If you saw the single file racing in the Xfinity race, you got to see a repeat of that in the Cup race. After a nasty multiple barrel roll wreck in practice by Jamie McMurray, NASCAR reduced the opening in the restrictor plate to slow the cars. What they couldn’t figure out is how much the teams would skew the cars to get the spoiler out of the air and make the cars more squirrely than ever.
That produced a pack of cars that took a little longer to get up to speed but couldn’t pass because of the lack of horsepower and the fear that jumping out of line would cost them Stage points or wreck them since the cars handled like poo. Several drivers mentioned just how bad the handling on the cars was. Normally, Talladega is not a handling track like Daytona is. Usually ‘Dega is a horsepower, pedal to the metal track.
I hope NASCAR makes some changes before the cars return to ‘Dega in the fall because this was not a good race. Add in the fact that there were 133 commercials taking up over 20% of the total airtime and …yaaaaaaawwwwwnnnn.
As much as the drivers may have wanted to attempt to pass, this aero package and the fear of losing Stage points made for a parade until the cars got side by side. And when that happened, there was a wreck. At many other tracks, the Stages make for some interesting battles. Not at Talladega. NASCAR needs to fix that.
The race started cleanly with Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch on the front row. The first Stage was uneventful and won by Brad Keselowski. This Stage was very odd with two different packs separated by half the track due to pit strategy. We got to see some drivers up front that we don’t usually see, but that was due to differing pit calls. Once that settled down, all was normal again. Stage two was won by Paul Menard and featured the first wreck when Erik Jones got lose on lap 71 and went up the track in front of Jamie McMurray, triggering a decent sized wreck. Several fast cars were collected and then the cars pretty much stayed in line until late in the race. All it took was a small wiggle to get a car lose and send it spinning when the cars got side by side. We would see this again later. Perhaps they need garage workbenches.
Once the final Stage started, the cars got single file and rode around until the later laps when the trailing cars got bunched up again and the aero package took over. Behind the leaders, William Byron got inside of Jimmie Johnson and that was all it took for Johnson to spin out and create a chain reaction wreck that caught up 14 cars. The wreck took out several contenders but funny enough; Johnson was relatively unscathed and went back to racing.
Logano led the final 42 laps, leading Kurt Busch, Harvick, Stenhouse, Jr., and Chase Elliott to the checkers. Kurt Busch and Harvick had the best chance at passing Logano but they mistimed their breakout and wound up battling Elliott and Stenhouse over the final Top 5 positions.
Talladega is always a race that nearly every driver has confidence they can win due to circumstances and that leads to kudos for some drivers: Aric Almirola bounced back from a weird qualifying break down to finish 7th. He has had some good races this year without the goods finishes to show for it. Alex Bowman finished 8th and helped put 3 Hendrick cars in the Top 11. Daniel Suarez finished 9th with damage from the earlier wrecks. Chris Buescher grabbed the final spot in the Top 109. Jimmie Johnson rallied to an 11th place finish, which isn’t great, but considering the spinout on lap 165, not bad. Denny Hamlin got caught speeding TWICE, one of them during his pass through for speeding the first time and finished 14th. He had a fast car and had a shot at the win if it weren’t for another bone headed penalty.
Other notables were Ty Dillon in 15th; Bubba Wallace led 5 laps for 16th; Matt Dibenedetto led 6 laps for 19th and DJ Kennington rounded out the Top 20.
Lastly, a word of condolence to the Hylton family that lost NASCAR legend James Hylton and his son Tweety in an early morning accident just outside of Talladega. Our thoughts are with the family.