Talladega is in the rearview mirror and what a weekend it was. We had several hot topics coming out of the second superspeedway of the season and they were certainly ones that have dominated the conversation.
Now the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series head to the Midwest, and the first stop of the season at the Kansas Speedway, but first, let’s take a look back at Talladega and discuss some topics amongst our roundtable.
First off, lets start with knockout qualifying. Now that we’ve seen knockout qualifying on superspeedways in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, what are your thoughts?
Mike Calinoff: I think it’s great that NASCAR has taken a piece of the weekend that usually sucked and converted it into something that has strategy and gamesmanship attached to it. It’s definitely a plus for the fans.
Amanda Ebersole: On the superspeedways, it was a great addition to the standard qualifying of years passed. The hard thing I noticed was for the underdog teams to get in the draft and have an equal lap time to that of the big teams.
Matt Weaver: Like everything else at Talladega, knockout qualifying was unpredictable and produced a surprise pole-winner in Brian Scott. Several contenders, including eventual race winner Denny Hamlin, failed to even make it to the second round with the total package producing both excitement and intrigue. Success.
Kelly Crandall: Knock-out qualifying is highly entertaining and without a doubt was interesting to watch unfold at the plate track this weekend. It’s become almost a game of cat and mouse, or chicken even. But there is going to need to be some tweaks in terms of clock management and when the clock should be stopped. We saw an incident in Cup qualifying where the clock wasn’t stopped and the session expired under caution. As for the drivers, I think they’re going to change things by the time we get to Daytona as well. Some have already started taking notes in how many cars need to be in a pack and when they need to go out. While others are still trying to figure out what they need to do and weren’t happy with how things played out. But from an observer’s standpoint, it’s fun to watch.
Unique Hiram: Qualifying was fun to watch, a little intense and blazing fast.
Chris Owens: I thought it was great. Qualifying on superspeedways in the past was the worst thing possible. Who wants to sit and watch a three-hour borefest? What we saw Saturday was fantastic. No need to change a thing, the gainsmanship we saw was fantastic.
A talked about topic this week has been Brad Keselowski. He was six laps down when he spun and collected several contenders. If you’re in Brad’s position, six laps down, do you chance it and race like you’re on the lead lap or do you play it say and ride in the back?
MC: That’s kind of a subjective question. I think that a plate race is the only legitimate scenario to work your way back to the front, take the lead and hope for a caution. It also depends on what got you behind to begin with. If you’ve got aero damage and you don’t stand a chance of being at par with the leaders, I’d say the right thing to do is succumb to your damage and recognize that today is not your day. One other factor that should come into play is the juncture of the race. If you get behind early and you have time to make up laps, then I think it’s all good. But at the end, when guys are racing for valuable points, you’d probably be better served just hanging out for the rest of the day.
AE: To ask any driver to ride in the back is silly, it is against the normal racer’s mentality. That said, if you are SIX laps down, there should be some common courtesy towards those racing on the lead lap. When the show is on the other foot, drivers want to cuss about a lapped car messing their race up but when it is them, it is ok.
MW: At the end of the day, Brad Keselowski had no business racing with the leaders with 40 laps to go. But with a car that was very much competitive, it’s hard to ask that the 2012 champion just ride in the back all day either. Chalk it up to the inherent wackiness of Talladega. With that said, the notion that Brad was a debris caution or two away from contention when he was six laps down was laughable.
KC: I have no problem with what Keselowski was doing simply because he didn’t start a wreck. Well, he did but not the way that people should be freaking out over. Keselowski simply lost the car, which is not only rare, but happened to Jimmie Johnson later in the race as well. Things just happen. In this case, where would like Keselowski to have gone? How fair is it to say that he just needs to ride around in the back? I would have had a bigger problem if he was six laps down and went up there and was racing overly aggressive and started a wreck because he got into someone’s left rear quarter panel. This was just a freak accident.
UH: In my opinion, I don’t believe that Brad Keselowski should have been racing as if he was on the lead lap. He should have hung out back and attempted to maintain the “Free Pass” position. At least that would have given him the opportunity to gain a few of those laps back without causing mayhem up front on two separate occasions.
CO: I’m all for Brad being up there and racing.; we wouldn’t be talking about this had he gotten loose and spun, now would we? But the fact that he spun and collected cars makes it a big deal. I think we should be talking about how he spun in the opening laps had his car slowed down enough that he needed to go back up in traffic to get a caution. But I digress.
Turning our attention to the Nationwide Series. Many people have hated the Cup drivers coming down and so called, stealing wins. This year, things have changed. Following Talladega, the Nationwide Series regulars have four wins where as the Cup guys have five.
Do you like the diversity of the Nationwide Series this year? Both Cup and Nationwide drivers winning races.
MC: It’s been a great balance so far. The series has needed drivers like Chase Elliott to come over and kick a little ass. I think this is going to be one of the best seasons that NASCAR’s second-tier touring series has in the modern era.
AE: No. Having to use the term diversity because it is 5 Cup and 4 Nationwide winners is annoying. It is the NASCAR Nationwide Series not the NASCAR Sprinationwide Series. I get it, Cup drivers have to be there to sell more tickets, increase sponsorship values, etc. but I would love the day that Nationwide only drivers are winning so much that we don’t have to talk about Cup drivers in a NNS race.
MW: It’s certainly been a nice mix thus far and with three road courses remaining, a driver like Alex Tagliani or Max Papis could add to that diversity.
KC: How can you not? This is one of the years that you never know what is going to happen when the Nationwide Series shows up at the track. The Cup drivers are still going to be there, but with the arrivals of Chase Elliott and JR Motorsports success and now Elliott Sadler getting in on the mix, it’s not a sure thing that the Cup guys are going to dominate and win. Isn’t that what everyone wanted, for the Nationwide guys have a chance to shine? If so, no one should be grumbling right now.
UH: There seems to be a slight balance with the number of winners between the series regulars and Cup drivers. I like that fact that the young drivers are racing the veterans without fear or being too reserved. Chase Elliott would be an excellent example with his performance so far this season.
CO: It’s not the old Nationwide Series from the 90’s or early 2000’s but it’s getting there. For a series that a lot of people thought wasn’t going to make it last year, things are looking up so far this year. Hopefully that trend continues. Talladega only had two big Cup guys in the field. Maybe we’re starting to see it return to it’s glory days.
Finally, we’re off to Kansas Speedway for the first night race at the track. What do you think we’ll see on Saturday night?
MC: All Kenseth, all the time.
AE: My Magic 8 ball is out of service for an exact answer. Let’s just hope the answer is AWESOME RACING!
MW: It’s so hard to predict how Saturday night will play out just because Kansas will be a night race for the first time ever. Events like this are Jimmie Johnson’s bread and butter, meaning we’ll have a good idea where the No. 48 team truly stands come Sunday morning.
KC: I’m trying to go in with an open mind but I still don’t agree with the fact that Kansas got two races – one of which is in the Chase – and now one is going to be a night race. On a freshly paved track. That right there sounds like a bad combination and with how slick the facility has been the last few years, I hope we’re not in for a long night.
UH: One word – unpredictable. Last October, Kansas Speedway saw a record number of cautions with 15 and that was a daytime race. Will the drivers break that record? This could very well be a possibility depending on the track conditions. Slickness and fast speeds will equate to some exciting racing under the lights.
CO: I’m not one to label a race boring before seeing it, but it’s shaping up to be. Somebody’s going to hit the setup and check out. With a fast race car and rock hard tires on a newly paved track, conditions are right for just that. Hopefully I’m wrong, but it’s not looking good.
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