Talladega Finish Left Some Folks Hungry
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
After a long, strenuous hike through the Colorado mountains, Rob had developed a powerful hunger. He ordered a deluxe burger and a large bag of potato chips. The burger showed up at the table looking anything but deluxe.
Rob opened the bulging bag of chips. A big puff of packing gas shot out. Down in the bottom the large deflated bag was a small handful of greasy crumbs. Rob looked up. “Ripped again,” he said.
After investing two hours and 49 minutes of prime football Sunday watching the “X-Factor” Chase race at Talladega only to see a long, straight line of the best teams and drivers in America slow pacelap speed and to a yellow-flag finish, the thought was: Ripped again.
The reason many fans so look forward to Talladega races is to watch the chaotic, final-five-lap scrambles to the finish line.
That’s especially true about the fall Talladega race. The Talladega Chase race. The one which playoff teams fear if they are high in the points race and the teams which are low in points view as perhaps a last opportunity to rekindle championship hopes.
The race which can turn throw the Sprint Cup playoffs into highly satisfying disarray.
On Sunday, Talladega produced array. In the end, nobody did anything.
The final 4.5 laps featured a conga line behind leader and eventual winner Jamie McMurray. And when a wreck on the back stretch during the final lap brought out the yellow and ended the race, the letdown was fairly tangible.
The Chase did get shaken up a bit, but it was anything but stirring.
“Shocking,” Chase driver Jeff Gordon said when asked if he was surprised that nobody opted to break ranks. “Shocking.
“I’ve never seen guys have that much patience here in my life. So I was pretty shocked to see them just holding that line like they did.”
Paul Menard, who finished in the top five, said, “The last 10 laps it was riding around on the outside waiting for somebody to make a move. You didn’t want to be the guy that made a move and nobody went with you. So, there really wasn’t a whole lot we could have done there at the end.”
Perhaps other drivers were waiting for the final turn or two to make their moves, to produce another memorable Talladega finish.
Another driver like Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished a blah second.
“I had a plan we were going to get a run down the back straightaway me and the No. 14 (Austin Dillon) and whoever else wanted to go,” Earnhardt said. “They got together behind me getting into their quarter panels and we just never really got a chance to see what we could do. We had our run formed in the middle of (turns) One and Two and we were coming off of (Turn) Two with pretty good steam when they spun out behind me. My car quit going because we weren’t being pushed anymore.”
Or, perhaps, the field, and especially the Chasers, had decided a pragmatic acceptance of getting out of Alabama with what they already had bagged up, was the way to go.
Earnhardt tellingly added in his interview, “So real happy to run second and definitely an improvement on what we have been doing here in the past.”
And therein might be another sign that securing points has become more important than going for wins in Sprint Cup.
Earnhardt Jr., who could have torn the place apart had he finished first and not second at Talladega, was kind of cool with second place.
As were a couple of other Chasers with their final positions.
“I am happy to have the points lead and we went through a lot of work to get there,” Jimmie Johnson, who finished 13th said. “We were just getting one point at a time and we got a few more than normal today and were able to get the lead. We just go racing from here and that is the thing I am most excited for. Great race tracks, great race cars and it’s just going to be a dogfight to the end.”
In the grandstands and on the living room couches, you just know there were people who were hoping for a dogfight on the final laps at Talladega on Sunday.
Instead, you just know that a lot of fans had to be feeling: Ripped again.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments