Race 8: TallafreakinDega*Posted by in General
Restrictor plate racing brings with it it’s own set of rules and lately it’s own style of racing. The two-by-two “pod” style of racing that we saw at Daytona in February was indeed back again at Talladega. It was no surprise that during the extended first practice when it featured many pod runs (two cars bump drafting all the way around the track).
The two car tango that we have been seeing at the plate tracks brings with it two “issues” that seem to be on everyone’s mind. Of course you know I am going to throw my opinion in the ring.
The first “issue” is pod racing versus “pack” racing. I honestly don’t know what “pack” races you are talking about…because before the two car break aways when I think of Daytona and Talladega I think of this: Two long freight train lines- one in the upper groove and one in the lower groove. I always found that kind of racing boring and extremely frustrating- especially when your driver, in an attempt to pass would get shut out of being able to get back in line and end up falling from 11th to 35th in one poorly timed swoop. I think that the pod racing makes the track more maneuverable and thus you get more racing action. So the cars are stuck together…who cares. Not me. We only see this at the restrictor plate races- so it’s not that big of a deal. It might be a different story if they raced like this at all the tracks. To me it is much more fun to watch the cars move more freely on the track than being relegated to the top groove or bottom groove and this train is faster than that train kind of race. Plus the pod racing has it’s own strategies in place. It’s important to time the swap from pusher to pushee at an opportune moment. Pitting with your partner if you want to stay with that partner is important. Communication is really important since the pusher can’t see around the car in front of him.
That brings me to the second issue- radio communication. A big deal was being made about drivers wanting to communicate with drivers of teams other than their own. I honestly think that this is a non-issue. I am of the opinion that if a driver feels comfortable with having the possibility of taking to 16 different drivers, 30 different drivers, whatever- then let them. As long as it doesn’t creat too much of distraction where it becomes like a driver on the interstate texting while driving, I have no problem with it. Obviously it is always best to try to draft with your teammate but that isn’t always possible depending on where they each qualified. Honestly it’s not like drivers are going to be working with multiple drivers at the same time- at least not for very long. Once a driver picks a dance partner he’s usually stuck working with that particular driver as least until the next caution. I think that this is something that should be based on the driver’s personal comfort level with who is in his headset. Again this is something we usually only see at restrictor plate races- so I don’t that it is that big of a deal. I really don’t.
Okay- now that I have that off my chest- onto more about Tony’s run at TallafreakinDega. Tony (and teammate Ryan) had a stellar practice. As in they were first and second fastest. Then there was severe weather that called off second practice (tornado warnings). The next day was qualifying. I don’t know what happened but Tony pretty much tanked in qualifying. I wasn’t concerned for two reasons- Tony isn’t a great qualifier usually anyway AND it is Talladega- the track whose catchphrase might as well be “it’s not where you start it’s where you finish.”
At the beginning of the race, it seemed like no one wanted to be Tony’s partner. He seemed to be floundering there alone for several laps. Honestly it was hard to tell because the national broadcast wasn’t paying to much attention to Tony- I am guessing because he was in the back. I finally got sick of trying to figure out what was going on with Tony and got my phone so I could use my Sprint Cup Mobile. It drains my battery, so I don’t use it too much but I was sick only knowing where Tony was when the ticker marched by. By the time I got my Sprint Cup Mobile, he had already hooked up with David Gilliland and they seemed to be working spotter-to-spotter for communication. They seemed to be pretty comfortable just hanging out where they were trying to avoid getting into any trouble, saving their cars for a planned charge to the front towards the end.
It almost worked too. A late race caution broke them up temporarily but they found each other and the two of them (whom I dubbed Stewiland) began another charge towards the front and were actually visible in many of the national broadcast shots. Unfortunately something happened and Gilliland lost the back of Tony’s car and for some reason unbeknownst to me, Kurt Busch (I will have more to say about him later in the notes) decided to give pushing Tony a shot. Then a few minutes later he abandons Tony and shoots up a groove on the track to push someone else. I couldn’t tell you who because I was cursing such a blue streak that all I could see was blue for a few minutes. What could have been a top ten finish ended up being a 17th place finish, which dropped Tony back down to 12th in points.
The finish however, between Johnson/Earnhardt and Bowyer/Harvick (with Gordon/Martin in the middle) tied for the closet in series history (since the advent of electronic timing) with Johnson beating Boywer by the skin of his teeth (I think they said 2/16th of an inch or something like that?) The win catapulted Johnson to second in the series standings.
Gratuitous Tony Picture Alert: I had to add this one because it’s a funky angle. I can’t decide if it looks like he is lifting his leg to pee on the car like a dog or if it looks like Tony is doing some sort of newfangled NASCAR YOGA!
The ‘Dega notes:
- I have watched the video and seen the stills in question…and I do NOT believe that Jimmie dropped under the double yellow. At most he had one tire ON the yellow line but he was not over it and his tire was on the line for maybe 10 seconds? I don’t think that counts as advancing position by going under the double yellow line and Johnson’s win and points should stand. That is all I will say on that subject.
- I think your best bet to win restrictor plate pod races is to hook up with your teammate and try to stick with him throughout the race- like Jimmie/Earnhardt and Gordon/Martin. (HINT HINT – Stewart-Haas Racing- something to think about for Daytona and fall Talladega).
- Did you know that if you are in a tornado warning and don’t really have any place to take cover that the best thing you can do is get into your car, buckle your seat belt and turn on the engine? It took me forever to figure out that you needed to turn the engine on so your airbags will deploy in case you end up being tossed around like a sock monkey in a dryer. The things you learn on twitter while hoping the fans in the infield are safe.
- Kurt Busch seemed like he was trying out for the highway patrol and not racing at Talladega with as many people as he pitted. It was for this reason alone that I was NOT pleased when he jumped between Tony and David. Of course I was even less happy when he up and abandoned Tony. But yeah- just because your car is yellow Kurt doesn’t mean you need to try to cause all the cautions- just sayin’!
- That was some driving by Ryan Newman to save his car from hitting the wall not once but twice late in the race. Good job- but maybe we should rethink greasing the bumper next time.
- One FUN aspect of the pod racing is coming up with cute monikers for the duos. I already told you my one for the Stewart/Gilliland combo (Stewiland) earlier in the post. Here are some others I came up with: Johnshardt (Johnson/Earnhardt), Boyvick (Bowyer/Harvick), and Ham-man (Hamlin/Newman). Play along with me…can you think of any good ones?
The Sprint Cup Series takes a break this weekend and then takes back up Saturday April 30th with night racing at Tony’s favorite track: Richmond. Go TONY Go!
* Title inspired by Trace Adkin’s song “Ala Freakin’ Bama”
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