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NASCAR at Talladega: Will It Be Treats or Tricks For the Chasers at Race #7 in Alabama?

Rusty NormanIt has often been said in the past several weeks that Martinsville and Talladega could be the biggest game-changers the Sprint Cup drivers face in the Chase for 2010. Judging  from the way Martinsville went; Talladega could very well end up making some feel less than super after Sunday’s race. The unknown is whether it will be those at the top of the points or some further back, that end up either feeling treated or tricked.

At a restrictor plate track, there are only about 40 some cars that can win on Sunday and nobody says it has to be the guys that are actually in the Chase.

Although, it is a well know fact restrictor plate races are highly appreciated by the fans, the drivers look at them like having to swallow some bad tasting medicine and driving on a high speed freeway at rush hour. Because of the horsepower limitations of the restrictor plates and the fact that most teams have figured out the setups to run 2 to 3 wide bumper to bumper and door handle to door handle in the draft, it will be an afternoon of who wants to lead and who wants to follow until about the last 10 laps. Unless something out of the ordinary happens, the last 2 to 4 laps will be the most exciting of the day.

The only considerable unknown for Sunday afternoon is whether or not the “Big One” happens, when it happens and who it takes out. Of course we all know there are at least nine teams hoping only the top three of the top twelve will be affected so the rest of them can get back into the hunt.

You know, come to think of it, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t like to see the Chase tighten back up to where at least most of them are back in it. It is a little more difficult to get excited about the races and their outcome each week when basically only three are still in contention for the Sprint Cup for four or more weeks. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not wishing any bad luck on the top three, I’m just hoping to see the Chase tighten up. (Yeah, I know it sounds like I’m wishing for bad luck to befall them, but I assure you, it only sounds that way…)

As everyone that is even the slightest bit familiar with NASCAR knows, qualifying has very little to do with who wins and who loses the Amp Energy Juice 500 Sunday. Anymore, (and especially at this super speedway) it is basically to see which pit stall the teams get to pick. Sure, I know that alone can make a big difference coming out of the pits, but its effect only lasts for about a lap. After that, it is who can hook up with whom and in the last several Talladega races, two are better than one, three, four or more (at least for a couple of laps, anyway.)

As I said earlier this week, I do expect the top three will be driving more defensively than offensively this weekend. I understand their position, but I do think the defensive driving strategy can go either way. Riding around at, or near, the back of the draft for extended periods can also be hazardous to your day. All it takes is being caught up in something a driver can avoid ahead of him and his day can be over faster than he can blink.

Because the cars run so close together and at a very high constant speed, just how fast they are actually going is deceptive. As fans, we have to remember they are traveling tightly bunched together at 190 plus miles per hour. At those speeds, what can happen does happen and happens fast. Just because any one, or all, of the top three thinks they can safely run in the back and avoid possible troubles doesn’t mean they can and it also doesn’t mean they won’t finish in the back, too.

When it comes right down to it, there are some I expect to be running for the win, even if Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin don’t. He may not run up front all day, but I do expect Kevin Harvick to be trying to take his second victory at Talladega this season. He and Jamie McMurray have to be near the top of the list as possible winners simply because of the way they finished earlier this year.

I’m not sure who is going to take this one, but one thing I do know; if there is a big one late in the race it could make a big difference in the how the points look at the end of the day. Will it affect the top three, the bottom nine or, none of the above?

Well, that my NASCAR friends, is one very good question and I reckon we won’t know until it happens… will we?

See ya next time… Rusty

All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer

© October 30, 2010 – all rights reserved

Rusty Norman and

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By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.