Chase Race Six at Talladega from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty NormanThe Chasers and the rest of the Cup teams take to the Talladega track Sunday afternoon and one thing is certain… there will be a lot of uncertainty of how the race will go. NASCAR has made some interesting rule changes and many of the drivers and others are questioning some of those changes and think it is going to make the likelihood of something big happening even greater. Some are questioning why they have chosen to change the cooling system pop-off valve eight pounds (from 33 to 25 lbs) and others wonder why they eliminated greasing the bumpers. Some have said these are the dumbest rule changes ever and many fans are in agreement.

So what’s the big deal about all this? Well you see, Talladega used to be about speed. It was the biggest and fastest oval track in NASCAR and it used to be a place where a very few cars dominated all the rest and put them laps behind over the course of a race. In this fan’s opinion, given the choice of a few cars running for the trophy and the rest just running around the track, NASCAR chose to change the rules and that led to large packs of cars running nose-to-tail, side by side and a thing called restrictor plate racing.

Of course, there were many good reasons for making those changes other than just to bunch up the cars into those large packs. Since the racing speeds were increasing to over 200 miles per hour, to protect the fans and the drivers from cars that were beginning to take flight with regularity putting those fans and drivers in jeopardy, NASCAR opted for the restrictor plates to lower the speed of the cars on the super-speedways and hopefully keep their wheels on the ground. That and other tweaks to the rules led to the large packs of cars running in the draft and yet kept any one of them from really separating themselves from the rest.

Then came the new car called the C-O-T (car of tomorrow for those of you new to, or not familiar with NASCAR) and something new happened to the racing on the super-
speedways. The drivers and crews discovered that two cars running nose-to-tail could run up to fifteen miles per hour faster than a pack of cars or cars running by themselves. The longer the two could run together in tandem, the longer they could maintain that speed advantage. With the repaving of the larger tracks, making their surfaces smoother, the drivers now choose a running partner and the field runs in packs of two for the whole race.

NASCAR has been trying to find ways to break up those extended two car tandem runs and the latest try at fixing it is the rule changes concerning the pop-off valves and not allowing the teams to grease the bumpers. (Just to refresh your memory, greasing the bumpers made it easier to run in tandem without upsetting the the front car in the tandem, or worse, causing an accident and sometimes, a big one.) Of course, it does appear the teams are finding a way around that “no-grease” rule already…

All of these new developments lead us into this weekend at Talladega and the certainty of uncertainty and makes this fan wonder how all of it will shake out when the race is over. I’m still one of those that loves restrictor plate racing and has already grown accustomed to the two car tandem drafts. What I would like to see happen is the continuation of the close racing and finishes we have all witnessed lately and I don’t think that is going to change. From my view, the drivers are just whining a bit at the increased stress level they will have to endure and it will be particularly more stressful on the ones in the Chase that need to have very good finishes this weekend.

So, a quick glance at the qualifying times tells a Chevy story. Just looking a the top ten shows seven Chevys and three Fords. If we look just little further back we see there are two more Chevys and still only one more Ford in the top thirteen. Of course, you know there is not much about qualifying that says how the race will end up, especially at the super speedways, Talladega in particular.

From this fan’s view, (and several others), it’s not about how fast the cars run by themselves but how fast they run with their chosen tandem drafting partners and how they move through the traffic. That’s just how this tandem racing goes and it is going to be important how the different partners come out of the pits and how fast they can pair up. That puts extra pressure on the pit crews and the crew chiefs to perform and it makes every stop important. The adjustments that will need to be made and the strategy calls to keep partners together and out front will be as important as ever and still, the strategy calls made on the fly will be the ones that can make or break the race for anyone.

In typical fashion, there is at least one more thing that will be almost certain for the full 500 miles. The drivers have to keep their cars cool and they have to stay cool themselves, but that’s really not the one more thing I’m talking about. What I am talking about is that the race is 500 miles and anyone of the 43 starters can win it, and of course, the points could be well shaken up when this one is over…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 22, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and
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