NASCAR Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: It’s Been Emotional

Fall Talladega

All told, this past Sunday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway, we had wrecks that involved a staggering 35 of the 40 cars in the field; not to mention the most lead changes and most leaders in a race so far in 2016. Put another way, it was certainly not a boring race, whatever your point of view is on restrictor plate racing. But my big concern is that the next time we visit here it will be a crucial race in the Chase — the third of three races in the second stage or race six of 10 to state it in more simple terms. Now a plate race is all well and good at this stage of the season, but at a vital point in the playoffs it seems asinine at best.

Let’s not forget, either, how much of a fiasco it was at Talladega during the 2015 Chase. So I have to say I am very concerned about what might happen in late October, because when the chance of winning a championship is on the line, anything can and probably will go. Again, see the race at this same stage last year. Now, I realize there isn’t much that can be done this year but why can’t it be race number five in the Chase in 2017 so that there is at least chance if you’re taken out in a wreck not of your own making. We know NASCAR isn’t going to change up the tracks in the Chase any time soon and while it’s only a small change it is one that could have huge ramifications on the championship.

Larry Mac gets emotional

If there is one broadcaster in all of NASCAR that you can guarantee will be unscrupulously professional, Larry McReynolds would be that man. So prior to the XFINITY Series race at Talladega it was so great to see him shift – just for a hot second – into Dad Mode. His son, Brandon, was about to climb into his car to start just his second-ever NXS race for the JGL Racing team. Brandon’s first second series race, for the record, came all the way back in 2010 when he was a tender 19 years of age at Gateway Motorsports Park – a race in which he finished a creditable 19th place.

Larry Mac gave his son the same advice (no doubt in shortened form) that he had been giving all week, but he ended up reminding his son of how proud he was of him and how much he loved him. I swear there were almost tears in the veteran broadcaster’s eyes as he did so. I loved this moment in a sport that is so often caught up in with everything else to see a Dad talk to his son about a car race. Ultimately folks this is what it’s all about – love. And there is, after all, no stronger emotion out there. Good stuff.

(Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Elliott Sadler’s win Saturday was a long time coming for the veteran. (Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)

Sadler Wins

And while I’m on the topic of emotion, how about Elliott Sadler, who broke a 65-race winless streak stretching back a few days shy of two full years — incidentally also in a race at Talladega Superspeedway.

“People don’t know how hard it is to win these races. It’s very emotional,” said a clearly choked-up Sadler in Victory Lane. “It’s a great birthday gift to me. Man, we needed this win.”

The win, just the second in nine races, for a driver not moonlighting from the Cup Series, puts Sadler into the newly-inaugurated XFINITY Series Chase, giving the veteran a shot at an elusive first championship. Now in his sixth full season at the NXS level, Sadler has been remarkably consistent in his overall finishes. He was runner-up in 2011 and 2012, fourth in 2013, third in 2014 and sixth last season. Could this be the year he finally gets it done?

Next Up: Kansas

Next up it’s the first trip of two this year to the mile-and-a-half tri-oval of Kansas Speedway. The circuit first hosted a Cup race back in 2001, and this Saturday night, under the lights, will be the 21st top-echelon event at the venue. The last time we visited Kansas in the 2015 Chase, we saw the start of the Joey LoganoMatt Kenseth feud. We all know how that ended so given the disagreement they had on Sunday post race with Kenseth furious it is somewhat ironic we’re headed back there this weekend.

This is, of course, how it always seems to work with NASCAR though isn’t it? You’ll be surprised to learn that of the active Cup drivers, Jimmie Johnson has the most wins (three in total) and he is also atop the statistical count for top-5s (eight) and top 10s (16) – good for an average finish of 8.7. He’d be a good choice for your Fantasy team this week after the vagaries of selection at Talladega. One thing to watch is how the new downforce package fares this weekend. Will we see a good race? Let’s hope so.

DW’s Great Line

And finally this week, since I’ve criticized him in the past some, a quick shoutout to old Darrell Waltrip himself for what was the line of the weekend during Sunday’s Cup race. With about 50 laps to go and the pressure ratcheting up, the broadcast booth trio were talking about how the drivers were switching lines all over the place to advance their positions. “It’s cat and mouse,” said DW, “Move here move there. Go here. You’re second guessing a guy that’s second guessing a guy.” Immediately Gordon started laughing noting: “That is the best line, DW, I’ve heard in a long time.” Credit where credit is due, Gordon wasn’t wrong. It was a pretty good line.

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