The Aaron’s 499 at Talladega


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Well… It’s that time again. It’s time for the Aaron’s 499 at the Talladega Speedway in Alabama. There’s nothing like spending a Sunday afternoon watching stock cars race on what is known as the world’s fastest race track, (well at least as far as stock cars are concerned.)

I’ve said it many times before and if you’re familiar with previous year’s articles, I love restrictor plate racing. I do have to admit that over the last few years it hasn’t seemed to be as exciting as it once was and there are several reasons for that, at least from this fan’s view. Before I say another word, I do want to say this… I don’t miss the “two car tandem” racing at all.

One of the reasons and probably the most evident to us all, is that somewhere along the way the drivers fall in the line and just start clicking off laps until they get closer to the end of the race. I don’t really have a problem with that but, it is, or at least can be, somewhat boring during those times. It seems a little funny to this fan that even though that might be some of the time during the race that has the least amount of action, it also seems to be when they run the fewest commercials during the broadcast. Sure, I know I could be wrong about that and it may just seem that way to me but it even makes that part of the race seem a bit longer.

Another reason that it doesn’t seem to be as exciting as it once was, at least to this fan, is that they really haven’t decided how they want to strategize for being around at the end of the race. I know that there are those that will argue with me and that’s okay but I have to say that the strategies, although varied, are very diverse and things don’t really get interesting until about the last 50 miles or so. Now I know that there are those that will say no you’re wrong, Rusty; it’s the last hundred miles that are the most interesting and then there are those that only want to watch the last 10 laps. Why I’ve even had some friends that told me they set the DVR so that they can go back and watch something that might have happened that they might’ve missed but they really don’t start watching the race until about the last 15 to 20 laps or so.

From this fan’s view I think one of the biggest reasons that people like restrictor plate racing is the closeness of the racing and of course the possibility of having the “Big One” at some time during the 499 miles. As a kid at the races at our local tracks in Southern Illinois that seemed to be the thing we liked the most. My friends and I really didn’t talk too much about the races that didn’t have wrecks in them. In fact, we went to see the wrecks and were totally disappointed when they didn’t happen.

After I became a car owner and driver a little later in life, it wasn’t about the wrecks anymore; it was more about the racing. Some of my fondest memories are still when we were ran lap after lap nose to tail and door handle to door handle in the group because no one could pass anyone. The line up for those races just happened to be in such a way that we were all fairly well matched and no one could get an advantage.

That may be why that I miss what some would call the “old days” in restrictor plate racing. That was when they ran two and three wide and many rows deep for much of the race. For some, that’s exactly why they didn’t like restrictor plate racing because it seemed no one could break away from the rest. For others they were on the edge of their seats because they were running two and three wide nose to tail and expecting the big win to happen at any moment. I have to admit, as a fan, that I also enjoyed that type of racing and as long as nobody got hurt I kind of look forward to the big one happening as long as it didn’t take out the guy that I was rooting for.

This weekend was the first time that the field qualified under the new qualifying format and the strategies were definitely different. When it came down to the last 5 minute qualifying session nobody wanted to be the first one out simply because there was no way that the first car was going to run faster than all the rest simply because of the draft. Personally, and I may be the only candidate feels this way, it does give an advantage to some and presents a disadvantage to others and I found the entire last session be a bit boring.

This is where I once again remind everyone that qualifying really doesn’t matter when it comes to restrictor plate racing. In fact, if they lined up according to points instead of qualifying at Talladega it wouldn’t matter when it comes down to race day. Even though it doesn’t matter that much where any of them qualified, from this fan’s view any one of them could end up in Victory Lane and that includes any one of the rookies.

Even though I know it sounds like I’m not really looking forward to this race, that conception is completely wrong. I am looking forward to it and can’t wait until the green flag drops. I expect we will see any number of strategies play out but I do think that this weekend might be a weekend where the tires won’t be a problem at least as much as they have been recently. I’m not even sure track position is going to play that big a part in the Aaron’s 499 on this Sunday afternoon. I believe when it comes right down to it, it’s all going to depend on when that last yellow flag falls and whether or not the big when has happened before the final laps are run…

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© May 3, 2014 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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