Monday, October 24, 2016

At Talladega They Were Saying GREAT SCOTT

Talladega arrived and it saw memorable racing yet again.

The Chase orientation of NASCAR means Brian Scott's stunning finish at Talladega will be largely overlooked because of Joey Logano's win (overcoming - of all things - dragging his jack around the track) and the engine failures of Martin Truex and Brad Keselowski.   But that's become one of the signature annoyances regarding NASCAR, its obsession with the Chase format as opposed to winning or even contending for the win.

Scott's spectacular second is not a win.   It is, however, a needed eye-opener, this in a season that ended a 70-plus race run without a first-time winner in August.   It was also a reminder of the sport's history - Richard Petty's team fighting for the win has been NASCAR's largest single force almost since the sanctioning body's beginning, and it's no sleight to David Pearson, Cale Yarborough, the Allisons, Harry Hyde, etc. to say Petty personifies the growth of stock car racing.

Of course the ultimate rivalry in NASCAR's history was Petty and David Pearson, and the Wood Brothers Ford acquitted itself with aplomb under Ryan Blaney, leading three laps and finishing a respectable eleventh at a track the #21 won five times at.

The win by Logano and the runner-up by Scott went with Aric Almirola's eighth place and a stout (albiet quiet) fifth place by Ricky Stenhouse, his first top-10 since the Volunteer 500 in August and his seventh of the year (and the upshot is his girlfriend has yet to finish higher than 11th - with just four finishes 15th or better - this year).   It showcased needed strong depth by Ford in the final days before Stewart-Haas' team joins them.

Though Ford may wonder if it wants Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, both top-ten finishers at Talladega yet both at it again after the race.   Oddly the long-running Rumor Control Central claim that Chevrolet was working a package to get Harvick out of a Ford and into Hendrick Motorsports hasn't resurfaced.

The Chase format has eliminated the front-row starters at Talladega, Keselowski and Truex, both four-race winners (though the Chase's non-race winners have by now been eliminated) and both out with engine failures.   No one else going forward has more than four wins, and the most curious sight of the day was the decision by JGR to basically stroke it - Kyle Busch, Kenseth, and Carl Edwards made zero effort to compete, more scared of losing points than of losing, period.


The decision by JGR outside of Denny Hamlin to jake it was criticized and correctly so. NASCAR says JGR didn't violate the sanctioning body's "100% rule," made in the wake of Michael Waltrip's fake caution at Richmond. Kyle Busch's retort -
"Don't hate the player - hate the game

- only reinforces the frustrations with a race weekend that was good but which hasn't lived up to its competitive value for several years.   Once again it was - artificially - too hard to pass and too hard to push; the racing was good, it should manifestly have been more competitive, and it's the old story that is is NASCAR's fault between the smaller spoiler, crackdown on push-drafting, and of course the absurd yellow-line rule - all this apart from the overemphasis on points racing in the sport as evidenced by the JGR fiasco.

So it goes to Martinsville for the Winston Cup cars and the Truck Series; the Trucks saw a surprise winner in first-timer Grant Enfinger.    The most competitive division in NASCAR at present, the Trucks have outsparkled the Cup Series overall, so Martinsville will likely see a surprise or two.

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