NASCAR: Moving Talladega Chase Date Is The Right Move

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports /

NASCAR makes a big change to the Chase schedule, and it is one that makes a lot of sense.

NASCAR is set to unveil the 2017 schedule, and it is being reported that they are swapping the fall Talladega and Kansas race dates, so Talladega will precede Kansas and Kansas will be the final race of the second round of the Chase.

Like most NASCAR writers/bloggers/fans, I feel like most anything NASCAR does is worthy of criticism.  Either they don’t listen to the drivers, or they don’t listen to the fans, or they do listen and then clumsily implement changes that satisfy nearly nobody.  Change isn’t really the most popular thing with NASCAR fans.

However, in this case, NASCAR is right on.

I definitely believe there should be a restrictor plate race in the Chase. Restrictor-plate racing is a skill, and plate tracks make up three of the 26 races before the Chase, so having one out of ten Chase races on a plate track makes sense to me.  (That same logic applies to road course racing, in my opinion, but that’s another story.)  With Daytona’s two traditional early season and July 4th weekend dates, Talladega is, by default, the plate track in the Chase.

However, when NASCAR changed the Chase for the 2014 season, they did not change the schedule, and Talladega went from being the sixth race of ten Chase races to the third of three races in the second Chase segment.  (What did they call that round at first?  “Collaborator?”  “Conspirator?”  Something with a “C”, right?  I appreciate that is “the second round” now.)

In 2014, Kyle Busch was poised to make the Chase if he just stayed out of trouble at Talladega. He rode around in the back with the goal of missing any wrecks and getting to the end, until this happened, and Kyle’s 40th-place finish cost him a chance to advance to the final eight.

In 2015, Dale Earnhardt Jr. seemed poised to win his way into the final eight, just as Brad Keselowski had done the previous year at Talladega.  He had led 61 laps and was in position to battle Joey Logano on a green-white-checkered finish. Instead, this happened, with Kevin Harvick maybe or maybe not wrecking the field to guarantee a caution that protected Harvick’s spot in the final eight.

You can argue that circumstances (in 2015, it was Jamie McMurray blowing an engine with four laps to go, causing the caution flag and the final restart) were as much to blame as Talladega, but the fact is that drivers feel like they have much more control over their own destiny at a track like…well, any track besides Talladega. And by moving the Talladega race to the second race of the second round of the Chase, they are giving the drivers Kansas as a backup, just in case Kansas doesn’t go their way.  (Honestly, I would have moved Talladega to the first race of the segment, to give drivers two races to make up a spot in the Big One, but…baby steps.)

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According to Nate Ryan’s report on, “Drivers and teams had complained it wasn’t fair to have the 2.66-mile oval play such a pivotal role in the playoffs because of its unpredictable nature..” Good for NASCAR to make a change to the schedule that listened to those drivers and teams.  It is, for once, a change that has no downside.