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Talladega… Before the restrictor plates came into use it was probably the fastest track the NASCAR Cup Teams ever had to face. (Yeah, I know some will argue with that statement, but honestly, that doesn’t matter that much to me.) It is wider than Daytona and it has more banking than Daytona and the speeds are fast, even with the restrictor plates. Besides all of the facts just mentioned, it has also been the track where some of the most dramatic finishes in NASCAR have taken place and probably the most memorable one was last year when eight cars finished less than a quarter of a second apart.
Usually, qualifying has very little drama and it is more important for the one that wins the pole and gets to claim the number one pit stall. Yesterday’s qualifying session appeared as though it was going to go much as expected… that is, until Jeff Gordon took his turn in the session. He didn’t run the expected lines during his two qualifying laps but he did end up with the fastest qualifying time. For today’s race, Jeff Gordon sits on the pole.
If anyone needed a boost from something good happening, it would be the #24 team and its driver. It’s not that they haven’t had fast cars most every weekend nor has it been that the driver hasn’t run strong in almost every race this year. He just seems to be going through one of those times that many drivers and teams face (usually more than once) throughout their careers. No matter how strong or good they have been running, something has happened to keep them from finishing a race with the results it looked like they deserved. Whether it has been blown engines or getting accidently put in the wall by one of their Hendrick team-mates, things have just not gone well.
I don’t know what you think about it, but from my view, no matter how a season is going, Jeff Gordon always appears have a positive attitude. Now, I’m not saying he doesn’t show signs of being discouraged, but he doesn’t throw his team under the bus. He continually looks at how they are performing and what they are doing right and what’s going wrong.
From this fan’s view, it shows the character of the driver and the team. When tough times come, they don’t blame each other, they suck it up and look how they can use the positive and improve on the negative things they do each week. To me, that is why the #24 team and its driver are champions and I expect they will come out of their slump soon. In fact, even though starting on the pole doesn’t mean much when it comes to restrictor plate racing, it could be today.
No matter how you look at it, the drama in today’s race will be exhibited from the drop of the green flag until the checkered flag falls. I don’t look at it as being an “on the edge of your seat” race every lap, but there is a lot of stuff going on in the minds of the drivers and crews that will make it dramatic, even thought the action on the track may appear to wane at times.
Over-heating is the biggest concern of many of the teams for today’s race and it will be one of the biggest performance factors for every team all day. Add to that the expected temperatures of the air and track and it could prove to be the “perfect storm” for some that otherwise could finish up front.
A J Allmendinger surprised many by taking the outside pole position and will start next to Jeff Gordon on the front row. In fact it was a surprise to some that the Fords didn’t qualify up front much as they did at Daytona. From this fan’s view, that doesn’t mean they won’t be the ones to beat this afternoon, but it could mean the “pack racing” could be much more exciting than it even usually is.
Since the rule changes NASCAR made to try and break up the “two car tandem” that brought back “pack racing” to the Super Speedways has worked (more because of over-heating concerns than anything else) there is the possibility of the “Big One” taking out possible contenders for the victory. That doesn’t mean we won’t see the two car draft, but it is highly expected it will be saved mostly for the laps near the end of the race.
It is hard for anyone to pick a winner for a restrictor plate race, especially Talladega. I won’t even try to do that but there are some I would like to see win and some I would rather not. I do expect to see the usual ones at the front fighting for position especially in the closing laps. Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and the Bush brothers should be there along with Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and, of course Dale Earnhardt Jr. Of course, I can’t leave out Michael Waltrip Racing’s teams either.
With the way all of the teams have been running, it is anybody’s race. I expect the last 25 laps to be very intense and the finish to be as dramatic and intense as any we witnessed in recent times. Of course, there is also the possibility the end could come with a bunch of torn up race cars sitting, smoking and steaming and someone totally unexpected sitting in Victory Lane.
But, I reckon we won’t know that until the checkered flag drops… will we?
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 6, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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