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Did You Notice? Why Talladega Is Still NASCAR’s Heart Attack In Waiting

Did You Notice? The number of green-white-checkered finishes has been reduced for Talladega? NASCAR announced Tuesday it’s down to one instead of the standard three to help curb the carnage seen since the rule was put in place last decade.

The change has its merit although it’s less likely to be used than you think. The last 10 races at Talladega have produced four “overtime” situations in which more than 188 laps have been run (40%). But of those only one – a mere 10% of the total – would have had its race ended early because of NASCAR’s new rules. Usually, one GWC finish is enough to take care of business at a place like Talladega. Honest, it takes so long for the field to get up to speed and too many cars are eliminated anyway by that point.

When taking that into consideration, you wonder what the big difference is between one and three after all. The same basic safety concerns are there whether it’s lap 9 or lap 189. Also, there’s the nightmare of having to call a race under yellow the second a wreck happens. Where do you freeze the field? A second here or there could mean the difference between a driver making or missing the next round of the Chase. Or do you let it go green until the end if at all possible? There’s a large degree of subjectivity there that won’t change unless you dictate the circumstances of a GWC finish, not the overall number. NASCAR officials could be well served to do a better job of doing that as its next method of “improving” Daytona and Talladega….

Did You Notice? There’s no rhyme or reason to Talladega? Let’s take a look at the 12 Chasers and their last five finishes at the facility.

Joey Logano: 35th, 16th, 32nd, 11th, 33rd

Denny Hamlin: 34th, 38th, 1st, 18th, 9th

Kurt Busch: 30th, 18th, 33rd, 7th, 12th

Carl Edwards: 3rd, 17th, 30th, 21st, 32nd

Kevin Harvick: 40th, 12th, 7th, 9th, 8th

Jeff Gordon: 11th, 14th, 39th, 26th, 31st

Brad Keselowski: 15th, 29th, 28th, 1st, 22nd

Martin Truex Jr.: 7th, 8th, 17th, 27th, 5th

Kyle Busch: 3rd, 37th, 5th, 12th, 40th

Ryan Newman: 32nd, 9th, 18th, 5th, 7th

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 17th, 2nd, 26th, 31st, 1st

Matt Kenseth: 8th, 20th, 37th, 2nd, 25th

What does the jumble of numbers (and truly, that’s what it is) tell us about the sport’s most unpredictable race? Not a single Chaser has had back-to-back top-five finishes at ‘Dega at any time over the last five events. Only three – Harvick, Newman and Truex – have posted back-to-back top 10s. This inability to control your own destiny, leaving your fate similar to which bingo ball gets called out of the spinning machine, is perhaps the biggest argument on paper as to why this race should not be involved in the postseason.

It also leads to frustration for the 11 drivers not named Logano whose fate is ultimately left up to a final restart or simple chance. Even when there isn’t a big wreck, the small nuances of the draft make a big difference. Clint Bowyer, for example was sitting inside the top 10 with eight laps remaining this spring. He wound up 30th. Mr. Gordon? He was sitting 21st and wound up 31st, dropping 10 spots (and points) over the final eight laps. So much can change in a heartbeat, it’s clear no one’s spot in the final eight will be secure until the last few seconds of the final lap. In some cases, that means the final tenth of a second. It’s why this week is a constant heart attack for teams. The big question is, do the fans actually enjoy seeing the next round of the postseason decided this way?

Did You Notice? Franchising picking up steam? Sources tell me at least two teams are on hold for 2016 (I’ll let you figure it out, kids; it’s not rocket science) because owners are waiting patiently to determine what NASCAR’s final structure on the system will be. ESPN reported the word “charter” thrown around but I’ve also been told “medallion” as well. Either way, we’re leaning toward guaranteed spots in the field each week regardless of points or speed in 2016.

The moves are being made, of course to stabilize the Sprint Cup ownership group already in place. Bob Pockrass does a great job of reporting in this case and it’s hard to comment too much at this point without speculating. So many details in the situation are fluid. We could have a field of 38, 40 or 43 cars next year while the number of “charters” handed out could vary based on ownership approval. Remember, Furniture Row Racing is not part of the negotiations per se (they’re not a part of the Race Team Alliance) and even one veto could throw this system straight in the trash can.

But here’s one part no one appears to be considering in the hustle to provide a foundation for owners already in place. Rob Kauffman, as co-chair of the RTA, will be able to sell his two “charters” for 2016 to the highest bidder. Any potential system I’ve heard will still award them to Michael Waltrip Racing as both cars are inside the top 25 in owner points right now. Here’s the question… who wants to buy them? Kauffman said a few months ago, peaking in frustration, he thinks the MWR race shop should be turned into a bunch of condos. If a perspective new owner wanted these teams, the “charters” would have already been sold a few months ago when co-owner Michael Waltrip was trying to avoid pink slips for longtime employees.

So, again, how in the world does any “charter” have value if no one else wants to buy them? My guess is that’s why some of NASCAR’s plans have left newer teams like the fourth car for Joe Gibbs Racing (Edwards) and the fourth car for Stewart-Haas Racing (Kurt Busch) without a “medallion.” That would save face for 2016 as MWR’s “charters” would go to big-money owners who could afford the purchase, almost as a “thank you” to Kauffman for helping negotiate the deal. But the overall point remains; as a new owner, even if I see a “charter” available, will I want to buy it knowing everyone else has, well, four or more? Why spend the money if I’m going to need to spend four times that in order to be competitive?

In the rush to save owners already here, NASCAR needs to recognize that point. You can’t evolve if you’re simply involving the same owners – even if there’s a solid redistribution of cash in the process. The solution is deeper than a piece of paper might have you believe….

Did You Notice? Quick hits before taking off….

  • Gordon will be age 44 when he retires. Tony Stewart? Age 45. Have we hit the “new” retirement age for a Sprint Cup driver? It’s interesting because Kenseth will be age 44 next year and has Erik Jones behind him, ready to move up to Cup with JGR support in 2017. Greg Biffle will be age 46 and, while unwilling to put a timetable on his retirement, has sponsors whose deals expire as early as the end of 2016. No one else is close in age but do you really see Johnson, Earnhardt Jr. and other famous drivers pulling a “Mark Martin” and racing until age 55? Or even age 50? I think Gordon and Stewart, legends in their own right, are setting their final “precedent” on the way out the door.
  • Speaking of careers ending, are we seeing the swan song for Sam Hornish Jr.? With Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 9 car becoming a pay-to-play ride, Hornish is likely out as has been heavily reported. (Unfortunately, Hornish has done nothing to dissuade the doubters; his last top-10 finish in the car came at Watkins Glen back in August). I know for a fact Hornish has been offered lesser rides back in the day (BK Racing comes to mind) and turned them down out of pride and the want to actually race a competitive car. At age 36, the Indy 500 and IndyCar champion simply has nothing left to prove. His ability to fight back and rise again in stock car racing says a lot about both his dedication and talent. Should Hornish leave the sport, it’s notable the No. 9 is two-for-two in retirements the last two seasons. Marcos Ambrose, of course, is no longer racing full-time after leaving for Australia/Tasmania in 2014.

BOWLES: Will Matt Kenseth Tip The Scales In NASCAR’s Championship?

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18 thoughts on “Did You Notice? Why Talladega Is Still NASCAR’s Heart Attack In Waiting”

  1. Yuppers. we could go on…but it is a waste of our minutes that they tell us that take off our longevity getting nuts about the obvious that MOST can see but Castle Daytona cannot.

  2. Without a doubt the concept of “franchising” is the biggest news in stock car racing and will be for the foreseeable future. For years its been whispered that ten teams, each with four cars was the goal. That appears to have changed somewhat given the latest rumors. This appears more like a modification of the “top 35 rule”.
    Yet unless its goal is to guarantee Nascar a stable product to market its a bit difficult to see whats going to be accomplished. Unless there are potential buyers, no “franchise” has anymore than salvage value. And by locking out potential buyers now will that build up demand over time?
    Guess we shall see.

  3. Wow, those numbers really do illustrate how much of a crapshoot restrictor plate races are and, by virtue of being in the chase, how much of a crapshoot the championship has become. This isn’t news to anyone but, for some reason, seeing those random finishes really makes me feel like an idiot for continuing to follow NASCAR.

    You make some good points about franchising. In theory it’s a good idea but, much like the elimination style playoffs or chase, it really may not fit the sport. (Still trying to figure out what a “perspective new owner” is though LOL).

    • You and me both, Bill B. The whole random finish thing is a real eye opener and another reason why I will not be sorry that following NASCAR as a full time fan will be at an end for me after Homestead.

      I can skip things I don’t like and just have fun (what a concept) instead.

  4. guaranteeing a starting spot based on money instead of speed does not seem like a good idea to me. mythoughs are that there are already enough things that this sponsoring body has done to stifle real incentive to innovate and compete. the ground must be shaking in florida where the frances are burried.

  5. “But the overall point remains; as a new owner, even if I see a “charter” available, will I want to buy it knowing everyone else has, well, four or more? Why spend the money if I’m going to need to spend four times that in order to be competitive?”

    As the RTA consists of current owners, why would they even care about attracting new owners? Like you said, Tom, it’s hard to comment too much right now without speculating, but I can’t see any of the current owners caring about anything other than guaranteeing the value of their current teams. Maybe I’m being short-sighted, but what’s value of attracting new ownership, especially if the the fields are being reduced?

    • and ‘medallions’ are absolutely worthless until somebody offers to buy them. So are they thinking that by limiting the number of “medallions” that there will be people wanting to buy them? Maybe the reason MWR hasn’t been bought is because people are waiting until they can buy a “medallion”?

  6. i don’t know, this franchising to me seems like it will make the sport one of multi-car teams, and there is no chance in he*( that a small team could ever have a cinderella story like winning the daytona 500. won’t this franchising just make the sport a group of those that have vs. the have nots?

    will penske and petty add 2 more teams to their groups, regardless of driver performance? seems like the sport is already hurting for team sponsorships. look at xfinity…..saw where jr motorsports won’t field cards for ragan smith or ben rhodes, so that means jr motorposrts will have elliott sadler and then a “star” car to run certain races during the year? will franchising go into the xfinity series?

    sorry if i’m confused, but i thought the rta was for technical help in providing a larger group to get better pricing for standard parts and stuff like that, not to secure entry into races.

    • janice,
      No matter what rules you make in a sport or laws you make in a society, there will always be the “haves” and “have nots”. There is nothing anyone can do to change that. It is an absolute law of society and life itself and until the day comes where there is no scarcity of resources and no cost to anything, that will always be the case,,, PERIOD. So I’m not sure that is worth spending too much time worrying about with any system put into place. Even though there are things that can be done to level the playing field a tiny bit it usually doesn’t amount to much with respect to changing the status quo.

  7. The only way I see franchising working without killing the sport is to only allow owners 2 ‘guaranteed’ starting franchises. If they have more cars, they would have to make the races on time. With so many of the multiple team owners reaching retirement age themselves, this could turn into a real debacle.

  8. I see the medallions as a way of ensuring that the current owners will not walk away with nothing when they decide to get done. Think about the age of Richard Petty, Jack Roush, Roger Penske, Joe Gibbs and Richard Childress, how many more years will they stay in the sport? What happens when they decide to hang it up? Sell their teams for pennies on the dollar like what happens now? Or sell the medallions that will be worth something more. Just food for thought.

    The team I see getting screwed in this is the Wood Brothers. No, they haven’t run full time in recent years but they have been here since the start and they have never resorted to start and park just to stay in the sport. They have scaled back to do the best with what they have in the races they do run.

    • I was thinking about how this affects the Wood Brothers too. As much as they have done for the sport, and to be such an iconic presence in Nascar, for them to end up without a franchise would be a real travesty. And for MWR to receive two franchises after all the cheating and race manipulations they have pulled since their inception is just salt in the wound. I really hope it doesn’t play out this way.

  9. Personally no, I don’t enjoy seeing this crapshoot race be the deciding factor for who does or does not advance.

    Lots of good comments about the new ownership ideas.

  10. I am humored by the whole “GWC Finish” debate at Talladega. The reason we got the “GWC Finish” rule in the first place is because Jr. Nation threw a giant hissy fit when Gordon won the Spring 2004 race and started throwing garbage on the track. I think the problems we saw this year were more unique to Daytona because its a narrower track. On a GWC restart the cars have less places to go to advance and you end up like the end of July race with three rows push as hard as they can in a confined space, a recipe for disaster. Talladega is two lanes wider and allows the cars to fan out more.

  11. Well the idiots at NASCAR cost the fans a chance to see a great finish with the stupid gwc rule. And you said there was hardly any chance it would come into play. FAIL

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