Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: 2009 AMP Energy 500 at Talladega Edition

Each week, Frontstretch hosts a live blog during the Sprint Cup race. It’s a great way for readers to interact alongside their favorite Frontstretch writers with videos, live commentary and live polls. Four of this week’s “Five Points” were polls taken during the Talladega live blog.

ONE: What grade would you give today’s race?

Fan Vote – A: 0%; B: 7%; C: 21%; D: 36%; F: 36%

Has there ever been a race so exciting and so boring at the same time? Sunday’s race at Talladega had all of the close quarters racing we’ve become accustomed to seeing at the superspeedway, but with NASCAR policing a stricter bump-drafting rule, fans were often scratching their heads at some surprisingly poor racing. Racing at Talladega has often been called a “parade” by fans who don’t like restrictor plates, but this week actually looked like a parade. Combine that with the recurring problem of cars getting airborne and Jimmie Johnson crossing the stripe unscathed, and fans don’t have much to walk away from Talladega with except for another reason to be critical of NASCAR.

TWO: Does today’s finish ensure Johnson the championship?

Fan Vote – YES: 100%; NO: 0%

By virtue of flawless strategy once again, Johnson laid back for 95% of the race, came in to top off on fuel and then avoided the Big One he had been fearing to finish in the top 10 and better than his closest Chase competitors. With a now 184-point lead, it’s time to start etching Johnson’s name on the Sprint Cup for the fourth consecutive season. Unless the No. 48 team has an epic meltdown in two of the next three weeks the deficit is just too large for either Mark Martin or Jeff Gordon to make a comeback. Time to start talking five-peat. Unbelievable.

THREE: Should NASCAR police bump-drafting?

Fan Vote – YES: 6%; NO: 94%

It was the main topic coming into the start of this week’s race at Talladega so viewers of the Frontstretch blog were polled on whether NASCAR should police bump-drafting or not. In an overwhelming response, 94% of viewers believed drivers should be able to police themselves at restrictor-plate tracks. Listen, there is no doubt that bump drafting and the subsequent two-car lock we’ve seen at Talladega were problems, but we already have a yellow-line rule – if you police every single aspect of restrictor-plate racing then it’s not even a race, it’s a parade. Why not outlaw blocking while we’re at it and whichever driver just so happens to be leading the quicker line when the checkered flag flies wins the race?

FOUR: Have NASCAR’s rules at Talladega negatively affected the racing?

Fan Vote – YES: 93%: NO: 7%

Like I said it in the point earlier NASCAR, in my opinion, has crossed the line when it comes to having their fingers on the pulse of every single aspect of restrictor plate racing. I’ll admit I’m a fan of the drama that can unfold at restrictor plate tracks, but it seems like nowadays NASCAR promotes the danger that can occur at these ovals. Denny Hamlin warned before the race that banning bump-drafting in the corners would cause more problems on the straightaways and what do you know, we had two cars get airborne due to excessive bump-drafting on the straights. I understand that restrictor plates are needed, but when you try and control how drivers race there’s a major problem. Remember, the yellow-line rule was supposed to make racing safer too, but we’ve seen just as many scary crashes since the rule as before the rule – just let the guys race!

FIVE: Is Lance McGrew the answer to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s problems?

Fan Vote – YES: 0%; NO: 100%

It was announced this week that interim crew chief Lance McGrew would take over as full-time crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Since McGrew took over, Junior has had better runs, but has still suffered from the bad luck bug. The fact that every viewer in the blog who voted said McGrew was not the answer is not disrespecting McGrew or Earnhardt. There’s much more going on with the No. 88 team than just the driver or crew chief, although communication between the two is an integral part of their success. I expect Junior to rebound next season, but it may be a stretch to say he’ll make the Chase.

Notes to Ponder

  • Another town hall: NASCAR had another town hall meeting this week and announced they will make changes to the car in 2011 – at least they’re starting to listen.
  • Safety: Cars may be getting airborne way too much, but the more head room in the CoT helped Ryan Newman in yesterday’s crash.
  • McMurray’s audition? – Part II: For the second consecutive week, Jamie McMurray was the highest running Roush car with his win this weekend.

Follow Mike Lovecchio on Twitter HERE

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