyNeckOctober 24, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    The racing was bad, really bad. Nascar again throws a fake yellow for Denny H.. So he doesn't lose a lap. The problem with Nascar is simple: NASCAR and its management, or lack thereof, have done this to themselves. This all used to be fun and exciting, now it’s not.

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  3. Dwindy1 - Haha, it was fun! These restrictor-plate races are always changing. Next year's Speedweeks will probably be pretty different than what we saw Sunday. Either way, it's great.
    Thanks!

    PeterGammonsTurkeyNeck - The debris cautions are often a problem. However, Talladega is one place where the consequences are great if you're sorry not safe. Also, no matter the style of racing with restrictor plates or without, NASCAR will be fun. Just ignore the rules and politics as much as possible when they become a problem.
    Thanks!

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  4. Great description of the tension involved in a plate race!

    I have to disagree about M Martin "getting turned". That was all on him, he took a left turn, right into the kid! that's about the 5-6th time Mark's drove all over somebody this year. He needs to pack it up.

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