It has literally taken me from Sunday to Wednesday to formulate my thoughts on this past weekend’s “race” at Talladega. It honestly depresses me a bit that I used to look forward to Talladega so much (and I’m sure this is the case with many other fans as well) only to be saddled with the garbage we saw on Sunday.
I’m not going to go into the usual bulleted list of what I saw on Sunday. Clint Bowyer won, but that will be largely forgotten. Kevin Harvick’s Chase chances took a huge hit when he was caught up in a crash with Kyle Busch, AJ Allmendinger, and others. Carl Edwards somehow came up with an 11th place finish that, given Harvick’s troubles, may very well wrap up the championship for himself and the 99 team barring some absolute catastrophe.
But what I really took away from Sunday was the absolute joke that the whole event turned into. At first, this whole “tandem” racing thing was intriguing, causing teams to add other drivers’ radio channels to their dials so that their driver could speak to someone they would potentially work with on the racetrack.
But ESPN’s Terry Blount said it best: This is “Jersey Shore” on wheels. This whole thing of pairing up and making deals and leaving other drivers angry because you decided to work with someone else is just comical. The racing is boring and the complaining is petty. No one tunes in to watch Dale Jr., Jimmie Johnson, and other big names ride in the back nose-to-tail, 25 seconds or more off the lead.
NASCAR has some serious work to do here. If the answer is changing the noses of the cars so that this deal of pushing the guy in front of you is impossible, they need to get on it. Honestly, changing the cars is about the only thing I can see working here. Otherwise, all these nickel-and-dime changes are going to last only until the drivers can find a way to circumvent them. Case in point: the engine pop-off valve. NASCAR made changes so that the engines would overheat and spit water at lower temperatures. The drivers’ answer: they perfected pushing the car in front of them while being able to hang the right side of the nose out from behind the car in front, therefore being able to push and get cool air to the engine at the same time.
It’s going to take some serious changes to stop this nonsense. The Daytona 500 is their Superbowl, the race that is supposed to set the stage for the upcoming season. Unfortunately for them, without changes, fans will be treated to this garbage in February in the biggest event of the year. Fans are not likely to be very receptive to that, which doesn’t bode well for the sport. It’s on the sanctioning body to fix this. If they don’t, it could definitely cost them.