Plate Debate Rages On After Talladega
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
Talladega, Ala. – Two of the big debates in racing today involve how the competition today compares to what went on in the so-called good-old days and whether a great
finish is enough to make up for the rest of a race failing to live up to expectations.
Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway produced a Sprint Cup record-tying 88 lead changes, but those swaps at the front didn’t appear to particularly arouse the fans in the grandstands, until the closing laps.
But the race ended spectacularly, with four two-car tandems almost side by side at the finish line. Jimmie Johnson, with a push from Dale Earnhardt Jr., beat Clint Bowyer, who was being pushed by Kevin Harvick, by .002 seconds, which also tied a NASCAR record.
That record, the closest since NASCAR instituted electronic scoring, was set in 2003 by Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch, who swapped the lead several times in the closing laps at Darlington Raceway before Craven prevailed in a door-banging run to the checkered flag.
But the racing at Talladega on Sunday was far different from the Craven-Busch battle.
In races past, such as Craven and Busch at Darlington, drivers fended for themselves. It was one man and his machine versus the other 42 and their machines. Today, at Daytona and Talladega, it takes two to go fast, and there are plenty of people who will say that what amounts to a one-lap shootout at the end, if exciting enough, immediately transforms an otherwise so-so race into a great one.
“Here is the thing,” Sunday’s runner-up Bowyer said. “It doesn’t matter what happened throughout that race or what your thought was. If you didn’t like that finish and it didn’t make you forget about the race, you’re crazy.
“Something about that, it just makes you forget about it and makes it – if it was a problem, it ain’t a problem anymore.
“It always seems to fix itself at the end of these restrictor plate races. It doesn’t matter who is up there.”
Sunday’s results also mean that the two-car tandem draft likely is here to stay for some time, despite the criticisms of it by drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Gordon, who started on the pole, rode in the back for most of the race then surged to the
front at the end, said that the current car is made to order for the tandem draft, and unless the car changes the racing won’t. And he said that the racing at Talladega has never really been a 188-lap affair.
“Let’s be honest: In my opinion, Talladega has always been about a 15‑, 25‑lap race, and the rest is just trying to get to the end,” he said. “And that’s basically what we have now.
“If you want to survive and you want to make it to the finish, you have to either choose to try to push to stay up front, or ride in the back. Being in the middle, to me, is not worth it.”
Gordon also said that the two-car tandems aren’t going away.
“This two‑car draft is here to stay, unless they drastically change the cars,” he said. “The restrictor plate is not going to change that. It would take a whole new revamping of the car to change that.
“I kind of laugh at that because that’s kind of what was designed, with this car, was to create that.”
– Rick Minter can be reached at email@example.com Comments