The wild card that is restrictor-plate racing at Talladega certainly mixed up our rankings as much as it mixed up the standings. The Big Ones led to big changes for our experts, as multiple drivers received first-place votes and just two of 15 stayed in the same position that they occupied last week. The race ended with a first-time winner in victory lane this weekend… and when the dust settled on this week’s poll, there was a first-time member on our list, too. Read on to see if your driver survived Sunday’s roller coaster ride, landing firmly in this week’s edition of the Frontstretch Power Rankings.
At first, it seemed after a series of Big Ones it was the usual suspects who would rise to the front at the end. Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. almost fulfilled that prophecy, creating their two-car breakaway during the final restart of the Aaron’s 499. But just when you thought they had it won… something unexpected actually happened in the Sprint Cup Series, as the two-car tandem of Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski blew by them on the white-flag lap. And after using some brilliant strategy, it was none other than Keselowski who scored his first Cup win, handed owner James Finch his first, and assisted in one of the wildest, scariest crashes ever.
Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR and all of our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Sprint Cup race, capturing the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find: the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members and car owners themselves. This week, here’s a special Nationwide Series peek at what the drivers were thinking following the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Carl Edwards had the lead when Brad Keselowski got a fender inside of him off turn 4 on the final lap. Edwards moved to block the No. 09 a little too late, going for a terrifying ride into the catchfence off of Ryan Newman’s car while Keselowski drove to victory lane.
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.
It very often seems as though NASCAR shrugs off similar complaints. Nearly every week I read multiple comments from people saying they’re done watching. And judging from the ratings this season, it sounds like people mean it. NASCAR can point out having more viewers than women’s basketball or golf, but the reality is that the ratings have been dropping every season for several years now, and there is still little being done to improve the fan experience.
Q: Why did NASCAR penalize Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Casey Mears for their actions at Phoenix? I thought NASCAR wanted emotion… isn’t that what Brian said last year? I could maybe understand a penalty if Junior spun Mears during green and caused a big wreck, but on the cool-down lap?
The fantasy wild card weekend that is Talladega looms on the horizon. The Big One, which happens more times than not, can take out a player’s entire fantasy team in one fell swoop – or, it could cause a player’s team to sweep into the top 10 when most of the other competition is taken out. Some drivers who have been struggling this year may benefit from this type of restrictor-plate weekend, while others who have exceeded expectations could be brought right back down to Earth. On a track that’s so unpredictable, how can you turn the odds in your favor? Read on to see who the Frontstretch fantasy experts feel will tiptoe around the wrecks in their latest edition of Fantasy Insider.
Did You Notice? Just probation for Casey Mears and Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Did you really expect the sanctioning body to do anything more after their little post-race altercation at Phoenix? We already have the U.S. Army spread out in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere across the globe… there’s no need to dispatch an additional battalion to protect Brian France and Co. should they have made the bold, unprecedented move of suspending Earnhardt for aggressive driving – or taking away points that could possibly keep him from Chase-ing with the season he’s had.
Continuing a recent trend, the race at Phoenix saw an 18% drop in ratings from over a year ago despite a popular Mark Martin victory. Why are ratings continuing to plummet, and is there any way to stop the trend?