The Frontstretch: Five Points to Ponder: Talladega Edition by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday April 27, 2009

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Five Points to Ponder: Talladega Edition

Mike Lovecchio · Monday April 27, 2009


A NASCAR induced near-disaster?

Like every single person watching the FOX telecast or sitting in the stands at the 2.66-mile superspeedway that has produced some of the scariest incidents in NASCAR history, I too held my breath waiting for the window net to drop on the No. 99 car after Carl Edwards went sailing into the fence. But as soon as Edwards climbed out of his machine and sprinted to the stripe Ricky Bobby-style, my emotions quickly turned from relief to anger. Like many, I immediately flashed back to Regan Smith’s “illegal” winning pass on Tony Stewart in last year’s event and thought to myself, “This was NASCAR’s fault. If there were no yellow-line rule, Keselowski would have made that pass clean, and we’d be talking about one of the biggest upsets ever and not this near-disaster.”

After his wild ride, Carl Edwards took a short walk across the finish line to “finish” Sunday’s Aaron’s 499.

But as time passed … my frustration did, too. Was the crash a direct result of the rule? Yes… but how many crashes has the rule prevented? I think that when all of the immediate emotions pass, everybody (NASCAR included) should look back and analyze whether or not this restriction is truly a necessary safety precaution. However, in the end, I don’t think the rule should be changed based on this one unfortunate incident. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. said it best in his post-race press conference when he admitted, “I think you can’t blame what happened at the end of the race on the yellow-line rule… guys have been running over each other for years.”

Restrictor plates the problem?

In the same press conference, Earnhardt said that NASCAR needs to find a way to spread the field out and that with the combination of these cars and this restrictor plate package, it’s essentially a 43-car IROC race. He stressed that handling needs to be at a premium like Daytona, and that as long as there are large groups of cars, anything can happen. Restrictor plates were brought about to keep cars out of the fence, but this weekend showed that not even they can prevent accidents like that from happening. So, what now?

I honestly think there’s no right answer to that question. Let’s face it: racing is dangerous, and you can’t get around it. Cars at Talladega will either be too fast or too bunched together… pick your poison.

Biggest upset since Gilliland?

In one of my first columns here at the Frontstretch, I said that Brad Keselowski’s three race tryout with JR Motorsports back in 2007 would be his opportunity to showcase his talent and possibly turn his career and Earnhardt’s team around. Since then, Keselowski has continued to improve week after week to the point that it’s he, not Joey Logano, who is the most talented rookie driver on the circuit. This race will forever be known for “Carl Edwards’ flip,” but in fact it’s one of the biggest upsets of the past decade, right up there with David Gilliland’s Nationwide Series triumph at Kentucky and Jamie McMurray’s shocking win at Lowe’s in 2002. It’s also possibly the start of a tremendous full-time Cup career.

NASCAR still deserves a hand

Last time the motorsports media congratulated NASCAR for its emphasis on safety was the infamous Michael McDowell crash at Texas a year ago. Well, this weekend saw a wide array of scary crashes, starting with Matt Kenseth’s flip on Saturday, the devastating Robby Gordon head-on hit on the backstretch on Lap 180, then Edwards’ rough ride on Sunday. All three walked away, and for that, whatever hostility that fans may have towards the sanctioning body for the yellow-line rule “supposedly” causing the Edwards crash should be balanced out by the sport’s emphasis on safety which allowed all drivers to leave the track injury-free. LIVE BLOG comment of the race

Each week, I will further expand on some of the more interesting fan comments from our weekly LIVE Cup race blog. This is one that caught my eye from Sunday’s race:

Sadler struggles with a straight car, never mind a wrecked one
—DougS on a radio report that Elliott Sadler was struggling with a damaged race car.

Elliott Sadler has become fairly disliked by a number of NASCAR fans because of the whole offseason lawsuit debacle and subsequent rise in the popularity of A.J. Allmendinger, the man who lost out on the No. 19 ride because of Sadler. Since a 5th place run at the Daytona 500, it’s been all downhill for him, with a 19th place run this weekend marking his highest finish since. The Virginian can still be a marketable driver and has an infectious personality; but at some point, performance is important, too, and right now he’s experiencing a double whammy of sorts.

P.S.: Don’t forget, our live blog pops up again this weekend! Check out the coverage beginning Saturday night at Richmond.

Notes to Ponder

Rookie success: Lost in the intrigue of Keselowski’s win is the fact that Marcos Ambrose, Scott Speed, and Joey Logano all finished in the top 10.

Fan injuries: At press time, it’s been reported that eight fans suffered relatively minor injuries with just two hospitalizations.

Don’t forget Saturday: It’s easy to forget because of Sunday’s exceptional finish… but Saturday’s finish was just as good.

Weekend of firsts: In addition to Keselowski’s first career Cup win, David Ragan earned his first NASCAR win in the Nationwide event.

Gunselman Motorsports Withdraws: The No. 64 Cup team didn’t attempt Talladega because of the costs associated with restrictor plate racing. And after two Big Ones and a handful of wrecks … chances are that was a smart decision for a program that could ill afford neither a DNQ nor a totaled race car.

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paul sparks
04/27/2009 02:59 AM

Doesn’t this win almost mirror the 1985 Pepsi 400 win by Greg Sacks. Essentially an R & D car from Hendrick, young promising driver, and a legend having relatively the same equipment as the winner.

04/27/2009 03:50 AM

Mike, there IS another choice other than the too-fast or too-bunched-together poisons. Just mandate an engine with less horsepower for both Daytona and Talladega. That’ll spread the cars out and keep the max speed under 200mph. But as long as NASCAR and the media continue to foolishly promote this kind of close-quarter racing and the “big one“s that result, I don’t think they will have the sense to choose this safer alternative.

04/27/2009 11:35 AM

NASCAR loves the close-qusrter racing and the guaranteed huge pileups that grab headlines. It’s been pretty well established that the restrictor plates do not do what they were intended to do. It’s sad that NASCAR won’t budge on the plates for 20+ years now. Besides the obvious danger they create, the races become a total JOKE! More of a parade than a race.

04/27/2009 11:57 AM

“Lost in the intrigue of Keselowski’s win is the fact that Marcos Ambrose, Scott Speed, and Joey Logano all finished in the top 10.”
Only because half of the up front contenders were wiped out in the “ Big One”.

Kevin in SoCal
04/27/2009 01:05 PM

Mike wrote: “should be balanced out by the sport’s emphasis on safety which allowed all drivers to leave the track injury-free.

And then you consider the eight fans who were injured by debris. Oh, but at least the drivers were safe.

04/27/2009 01:52 PM

Its time to change something. Even Jimmy Johnson said “It sucks to race here.” What I think saved several fans lives was the contact between Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman, or Carl may have been through the fence. Here’s an Idea, Lets use the same 358 V8 block, remove the pistons and connecting rods on one bank, thus making a 4 cylinder 179 slant 4. Yes, a special crank would be necessary but costs would be much less than a whole new engine.

The Old Guy
04/27/2009 02:26 PM

Can anyone imagine the outrage if Reagan smith had turned Tony Stewart the same way last year?

Carl Edwards was correct in both of his statements.

Keslowski did what he had to do and followed the rules doing it. And, it is time to rethink that “yellow line rule”.

Carl was also quite Classy in not blaming, or being angry with, Keslowski.

The yellow line caused a major crash at Daytona. It doesn’t matter who you think was at fault, the yellow line caused it.

Good thing Carls car didn’t go through, or over that fence. It very well could have happened.

NASCAR’s Jim Hunter didn’t agree with Carl. Hunter wasn’t in the 99 car. Had he been, his view might be quite different.

04/27/2009 04:00 PM

‘dega is no race. It’s a complete luck of the draw.

still a win for Keselowski but it’s a ‘dega lottery win.

Kevin in SoCal
04/27/2009 04:02 PM

Jeff, actually I believe it was the contact with Newman’s car that pushed Edwards’ car up into the fence. The roof flaps were up on Edwards’ car and it was coming back down, until it hit Newman’s car and went back up.

04/27/2009 06:32 PM

the biggest problem,is nascar letting the drivers, BLOCK!!!!If you try to block ,as fast, as those cars are going, you, get what you ask for!!!If, another car is faster than you, they should be able to pass, without,a jerk, trying to block you. I DO NOT T6HINK, ANYONE SHOULD BLOCK, ANOTHER DRIVER!!!

04/27/2009 07:41 PM

Too many people writing here who do not know anything about the Talladega Track. No way the car goes through or over that fence. The fence has a ledge at the top over the edge of the track, very heavy guage wire, and lots of steel. The fence did its job because it was designed to do its job. I have sat before almost in the exact spot, on the front row, where this lady was sitting. When you sit on the front at any track, there is a danger, however slight, of injury. I was burned by oil off Bill Elliots car when he and Earnhardt wrecked in ’96. Now, I sit in the towers, a bird might drop a bomb on me, but a car part won’t.

As for Brad, he did nothing, absolutely nothing wrong. Carl admitted he blocked and came back down in an occupied space. End of story. I am an eyewitness to the accident, and I am glad no one was killed or seriously injured. Hate restrictor plates. Stand the windshields up, hurt the aero, and the speeds are less. The track itself is great.

04/27/2009 07:53 PM

On the fence issue, not to mention several cables almost as big as Hulk Hogan’s pythons. So much steel it almost blocks the view.

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