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Escaping the ‘Big One’ at Talladega

The high-banked Talladega Superspeedway is renowned as the ‘Wild Card’ in NASCAR’s championship battle.

For the past twenty-five years Talladega and Daytona have been constrained by the dreaded ‘restrictor plates’ which severely limit air intake into the engines, cutting horsepower from close to 900 at all other races to less than 500. The restrictor plates are supposed to make for safer racing or more correctly to keep any accidents on the track rather than allowing cars to fly over the fence or into the grandstands as Bobby Allison did at Talladega back in 1987.

nascar  Escaping the Big One at Talladega

The drivers hate restrictor plate racing, none more so than the legendary Dale Earnhardt Sr. who used to rail against the futility and potential danger of the exercise. But even the great Earnhardt couldn’t convince NASCAR to take a different approach and restrictor plates have become an accepted fact of life at Daytona and Talladega. NASCAR will tell you it’s about satisfying the worries of the insurance companies but most people believe it’s more about creating a show and drawing the biggest possible crowd.

The fear is always about the ‘Big One’ – a huge, multi-car shunt – and, often as not, something like it happens in most races at Daytona or Talladega. Sure enough, it happened again on the last lap of Sunday’s 500-mile Sprint Cup race at Talladega. Defending NASCAR champion Tony Stewart was leading the field as they barrelled into the third turn at the end of the backstretch with Matt Kenseth to his outside and Michael Waltrip and Casey Mears attacking from behind. Stewart moved down, hoping to get a shove from Waltrip and Mears, but his timing was bad.

Stewart’s inside rear fender clipped Waltrip’s nose and suddenly all hell broke loose. Stewart got sideways, flew into the air and half the field ran into a classic, roiling mess of a multi-car accident. Stewart was lucky to land rightside up and scramble out of the wreckage unhurt, like everyone else, while Kenseth motored home to win from Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch. Stewart freely admitted the twenty-car accident was his fault.

nascar  Escaping the Big One at Talladega

“I just screwed up,” Stewart said. “I turned down across Michael to block him to try and stay where I was at, so I take 100 per cent of the blame. I was trying to win the race and Michael got a great run on the bottom and had a great head of steam. When I turned down I turned across him. It was a mistake on my part that cost a lot of people a bad day because of it.”

Second-placed Gordon said he had never seen such a big shunt. “We were all being very aggressive and I really had no idea how we made it to the white flag,” Gordon remarked. “It was three and four wide. Cars were being driven everywhere. I went into turn three, saw smoke, checked up and got hit by the #18 (Kyle Busch) and that turned me down on the apron. I just put it back to the floor and drove by every car and came out of it in second. I’m so glad we survived it.”

The carnage at Talladega had little effect on the championship battle. Brad Keselowski continues to lead the points from Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin and at this stage with six races to go this trio appear to be the key contestants in NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup. Charlotte is next on Saturday night next weekend and everyone – drivers and teams – motored or flew home from Talladega relieved that there are no more restrictor plate races this year.

nascar  Escaping the Big One at Talladega

Add your comments

7 comments on Escaping the ‘Big One’ at Talladega

  1. Steve W, 8 October 2012 10:12

    As far as “Big Ones” go, I rate this as pretty good – maybe one of the best. NASCAR really knows how to put on an entertaining show. Of course, my comment is all tongue-in-cheek as I think this “style” of racing is supremely stupid…

  2. Brian Rigney, 8 October 2012 10:14

    Romain Grosjean has a way to go before he matches Tony Stewart. Grosjean can only manage taking out 2 or 3 cars at a time compared to Stewart’s 20. At least Romain knows where his “talent” has an outlet when he gets kicked out of F1!

  3. dave cubbedge, 8 October 2012 13:09

    Typical Nascar race. Just for once I would like to see a battle to the chequered flag that does NOT include the wreck of all wrecks.

  4. jose, 8 October 2012 16:54

    and montoya. What hapened there? what hapened there? What a waste of talent.

  5. Ray T, 8 October 2012 17:30

    I really had to laugh at Dale Earnhart Jr.’s comments and threat not to race restrictor plate races. He’s wearing a “faux redneck” sponsor hat and moaning about all the money lost in that wreck. Face it, this is what NASCAR fans live for, so pay up and shut up. If he doesn’t want meaningless wrecks, then he should be racing in another series.

  6. Rick911, 8 October 2012 19:24

    NASCAR must know that they are on the horns of a dilemma.

    They can do the right thing for the drivers–significantly reduce the banking, so that braking is a factor and the lap speeds take care of themselves. But then the paying audience may not get much of a show and stay away–and revenues will dry up.

    Or, NASCAR can continue to laugh all the way to the bank. Until a driver or fan is killed,cand a judge or jury renders an ungodly litigation award. Either way , NASCAR loses in the end.

  7. Gerard Furlong, 11 October 2012 11:36

    The mindset of the fans is that they want a big wreck. And they got what they wanted.

    What an utter waste of resources. How anyone can call this semi-organized mayhem racing is beyond me.

    That they fill the stands speaks volumes about the US

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