I am going to be straight with you- I actually don’t like watching races at Talladega….and am the only one I know who feels this way. The races at Talladega make me nervous. The track is huge and super fast. Add to that 43 cars going 200 mph most of whom are not just inches apart (thanks to the restrictor plates they run) but also purposely banging into each other’s bumpers (bump draft) and its a recipe for disaster….or what fans and teams call THE BIG ONE. Inveribly there is going to be at least one wreck that takes out a good portion of the field. I watch between my fingers (figeratively not literally) because I fear “my driver” will be taken out by “THE BIG ONE” and then the race will pretty much be ruined for the day.
Now I have stated before that I usually take notes while I am watching the race. I usually grab a notebook or some paper and have it with my while I am watching so I can take notes of the laps that certain things I might want to write about happen on. I also am a big doodler so usually besides my notes there are flowers and meager attempts at cars and such all over the notes. I had my notebook at the ready during Talladega but I didn’t really make any notes. I mostly just drew…I drew a car and a flower and then the biggest checkered flag that takes up about two thirds of the page. Now I am going to to tell you that this was graph paper so no wonder I picked a checkered flag…it was not because I felt Tony was going to win…it was because I was nervous and I doodle when I am nervous.
What I do remember is that on the radio during the race Team Home Depot Subway was fairly quiet. Even more so than usual. Before the race, driver Tony Stewart told his crew- as he usually does to be careful on pit road and promised to do his part better today. Most of the chatter was the spotter Mike alerting driver Tony Stewart of where people were on the track and that kind of thing. This tells me one thing- the car was set up pretty well to begin with. My suspicions were confirmed when right before the first pitstop crew cheif Zipadelli radioed in and asked his driver what he needed- and he just wanted a tiny adjustment and that was it. Usually the go back and forth as to what kind of adjustments are needed but they seemed fairly dialed in today. Pit stops were also smooth and without problem- the Home Depot Subway car was out of the pits in a time manner each time without incident.
There were two “Big Ones” during the race and several little ones…and during each of the big ones Team Home Depot Subway very narrowly escaped getting caught up in the mele. The first wreck happened in front of us as we were working our way through traffic and the second one happened behind Team Home Depot Subway…RIGHT behind them. As in I let out a fairly audible and horrified sounding gasp. Both “Big Ones” resulted in red flags (that stop the race).
The race ended with a green-white-checker finish with Stewart in the lead and working hard with his spotter to block and fend off an advancing line of DEI cars trying to draft past him. As the train of Stewart, Regan Smith, and Paul Menard came down to take the checkered flag Smith actually pulled down across the yellow line towards the apron of the track and passed Stewart – thus technically crossing the finish line first. It was a rookie mistake– you are no allowed to cross the yellow line and advance your position. It’s ok to go down under the line if you are forced down there to avoid contact however you are not allowed to advance your position under the line. Smith claimed that he heard that that was the rule except on the last lap (which makes no sense to me- why have a rule that works except for the last lap? That’s crazy). NASCAR mandated that Smith indeed advanced his position under the line and was thus penalized by being placed at the end of the longest line- placing him with a finishing position of 18th. I see it like this: It’s like catching the football and running just outside the sidelines to the endzone and jumping in- claiming that this is a legal move because it’s the last two seconds of the game. This would clearly not be a touchdown because you went OUT OF BOUNDS.
Driver Tony Stewart broke his 43 race winless drought with a win at a track he has never won at before. A track that in his previous 20 races there- he has been second 6 times. Needless to day it was a very emotional victory lane celebration.
Other Talladega Notes:
- Denny Hamlin was taken to the hospital following an incident where he cut a tire and smashed hard into the wall. He was kept overnight for observation. After the race it was reported he was being held overnight for a observation of a possible concussion and an ankle bruise. I hope Denny is ok.
- Tires were blowing all over the place…however it was surmised by some of the race teams that the teams that were blowing tires may have been running too high of air pressure or that tires were being damaged due to rubs because of the bump draft. Goodyear promised during the national broadcast that they would examine the evidence at their race office in Akron, OH to find out why there seemed to be an inordinate number of tire blowouts.
- Travis Kvapil had a great qualifying effort (the POLE!) and a fairly good run most of the day until getting caught up in that Big One. I really think Kvapil is going places.
- When Regan Smith passed Tony below the yellow line you should have seen me jump off the couch and yell YOU CAN’T ADVANCE UNDER THE YELLOW LINE!!!! I scared the dog so much she woke up and ran out the back door. I was already crying foul. Then the cameras were showing Regan’s pit crew celebrating and I was pissed. PISSED. But when they deferred to NASCAR who deemed the winner to be Tony I was like HELL YEAH HE WAS THE WINNER!!!
- While I totally agree that Tony Stewart was the winner I do think penalizing Regan Smith to back in 18th position was a little harsh I will say that.
Next Week: Saturday Night at Lowe’s Motorspeedway in Charlotte!