By admin | April 25, 2010
By Richard Allen
The Aaron’s 499 at the Talladega Super Speedway has to go down as one of the most exciting NASCAR Sprint Cup races in recent history. There were a record 29 drivers who led the event and a record 88 lead changes among those drivers.
I would find it hard to believe that anyone who watched that race could not have enjoyed it. The trouble is, there are too few of those kind of events.
Yes, I know. The competition on the tracks of Talladega and Daytona is artificially manipulated by the horsepower robbing restrictor plates, but still, the jockeying for position and the all day long two and three wide action is hard to resist, even for the most ardent racing traditionalist.
It is just too bad there can’t be more races like that. However, there is no way there will ever be 29 different leaders and 88 lead changes on a ‘cookie cutter’ track. That just can’t happen.
With that said, I believe there could be much more passing and lead exchanges than there are on all tracks if NASCAR would get away from dictating so many facets of the competition. Granted, the races at Talladega and Daytona are so competitive because of the mandated sameness of the cars. But keep in mind that those two tracks are different animals because of their size and speed along with the drafting that takes place.
At the more common venues on which NASCAR competes, the mandated sameness restricts passing, rather than causing it. On tracks where there is no drafting, one car cannot pass another if the two of them are the same.
NASCAR has reached the point in which cars with exactly the same body, no matter what brand they claim to be, are racing against each other. At the same time, gear ratios, tire pressures, shocks, springs, spoiler angles and a number of other parts and pieces are the same in all 43 cars. There is very little room to find a competitive edge.
So with all the regulation, the differences that would cause one car to have an advantage over others is not there.
Consider this, if cars had brand identity and teams were allowed to choose there own settings for gears, shocks, springs, spoiler angles and other aspects, there would be some cars that would be good on shorter runs because of the choices they made. There would be some cars that would be good on longer runs because of the choices they made. All of this would cause a coming and going effect which would cause lead exchanges to take place somewhere other than on pit road at the so called ‘cookie cutters’.
Charlotte, Chicago or Kansas will never have a race with so many different leaders and lead changes as there were in Talladega. But that does not mean there could not be races with passing and intriguing strategy.
And besides, as long as things continue to stay the same, there will never be another Bill Elliott or Alan Kulwicki to come along. Hard work and ingenuity can only go so far when every team has exactly the same stuff.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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