Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson: As the Wheel Turns, Talladega Edition

David YeazellSenior Analyst INovember 3, 2009

Ryan Newman flies off the track, Jimmie Johnson hides at the back of the line, and NASCAR once again tries not to wake the sleeping giant.

As the Wheel Turns is an irregular publication that tries to answer questions, solve conundrums, and extricate quagmires occurring on race day and throughout the racing community.

While I try to cover all the bizarre strategies by drivers or crew, and sometimes aberrant decisions by NASCAR, there are times when one event may take up the main focus of an article.

This is not one of those articles.

Shortly after the finish of Sunday’s Amp Energy 500, it was evident there was another big crash at Talladega Super Speedway.

Scattered across the Internet were articles littered with a plethora of verbs and adjectives, depicting the big one and Ryan Newman’s wild ride.

Notably missing each of those articles and headlines were the words killed, death, and tragedy. At least this time they were missing.

Two events, in no particular order, are almost certain to happen at Talladega in the future. A driver, or drivers, will be killed or critically injured, and NASCAR will make sweeping changes to the track and or the C.O.T.

Which ever event happens first will certainly have an impact (no pun intended) on the second.

After laying low and running towards the back of the pack for the majority of the race, Jimmie Johnson increased his points lead by avoiding the big one and finishing fifth.

Once again, littered around the Internet were stories about how Johnson was a coward, chicken, and laying back to protect his points lead.

At this juncture in the season, and with an almost sure lock on the championship, Johnson is none of the above. He was racing smart.

Why put your self in harms way by mixing it up in the hostile environment of Talladega?

During a post-race interview, Johnson fielded a few questions on this subject, and one question about rules.

When asked about the pre-race rule enforcement issued by Mike Helton, Johnson quipped the following benign platitude, “I have no problem with NASCAR rules as long as they police it well and make it fairly even for everyone.”

NASCAR made it clear before Sunday’s race they wanted to see a gap between every car.

Heavier rules enforcement and faced with a smaller restrictor plate, drivers now have to figure out how to draft, or even bump draft, without actually drafting. Confused?

NASCAR has taken steps to slow the cars down and make racing on the super speedways safer. By doing this they have made it almost impossible to pass, and robbed the engines of horsepower which takes away the ability to just press the gas and go.

Restrictor plate racing is at best an oxymoron.

No matter how you spin it, NASCAR has existentially created the environment they are now trying to squelch. They must find a solution before the Car of Tomorrow becomes the Coffin of Talladega. 

Photo Credits: David Yeazell  

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