Who’s in the headline – There are a few headlines coming out of Talladega, but the top story is Joey Logano sweeping the entire second round of the Chase. Logano led the race twice for 20 laps and survived an unsuccessful green-white-checkered start and then a very short run after a restart before the caution flag flew to give him the victory. The hottest driver in the series is now the leader in race wins and on top of the points standings based solely on the tiebreaker going into the third round of the Chase.
What happened – The green flag flew and the race stayed stayed green for 133 laps until Justin Allgaier done blowed up. Denny Hamlin had issues with his roof hatch that ultimately dropped him two laps down and all but eliminated him from the championship before the midway point of the race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. got hit with a pit-road penalty and nearly fell a lap down, but was saved when Allgaier’s engine grenaded. The No. 88 appeared to be the strongest car on a plate track again, but circumstances prevented him from coming home with the win. Greg Biffle was set to steal the win by running 50 laps on fuel to the end but was thwarted by NASCAR running unnecessary laps when they knew it would take several laps to clean up the track on the second caution of the night with three laps to go.
After Jamie McMurray‘s engine also bought the farm in the middle of the pack, and he was somehow avoided by every one behind him, Kevin Harvick‘s engine also began to fail. As the field came to the restart, Jimmie Johnson lost control of his car off of the front bumper of Martin Truex Jr.‘s and spun before the leaders crossed the line, so it was not called a start. The field bunched up again and attempted a second restart for the GWC. Harvick pulled out of line because his car would not get up to speed. When the green flag came out again, Harvick hit Trevor Bayne, turned him sideways and triggered the Big One. Hamlin’s car caught fire so NASCAR had to throw the caution. The field was frozen and Logano was declared the winner.
Why you should care – Everyone has their opinion on Talladega being an elimination race. NASCAR’s decision not to count the first restart as a start because of the caution flying so quickly, then holding the caution the second time was questionable to begin with. The new rule that only one GWC would take place was also a factor as Harvick appeared to turn Bayne on purpose due to his car most likely not being able to be complete the distance. Mike Helton absolved Harvick of any guilt in the incident after the results were announced. The result is that the second-winningest driver of the year, Matt Kenseth, is now out of the Chase along with Johnson, who is one of the top four in wins.
What your friends are talking about – Whatever side of the fence you are on, one thing is for sure, the end of the race on Sunday left nothing but a bad taste in the mouth of any fan who isn’t a Logano fan. The failure to call the first GWC a start was confusing but somewhat explicable. The second restart, which did a far bigger amount of damage to cars than the first, took longer to throw the yellow flag. If the first one deserved a caution, the second should have seen the caution much quicker.
Speaking of the GWC, all of the drivers are publicly backing the idea of a single attempt being a good choice for the rule. You can bet none of them anticipated a mess like we saw on Sunday. In the end it is probably a wise choice but the unintended consequence of someone causing a wreck on purpose to end the race is something that is very real. While it was announced that Harvick did nothing intentional, it certainly looked to many of the drivers around him that it was on purpose. NASCAR will have a very tough position in the future, on plate tracks, if other drivers choose to follow a similar strategy.
The 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule is proving to be eerily similar to Bigfoot. There are credible sightings and pieces of evidence that point to its existence, but there is no physical proof that it truly exists. As more and more tracks confirm their dates, the holes in the schedule become smaller and smaller. Knowing there won’t be any stunning developments, as far as new tracks on the schedule, the delay in release is becoming quite amusing.
Speaking of Bigfoot comparisons in NASCAR, the medallion, franchise, charter system is still in the development stages and owners in the series aren’t sure what form it is going to take. The stories circulating about teams not being able to expand and the vast majority of the field being locked in are among the questions everyone would like answered. It would seem that teams would need some kind of answers in the not too distant future. Perhaps it will come out shortly after the schedule.
Who is mad – Biffle was playing a perfect strategy call that was going to put him in the winner’s circle. When McMurray blew up, the race should have been immediately red flagged so the oil could be cleaned up. Instead they ran around under caution to ensure the first restart would be a GWC which meant that Biffle was about to run out of gas as the field came to the green. If they had thrown the red, Biffle still wouldn’t have most likely won but he would have had a shot, which their lack of a red eliminated.
Hamlin chooses to run the roof hatch at plate tracks to allow for an alternate escape route in case of a wreck. The hatch had a hinge fail which ultimately cost him two laps as his team tried to fix it. In hindsight his team might have been able to run with the hatch as it was rather than coming down pit lane to try and fix it a second time. The end result was he was out of contention early in the race and that had to make for a long run on Sunday.
Earnhardt Jr. led the most laps on Sunday and would have been in the lead and won the race if the caution had flown 100 yards later. Earnhardt had his team’s back during post-race, but it has to be frustrating for him after a miscue by his front tire carrier cost him track position in the middle of the race. After loose wheels and other self inflicted issues in the Chase, Earnhardt has every right to be mad and probably is, but he also needs to be the good team player to keep his troops on board for 2016.
Who is happy – Harvick should be happy for multiple reasons. Making the next round of the Chase when his car was about to blow up coming to the final restart has to be a relief. Being accused by somewhere around a dozen other drivers of intentionally wrecking Bayne but being absolved of any wrongdoing by Helton, which means no worries of a Truexesque dismissal from the Chase, has to put an even bigger smile on his face. We’ll see if he’s still happy after Martinsville.
Kyle Busch was outside of the Chase looking in when the field came to the aborted final resart. Thanks to Johnson and Kyle Larson wrecking, along with Harvick’s engine issues causing him to drop behind Busch, afforded Busch enough points to advance to the next round. Since the final wreck happened behind him he moved on to the final eight and we’ll see what this round holds for him.
Jeff Gordon has four top-five finishes this entire season, but he’s still in the hunt for the title. Kenseth and Johnson are out after they have won a combined nine races and scored 24 total top fives. Gordon’s relief is palpable but he also has to be feeling some sense of Karma smiling on him after losing two or three titles to this Chase format. It will be quite appropriate if Gordon ends up winning this title without a win and less than six top fives for the season.
When the checkered flag flew:
Logano notched his third consecutive win at Talladega for his 14th Victory in 251 career starts. This was Logano’s first career triumph at Talladega. Logano has six victories in 2015 to lead the series. On the all-time win list Logano is tied for 53rd with Dick Hutcherson and LeeRoy Yarbrough.
Earnhardt Jr. crossed the line in second place for his fourth top-two finish of the season. Earnhardt has finished runner-up at Talladega five times in his career to go with his six wins. This was the 28th time in his career Earnhardt has run second. That is 27th on the all-time list, tied with Hall of Famer Joe Weatherly.
Gordon came home in third for the third time this season. Gordon has run top 3 at Talladega 10 times in his career. For his career, Gordon has 229 top-three finishes. That ranks fourth on the all-time list, 14 behind David Pearson for third.
Matt DiBenedetto was the Rookie of the Race.
The second round of the Chase is in the books and it was all Logano all of the time. Winning all three races in the round ensured Logano was the only driver to be guaranteed advancement to the third round. The remainder of the third round was filled out after the video review from the botched GWC finish. Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., Hamlin and Ryan Newman did not advance. The remaining eight and their points positions are:
- Jeff Gordon
- Martin Truex Jr.
- Kevin Harvick
- Kyle Busch
Takin’ it to the Bank
Cup winners this year have pocketed $10,676,337 in 32 races, while the last-place finisher has taken home $2,468,868.
In the Xfinity Series it has been $2,061,912 for the winners and $377,115 for last place in 29 races.
After 19 Truck races, the winner has $936,129 in his coffers and the last loser has banked $177,661.
What is in the cooler
People complain all of the time about the giant packs on plate tracks leading to big wrecks. The best stock car racers in the world managed to go 133 laps without a caution. There were 20 lead changes that took place before that caution flew. 185 laps passed with just that one caution. It was setting up to be a great race that was totally ruined by the fiasco that was the GWC debacle at the end. As a result, the rating is three cold Budweisers, two of which were thrown on the track at Logano. The new GWC rule was designed to minimize carnage and improve the safety of drivers. At this point it is unsure if that was achieved.
Where do you point your DVR for next week – After the biggest track on the schedule the series heads to the shortest track on the schedule in Martinsville, Virginia. The half-mile paperclip will most likely see some retaliation for grievances over the last few weeks, or it may not. We’ll see at 1:15 on Sunday, November 1. You can see the action on NBC Sports Network and hear it on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90. You can also stream it on NBCSports.com/liveextra.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.