NASCAR Cup Series

OBSERVATIONS: 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

When you have friends and fast cars, you can make everything easy for you and your teammates. Just ask Stewart-Haas Racing.

Through the first two stages of the 500, their four cars controlled the event, taking the top-four spots as they got in line after each of the restarts, and pulled away. With having been used to chaos and big packs over the past couple of years, it was a weird dynamic to see the tides shift to looking so simple for them. Teams have been dominated together before – just look at Team Penske who had won six of the last right races at Talladega Superspeedway. However, they still had to contend equally against other drivers to score their victories.

The dynamic made for an interesting storyline and is something that will be talked about for the days to come. In return, though, the racing essentially turned boring. Seeing a whole string of cars follow each other around the 2.66 mile oval without much passing could easily put any fan watching to sleep. But, we’ve seen this before as drivers will ride and wait till the end before going crazy so everybody tried to hang in there.

If it wasn’t for a late-race incident by Jamie McMurray having a flat tire, or D.J. Kennington‘s team watching a tire roll out into the middle of the infield grass for a debris caution, it was turning essentially into a yawn fest with the only question remaining whether the four Stewart-Haas Racing had enough fuel to reach the end.

The last few green flag runs produced some more exciting action as teams tried to form runs, even an impressive attempt by Team Penske, but it was more of the same. The only saving grace to late-race drama was Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick running out of gas going into the overtime finish, leaving Aric Almirola to fend off the field.

Redemption would be the perfect word for Almirola. Sometimes you can say that drivers lucked into these wins, but he has come close a couple of times throughout the season, most recently at Dover International Speedway last weekend. He also got wrecked out of the lead at the Daytona 500 by Austin Dillon

Busch, meanwhile, was left disappointed and understandably so as he appeared poised to snag the victory and lock himself into the next round. His frustration came through in his post-race comments.

“There were two human element calls there at the end,” he said. “I don’t know why we ran an extra lap under yellow and why there wasn’t the yellow for a dispatch of an ambulance.”

In past events, when a wreck has happened on the last lap, NASCAR has gone on the side of caution and called a yellow to get the drivers involved attention as soon as possible. This has brought forth criticism from the fans in wanting to see a green-flag finish.Therefore, when Matt DiBenedetto, Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott wrecked during overtime on Sunday, the sanctioning body did not drop the yellow flag as they believed all drivers were okay. 

It’s certainly a double-edged sword that they are faced as sometimes a wreck may not look significant enough, but may cause more pain than realized for someone. However, you also want to appease the fans by making sure to deliver what they came for. It will be an argument that will always have two sides, without a decision that’s more right than the other. However, it is worth saying that safety of the drivers should always come first and hopefully that is being focused on by the sanctioning body when making the call. 

The restrictor plate track was expected to shake up the Round of 8 in the playoffs, and it has done that.

Who would’ve expected Brad Keselowski to be the first driver on the outside right now? Jason Schultz explains how that came to be perfectly, and that can be read by clicking here. 

You also have Martin Truex Jr. as the last driver currently in a position to transfer, 18 points above the cut-off line. After being known as one of THE BIG THREE through the season, he could easily see his championship hopes dashed next weekend after two straight poor finishes.

Each round of the playoffs has been dramatic so far, and hopefully that will hold true for Kansas Speedway despite those above the cut-off line distancing themselves from the rest.



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By Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.