Trackside Duo: Three Storylines from Talladega

Photo- Getty Images
Photo- Getty Images

As always, it was a wild and crazy weekend at Talladega. Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 proved to be as exciting as ever, as drivers constantly were running two to three wide around the 2.66-mile superspeedway. Sometimes dissecting Talladega races is just as much fun as watching them. This week, the Trackside Duo does just that as they give plenty of opinions regarding what went down at ‘Dega. 1. A fantastic race Sunday afternoon ended in fans having mixed feelings as for the second straight race at Talladega, the finish came under yellow-flag conditions. What is your take on the call and would you like to see any change(s) regarding a caution being thrown after the white flag in the future? Alanis: It is unfortunate when a race ends in the fashion that Talladega did over the weekend, and it’s anticlimactic for fans. Some rules are in place for a reason, such as NASCAR allowing three chances at a green-white-checkered finish in order to limit the amount of cars potentially torn up by wrecks, which is understandable. The rule of “the next flag ends it” after the white flag is taken has been an established mandate, but after last weekend, viewers have been left questioning the tradition. In my opinion, it’s best to throw a GWC if the caution comes out at any point before the field takes the checkered flag, but since an occurrence like what happened at Talladega is a rare case, it’s not imperative to change the rule. Jason: The disappointment among fans was clear following the ending to a fantastic Aaron’s 499. Finishes at Talladega Superspeedway are known to be thrilling, so when a last-lap caution robs fans of that excitement, it is difficult to take in. In my opinion, I would like to see NASCAR reevaluate the last-lap caution rule. The rule rarely comes into play, except for superspeedway races, so making the change would do little to disrupt race finishes for the most part. Fans typically don’t recall what happens on lap 75 of any particular race, but they do always remember what happens at the finish. This is why the move to bring out the yellow flag on the last lap if need be could be a great move to continue to please fans. 2. It was noted throughout the race that a handful of drivers were hanging out at the back of the pack in hopes to avoid trouble for a majority of the race. Drivers in that group, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip, ultimately were not able to climb back to the front. What is your opinion on that strategy in restrictor-plate racing? Alanis: The goal for the restrictor-plate racing — until the final laps — is fairly simple: survive. If a driver isn’t there at the end, he or she has no chance to take home the trophy at the end of the day. For some drivers, the approach taken to avoid wrecks consists of hanging back for the majority of the race. For others, staying at the front is more desirable. Both strategies usually work, however the drivers at the back usually have to bank on a late-race caution in order to be in contention at the end. Either approach has its difficulties — the uncertainty of hanging at the back, or the possibility of falling back into the middle of the pack while attempting to stay ahead of potential wreckage. Any strategy on a restrictor-plate track is a gamble, just like many other aspects of racing; it all depends on how the race plays out. Jason: Hanging around at the back of the pack all day is definitely the safe gamble. It kept both Earnhardt Jr. and Waltrip out of trouble.  However, it also kept both from victory lane. The strategy for Earnhardt Jr. is a little more understandable considering he has a win which will likely get him into the Chase. For Waltrip though, it’s a head scratcher. He competes in select races every season so going all out for the win seems like it may benefit him more. His strategy may have been more understandable if he began his move to the front a little earlier, but since he did not, it has everyone questioning the lay-at-the-back strategy. 3. Despite the possibility presented by restrictor-plate racing, no underdog driver was able to claim victory on Sunday. Now, any driver with hopes of pulling an upset win at a restrictor-plate track has one more opportunity to win their way into the Chase. Do you see a surprise winner coming at Daytona in July or will there be no underdog driver making this year’s Chase field? Alanis: Anything can and will happen at Daytona and Talladega, so I wouldn’t doubt seeing an underdog in the Chase this year with a restrictor-plate win. Take note, though, that there are currently seven different drivers with wins. Seeing as we’re only 10 races into the 26-race regular season, we can’t rule out the potential to have more than 16 drivers with regular season wins. If an underdog does win at Daytona this summer, his or her Chase fate could be decided by how many different winners we see between now and the Chase, and where that particular driver is in the points standings. Jason: I expect to see a similar scenario play out, regarding underdogs, at Daytona as we did last weekend. They will be in the hunt at certain points in the race, but none will be able to get the job done. The unpredictability of plate racing could prevail as it has in the past, though which will make for an exciting event. Maybe down the road with the new Chase format we will see the underdog story, but as for this season, it won’t be showing up. Follow Alanis on twitter @AlanisNKing and follow Jason @NASCARJason. Also make sure to follow @Drive4Autism, as Alanis and Jason will be providing live updates from that account during the 2014 Drive for Autism celebrity golf tournament on Dover race weekend.

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