Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway was disappointing at best and mediocre at worst. Contrary to fan belief, including this one who loves Talladega, the race was not a complete disaster. Mike Bagley and Pete Pistone on Tuesday morning’s The Morning Drive on SiriusXM both understood that the fans have expectations for what Talladega should be. That expectation will be explained later. Regardless, the concept that this is the new Talladega is just a one-off than a new reality.
The 2018 1000Bulbs.com 500 was domination by Stewart-Haas Racing. Their four cars swept the top four spots in qualifying. Their strategy was crystal clear from the start. The two cars on the inside would hold their gas pedal off to let the other two in from the outside. The four cars combined had the ability to pull away from a pack. Their speed together was insane. It turned stage one into a split up mess and forced everyone to not pit.
It was obvious that when the four were not up front, not only was there pack racing, but the quality of the racing was better. For a time Ryan Blaney held up the inside line, keeping the four Stewart-Haas cars behind them. While the outside line did not get 100% improvement with a 5th Ford up front, there was better racing. Pitting also helped when it broke the 4 Stewart-Haas cars apart. It was pack racing again.
However, by the end of the race, we were back to the original trope of Stewart-Haas 1-2-3-4. A late caution shook everything up though. Now, with the four cars low on gasoline, Kevin Harvick lost fuel pressure just before a restart in overtime. Kurt Busch lost fuel pressure on the backstretch, leading to an Aric Almirola win. However, the Big One did occur on the backstretch, leading to some controversy in calling a caution or not.
Clearly the pack racing was hard with the Stewart-Haas cars up front. They could break the draft and get away. It was not normal Talladega. When fans expect Talladega, they expect 188 laps of Russian Roulette. You are on the edge of your seat wondering when the big wreck is going to occur. Cars commonly are passing each other. You get all the cool stories in who finished in the top 10 at the end of the race. Those are the expectations of Talladega.
When a race at Talladega becomes very tame and strained, it causes the fans to be upset. However, the race is not broken. Fans want NASCAR to do something about the skewed cars that the Stewart-Haas cars had. That aside, this race seems much more like a one-off. There will be differences in the 2019 Daytona 500 and the next race at Talladega, as the packages will be different. Fans should cool their jets a bit on expecting that this is a new reality at Talladega.
There is no reason to go crazy. This was likely just an anomaly.
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