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Talladega Postscript

by David Grayson
Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Race winner Tony Stewart
There were some high profile Talladega tidbits that followed the conclusion of last Sunday's Amp Energy Drink 500. Why wouldn't there be? After all it's Talladega. Needless to say there were also plenty of HOORAHS and WAZZ UPS and I have several pages of notes in my possession to prove it.

HOORAH for NASCAR for enforcing the yellow line rule following the conclusion of the race. There's already a lot of debate over how this race ended. Everyone from two guys sitting on barstools to racing professionals sitting behind a desk on national television will be talking about this for the next several days. The conclusion of this race will likely make the end of the year highlight specials.

But the bottom line actually involves the bottom line of restrictor plate tracks, Talladega and Daytona, and the precise wording of the rules that state a driver "will be" penalized if he goes below the yellow line to advance his position. It also states that a driver "may be" penalized if he uses a blocking tactic that forces another car below the line. By the way all of this was seriously emphasized during the driver's meeting before the race.  Did Regan Smith drift below the line in an effort to steal his first NASCAR win? Yes he did and you really can't blame him for pulling out all of the stops to get the win. Did Tony Stewart use a block to preserve his win. In his own post race words: "you damn right I did" and you can't blame him for doing what he needed to do to insure his first win of the season.

It was a very tough call for NASCAR because they knew all hell was going to break loose with the media and the fans. You have to appreciate that fact and, why I don't always agree with their rulings, I had no choice to see the merit of this decision. The only thing different I would have liked to have seen was Stewart getting the win because Smith went below the line but at the same time I would have liked to seen Smith be able to keep second, instead of 18th place, because a block forced all four tires below the line.

WAZZ UP with the racing media commentary, both national television and radio, for promoting the theory that all bets, meaning rules, are off when the checkered flag is flying at the conclusion of a restrictor plate race. This rule is not the same as a football player stepping out of bounds after catching a pass. This rule is about safety and how a car going from the very bottom and then back up the track could trigger a very dangerous situation. At the same time HOORAH for Regan Smith for not exercising that option.   

Along those lines HOORAH for Dale Earnhardt Inc-DEI for having three cars in position of having a chance to win at Talladega. DEI has some serious sponsorship issues to work through for three of their four Sprint Cup teams and if there ever was a time for an organization to put on a strong showing on national television then this was it. This is especially true for Regan Smith who at this writing is a free agent and whether or not he returns to DEI in 2009 depends on sponsor availability. Smith clearly proved that he has driving talent last Sunday and hopefully he, and DEI, garnered the positive attention they'll need for next year.

WAZZ UP with all of that bump drafting that went on in the middle of the turns at Talladega? This is a major area of restrictor plate racing that NASCAR needs to address but I'm thinking that it is going to be difficult to police. For example NASCAR could inform a driver that he violated the bump rule in the turns only to have the driver tell them that he didn't violate the rules because the car in front of him checked up and he couldn't slow down quick enough to avoid the contact. That's a situation that would even tax the patience of King Solomon but somehow a solution needs to be created before something really tragic happens.

Along those lines WAZZ UP with Carl Edwards for that late in the race bump draft in the middle of turn three that triggered a huge multicar wreck? Not only did that wreck eliminate half of the 12 man NASCAR championship contenders but it also eliminated two of Edward's teammates. I can only imagine what the Monday morning de brief meeting was like at Roush Fenway Racing. If you look at the video the Edwards car bumped teammate Greg Biffle but his car wasn't completely square with the back of Biffle's car. The result was Biffle was turned around and all hell broke loose behind them.

Also along those same lines HOORAH for Carl Edwards "manning up" after the race by accepting responsibility for his actions complete with an apology on national television. Edwards said "we all try to avoid idiots out there and I wound up making an idiot move." I've got a feeling that he spent a lot of time on his cell phone Monday morning.

Yet another WAZZ UP goes to Carl Edwards when he was seen on national television, during a caution flag, pouring water on his lap and then throwing two empty plastic water bottles out his driver's window and onto the track. The following night, on the Speed Channel, the always fun Michael Waltrip suggested that "he urinated himself and he used the water to clean himself up." Yet another reason why everyone likes Mikey.
WAZZ UP with right side tire wear during the Talladega weekend. Blown right side tires were a highly noticeable problem from final Sprint Cup practice, all through the ARCA ReMax Series race and during the Amp Energy Drink 500. In one case it caused driver Denny Hamlin to hit the wall so hard that he was kept overnight at a local hospital for observation. Ray Evernham, on ESPN's "NASCAR Now" program had an interesting theory and said "the tires used at Talladega on the Car Of Tomorrow are actually smaller than the ones used on the former standard race car in previous years and they really need to be enlarged. I also heard reports that some of the teams were using excessive air pressures on the right side tires and that also is likely a factor in some of the high force blowouts."

The final WAZZ UP goes to the girlfriend, Miss Ginny, who in the middle of the Sprint Cup broadcast informed me that the price of coffee has risen sharply at the local supermarkets and openly wondered if that had anything to do with driver Juan Pablo Montoya. I assured her that he may be from Colombia-South America but there was absolutely no evidence that he was associated with the coffee industry or for that matter "any other commodity."

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