TALLADEGA, Ala. – The level of excitement – mixed with the constant element of the unknown – always makes races at Talladega Superspeedway one to attend or watch.
And, all those elements were in play big time yesterday during the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series race.
The first practice on Friday yielded average running speeds in the 202 mph ranks. That prompted some drivers to voice their concerns regarding safety vs. racing.
So, NASCAR ordered all teams to put on a wicker bill across the top of the spoiler with a bend at the top facing forward. This was done to slow down the speeds and make everyone a little more comfortable.
Wrong – in the second practice cars a top the speed chart were now going 204 mph in the draft. Teams, engineers and NASCAR were left wondering what the racing was going to be like on Sunday when the green flag dropped.
Would there be major portions of single-file style racing? Would they go two- and three-wide the entire time? Would cars go airborne and sail into the catch fence like Bobby Allison did at Dega in 1987?
In asking the 1983 Cup Champion his thoughts on the race Sunday morning, Allison’s response was, “I think it’s going to be good racing, and pretty interesting.” He was right.
Nowadays, the side draft has become just as important as the front-to-back draft. And, if you lose the draft – you’re doing circles by yourself. Keep up, or be gone.
Multiple lead changes throughout 198-lap event, side-by-side with two- and three-wide racing prevailed. Fans in the stands were on the edge of their seats, stars in the cars were up on the wheel and the tension increased as the laps ticked down.
The much-anticipated Big One never quite happened, but there was enough Mini Ones to remind everyone how fickle superspeedway racing can play out. Kyle Larsen went airborne with less than 10 to go and barrel rolled his way down the backstretch, but walked away from the twisted No. 42 Chevrolet.
In the end, second-generation driver and fan favorite, Chase Elliott from the neighboring state of Georgia, claimed the checkered flag in his No. 9 Chevrolet owned by Hendrick Motorsports. To the crowd’s delight, he was followed by two other youngsters in Alex Bowman and Ryan Preece to complete the top-three finishers. (Note – two years ago, Preece made several visits to Lancaster National Speedway to compete in Race of Champions Modified specials)
The fans got a great race, the drivers all survived and the siren a top the Dawsonville Pool Hall was wailing away for their hometown kid.
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry Getty Images (2015)