Much has been written about the single-file racing “protest” the field of the Amp Energy 500 held for much of the race.
Much has also been written about the carnage that marred the finish of the race, in turn drastically altering the face of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Given what was reported, that the threat of severe penalty was given at the driver’s meeting hours before the race , drivers responded the only way they could. With the tight box to race in—the yellow out-of-bounds line, the no-bumping zones—no one felt they could really “race” and not risk getting penalized.
ABC did the best they could with the situation given to them, trying to spin the non-racing away from the concept of a “protest.” However, it was clear to those who listened to radio communications, no one was happy with what was going on. Drivers called for everything from interesting conversation to iPods to keep from falling asleep at the wheel.
In their defense, NASCAR did what they thought was right. In an effort to avoid the inevitable “big one,” NASCAR tried to tame the practice of bump-drafting, requiring daylight between the cars in the turns.
A good idea in theory, but the ripple effects were clearly not considered. Most everyone prepared to race the same way as they did in the spring, and to take that away at the last minute left the drivers without one of their biggest weapons to race.
The last-minute rule only delayed the inevitable, with two major accidents coming at the end of the race, both involving cars getting airborne. That is a bigger issue that needs to be corrected—the “COT” can’t stay on the ground.
The new car gets airborne way too easily when turned around. What happened to the roof flaps that were supposed to keep the cars on the ground?
The results of Talladega moved the Chase for the Sprint Cup closer to what can only be described as a nightmare scenario for NASCAR—there is a good chance that for the first time in the Chase era, the championship will be decided before the final race.
This is exactly the thing NASCAR was trying to avoid when the Chase was implemented. To compete with the cluttered sports landscape in the fall, NASCAR wanted to inject excitement and drama into the end of the season championship run. It took a few years, but teams have figured out the system to success in the Chase, none better than the 48 team.
NASCAR is faced with a scary possibility—a season finale with zero championship drama. In the face of declining sponsorship, sagging attendance and TV ratings, this is the last thing NASCAR needs right now.