Drivers, teams and fans were all dreading the final plate race of the season but the happenings at Talladega Super Speedway were less than thrilling.
Now, the racing itself was very entertaining. There were on-track battles, fights for the lead and the underdog (sort of) coming out on top. The one thing that seemed to be missing was the caution flags. There were only a handful of caution during the 500 mile race with only 4 cars leaving with large amounts of bent sheet metal.
Long green-flag runs and green-flag pit stops are somewhat unusual for a race at Talladega and her sister track, Daytona. With no “big one” during the course of Sunday’s race, it left many to wonder, what happened?
It wasn’t for a lack of racing as some may think, but instead, drivers just didn’t think it was necessary to risk it all, especially those battling for the bit Championship. With points so close, especially those just behind Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, a bad finish could knock them out of Championship contention for good. Why risk losing that top-10 finish just for that slight possibility of a win on the last lap?
After taking the white flag, the pack was more of a straight line. A few cars jumped out of line only to realize that they had no back-up. No back-up means there is no way they could challenge for the lead and they just jumped back in line. Austin Dillon, filling in for Tony Stewart, jumped out of line while running in the top-5, only to slide back up in line. Catching the front of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Dillon slid down the track, collided with Casey Means, and went airborne.
Luckily, he landed upright and was able to drive the car back to the garage. The race ended under caution and Jamie McMurray saw Victory Lane for the first time since 2010.
The only major shake-up at Talladega was the points shift at the top of the leaderboard. Johnson now leads Kenseth by four points as the team heads to Martinsville. Johnson has eight wins at the half-mile, including a win from the pole earlier this season. Kenseth has yet to win at Martinsville.
So, was Talladega a bust? I don’t think so. Looking at the race, there was a lot of excitement leading to the checkers. Pit road penalties, top drivers losing the draft, very colorful comments over the radios are just a few of them. One thing is for certain, this may have been one of the calmest super speedway races NASCAR has had in a long time.