Tag Archives: Talladega Superspeedway

Shame on the NASCAR Teams for Gaming Qualifying

Qualifying for the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway was always going to be different. NASCAR announced well over a month ago that during the first round of qualifying the cars would be split into two separate groups with 12 cars moving on from each to the second round. Some teams overthought their strategy such that two higher level full time teams did not qualify and will therefore miss the race.

In the first group of the first round of qualifying, the drivers waited most of the round to go out and make their laps. The thought was that the first cars out did not have a chance of posting a fast lap as the cars behind would get the benefit of the draft and post a much faster time. As they say, it looks good on paper.

Denny Hamlin didn’t buy into it and went out by himself. He posted a slow lap but eventually got some benefit of the draft in order to improve but still paid the price for going it alone and was the slowest of that group.

In the second group of the first round of qualifying, Tony Stewart and Reed Sorensen did exactly what Denny Hamlin did in the first group. They went out alone and also paid the price by posting the slowest laps of the cars that were up to speed. The rest of the drivers did exactly the same as the first group, except they waited too long. Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did not make it to the line in time to take the flag on their up to speed lap. The official time for those drivers was that taken during a warm up lap.

So what exactly happened? There are six spots in the field reserved for those cars highest in owners points that have not qualified for the race on their speed (time). The 43rd and final spot is reserved for the most current champion that has not qualified for the race on their speed (time).  With so many great cars not posting a competitive time and so many cars that needed to make the race actually posting a time there was in a sense “No room at the Inn”. Justin Allgaier, 29th in points; and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 27th in points, were out.

Jeff Gordon will start last as he was the slowest of the drivers who are in the race by owner points. Although it would look like he used his past champion provisional, he did not need it since it was his spot if he didn’t use it.

In the end Reed Sorenson was the last to make it into the field on time since Joe Nemecheck was disqualified due to unapproved openings around the oil tank. Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick—the drivers who were the slowest of those who actually took full speed laps—took the first three provisionals. Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Jeff Gordon took the last four provisionals.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier, and Joe Nemecheck will miss the race.

Shame on these teams “gaming” the system in order to get an edge in qualifying. We as fans wanted to see cars running around the track nose to tail trying to get a fast speed to make the race. Instead we saw cars sitting on pit road waiting for the last two minutes then going on the track. It was stupid and looked even more so.

The silly part is if it takes about two minutes to get up to speed and make a fast lap why wait for the last two minutes? If all the drivers had gone right at the beginning and run nose to tail only the truly slow cars would have gone home.

Oh and by the way, Brian Vickers won the Coors Light Pole Award—not that qualifying at a superspeedway is important; unless of course you don’t.

If you cannot get to Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 it will be broadcast live on ESPN on Sunday, October 19th 2014 starting at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 302428 Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images

Pos Car Driver Team Speed
1 55 Brian Vickers Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota 196.129
2 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s Chevrolet 195.732
3 47 AJ Allmendinger Scott Products Chevrolet 195.496
4 12 Ryan Blaney(i) SKF Ford 194.015
5 2 Brad Keselowski Redd’s Wicked Apple Ale Ford 194.007
6 95 Michael McDowell Jordan Truck Sales Ford 193.693
7 33 Travis Kvapil Little Joe’s Autos Chevrolet 193.603
8 5 Kasey Kahne Farmer’s Insurance Chevrolet 193.498
9 32 Terry Labonte C&J Energy Services Ford 193.431
10 7 Michael Annett # Golden Corral Chevrolet 193.162
11 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet 191.302
12 78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Chevrolet 190.981
13 20 Matt Kenseth Home Depot Toyota 193.415
14 23 Alex Bowman # Dustless Blasting Toyota 193.376
15 99 Carl Edwards Subway Ford 193.291
16 21 Trevor Bayne(i) Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 192.401
17 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 192.278
18 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet 192.096
19 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet 191.908
20 27 Paul Menard Moen/Menards Chevrolet 191.773
21 38 David Gilliland Long John Silver’s Ford 190.985
22 26 Cole Whitt # Bad Boy Mowers Toyota 190.97
23 49 Mike Wallace(i) Royal Teak Collection Toyota 184.729
24 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford 191.577
25 34 David Ragan Dockside Logistics Ford 191.42
26 9 Marcos Ambrose Black & Decker Ford 191.214
27 10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy Breast Cancer Awareness Chevrolet 191.149
28 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet 191.134
29 40 Landon Cassill(i) Carsforsale.com Chevrolet 191.13
30 3 Austin Dillon # Dow Chevrolet 191.027
31 1 Jamie McMurray Cessna Chevrolet 190.818
32 83 JJ Yeley(i) Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota 190.689
33 15 Clint Bowyer PinkLemonade5HrEnergybnftLBBC Toyota 190.681
34 66 Michael Waltrip MyAFibStory.com Toyota 190.586
35 98 Josh Wise Dogecoin/Reddit.com Ford 190.507
36 36 Reed Sorenson Zing Zang Chevrolet 189.305
37 14 Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
38 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx One Rate/Deliverminator Toyota
39 4 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
40 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford
41 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s Halloween Toyota
42 42 Kyle Larson # Energizer Chevrolet
43 24 Jeff Gordon Axalta Chevrolet
DNQ 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
DNQ 51 Justin Allgaier #
DNQ 29 Joe Nemechek(i).

 

Gentlemen Have At It

The Elimination component of the new NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup has been let loose. Three Chase contending teams were put into a very tough spot at Kansas Speedway leading to more drama than we have seen in a long time at Charlotte Motor Speedway this past week. Tensions are high and tempers are flaring, so what can we expect this week at Talladega Superspeedway.

All in all the racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway was pretty much like it has been there and many other 1.5 mile speedways. Nothing really spectacular except after the checkered flag was waved the drama started. Since almost all of the drama revolved around Brad Keselowski we will circle around and try to make some sense of it.

Denny Hamlin:

On the final restart of the race Denny Hamlin was in front of Keselowski and Keselowski ran into the back of him. This caused Hamlin to lose six spots while trying to recover. Hamlin finished ninth.

On the cool down lap Hamlin admitted he brake checked Keselowski then Keselowski tried and failed to spin Hamlin out. All of this happened on the track.

After the race when they were out of the car Hamlin tried to fight? or confront Keselowski over the incident.

Matt Kenseth:

On the second to last restart Brad Keselowski was leading the race and Matt Kenseth got to his rear bumper. Kenseth swung out to pass on the outside and Keselowski moved up to block catching the left front corner of Kenseth’s car in the process. He blocked Kenseth all the way up the track to the wall. Kenseth hit the wall pretty much ending his chances for a good finish. He finished the race 19th the last car on the lead lap.

On the next restart Kenseth got his lap back and on his wave around swung wide and hit Keselowski’s car damaging the left front. This hurt the car and Keselowski’s day. He finished 16th and did not make up any ground in the points to remain in the Chase.

Brad Keselowski showed his displeasure with Kenseth by hitting him in the driver’s side door at the entrance to pit road after Kenseth had already removed his HANS and seat belts. In the process of all this Keselowski ran into the back of Tony Stewart.

After the cars were parked Matt Kenseth jumped Keselowski between the haulers and a fight ensued.

Tony Stewart:

Tony Stewart after getting hit by Keselowski on pit road, stopped, put his car in reverse and rammed him. Since Keselowski didn’t really have a beef with Stewart it ended there.

Fines:

NASCAR fined Brad Keselowski $50,000.00 and Tony Stewart $25,000.00 for actions detrimental to stock car racing and a behavioral penalty for being involved in post-race incidents. They are also on probation for the next four events.

NASCAR was in a tough spot. They created the new Chase Format to create drama and they got exactly what they wanted.

NASCAR got the fines and penalties right!. Everything that happened on the track was simply “Boys have at it”. Wrecking cars or driving recklessly at the entrance to and on pit road or the garage area is not acceptable. There simply is too many people who are not protected that are being put into danger.

This week at Talladega don’t expect any payback from the events of last week but will we see some more aggressive driving from Brad Keselowski? Will be see some blocking which almost always leads to the “Big One” that wrecks the field? Will some of the other driver be more aggressive? This is exactly why NASCAR changed the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It is a must watch event.

If you cannot get to Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 it will be broadcast live on ESPN on Sunday, October 19th. 2014 starting at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 291439 NASCAR via Getty Images

I Don’t Think I Like the New Chase For the Sprint Cup Anymore?

The first race of the second elimination round of the new NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup is over. Three of the drivers who have won races and been on the top of the standings the whole season had issues at Kansas Speedway and are now at the bottom of the standings. They are in serious trouble of being out of contention and eliminated during this, The Contender Round, of the Chase.

This has many fans upset, especially fans of Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson. How can this be? How can drivers who have won races including Keselowski who won a Chase race be on the outside hoping to get back in? It is upsetting.

It is not a foregone conclusion that these three drivers will not make it to the next round but another unfortunate circumstance or bad race and they will not. Any one of them could win this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway or next week at Talladega Superspeedway and they would move forward. They could also have good runs and some of the other drivers suffer a similar fate as they did at Kansas.

Does this mean the new Chase format is bad. No! It means the new Chase format is doing exactly what it was supposed to.

The new Chase Format was supposed to create drama and excitement for the fans. It is certainly doing that. In the Chicago area rarely do I hear people talking about NASCAR. Just the other day I overheard two people talking about these same drivers possibly missing the Chase. If this shows up in the TV ratings as this progresses then the new format will have done it’s job.

In years past many fans lamented that the Championship was settled long before the last race of the season. This year it is not and cannot be settled until the last race at Homestead Miami Speedway.

I don’t wish any ill will on Keselowski, Earnhardt Jr. or Johnson but the next two races will be events to watch to see if they can win and get to the next round. It will also be exciting to see if other drivers can win or have issues to drop out. This is far from over, We will start the drama and excitement again with an even smaller set of drivers when the Elimination Round begins.

If you cannot get to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Bank Of America 500 it will be broadcast live on ABC, Saturday, October 11th 2014 at 7 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 302109 Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

 

Brad Keselowski Deserved to Continue Racing at Talladega

Brad Keselowski had a fast car and set out to win the NASCAR Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. Along the way he made some drivers and fans unhappy with his aggressive driving.

On lap 14 Brad Keselowski made the kind of a pass on Danica Patrick that some would argue was such a move reserved for the very end of a Talladega race. He completed the pass for the lead but as the racing continued came down in his lane a little while Patrick came up her lane. Either Keselowski wasn’t clear or Patrick got into him. That isn’t the story.

Keselowski said, “I’m not really sure what happened.  I made an aggressive move to take the lead and the next thing I knew I was spinning, so I’m not really sure.  Obviously, there was some kind of contact but I don’t know what happened.

The No. 2 Miller Lite car came back on the track six laps down after lengthy repairs. Keselowski continued driving aggressively. Eventually getting to the front with a car that looked just as fast as it was when he was leading the race. It looked like Keselowski had a great chance to get one of his laps back the hard way by passing the leader.

I just spun out in front of the whole field.  I don’t know why, if I just busted my butt on my own or lost a tire, but I feel bad for everyone that got torn up.” Keselowski added, “We had a really fast Team Penske Ford, but I just feel bad for the whole Miller Lite team.

Many drivers expressed displeasure that he was racing that hard in front of the field in spite of being many laps down.

Matt Kenseth said, “Well, I will say one thing if it was the other way around and it was anybody else except for him we’d all be getting lectured.”

Jimmie Johnson said, “I wasn’t so thrilled that a car six laps down crashed the field, that aspect of it. But I get it. You’re trying to get your laps back. But I didn’t have any big run-in with him except for unfortunately being caught up in that wreck.

Many of the fans on Twitter were also showing their displeasure with Keselowski.

The whole thought that Brad Keselowski shouldn’t be racing hard when he is six laps down is that a driver, including Keselowski, doesn’t want their day ruined by a car that has no chance to win. It is hard not to agree with this if that car is obviously slower than the other cars and is just plain simply in the way. Brad Keselowski’s car was not. He was competing and going to the front.

How can a team know how well the preparations of their car are if it isn’t racing? How can a driver keep his mental and physical edge if he isn’t racing? They can’t afford to ride around after lap 14. That is exactly why they fixed the car and exactly why Keselowski went back out on the track and raced.

Keselowski said, “Yeah, we had a lot of close calls and I guess most of them were my fault, but I’m just being real aggressive.  That’s what it’s gonna take to win here and whoever wins here will be really aggressive, too.

What if instead of a tire going down something broke on the car and because they found out about it they could correct the problem for future races? What if Brad Keselowski learned just enough about how the cars are handling at Talladega in order to race better next time?

The next Talladega Superspeedway race just happens to be the last race of the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Penske Racing Miller Lite team may have learned enough to win that race and move on to the third round. Their work this weekend to go back out racing just might have been a Championship winning move. That is why Brad Keselowski deserved to continue racing at Talladega.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit:  297853 NASCAR Via Getty Images

It’s Talladega; it must be Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Last week NASCAR was at Richmond International Raceway where we had tire wear and tempers flare. This week we may have much of the same but it will be different. This Week NASCAR and Dale Earnhardt Jr. return to Talladega Superspeedway.

Talladega is really a special racetrack to the sport with the history of it and how it was conceived. The track eventually turned into one of the most impressive and unique, concerning speed, and how the style of racing that you have is so unique, it’s just amazing what it has been able to deliver year after year.” Dale Earnhardt Jr. added “I enjoy going to Talladega, and I remember it was one of my favorites as a kid. When I was young, out of all the tracks that I had the chance to go to, this was definitely one of my favorites to come to. Milling around in the garage during the race and just how big the place was and the cars looked different because of the superspeedway bodies — it was just a really fun experience for me.

The Talladega Superspeedway is the biggest oval track that NASCAR goes to. It is a high banked superspeedway where the speeds are so high the cars need restrictor plates on the engines in order to keep them from going air borne. Sometime that doesn’t help and the cars go flying, that is what makes this race exciting.  There is 33 degrees of banking in the corners but more importantly 16.5 degrees of banking on the front stretch. The start finish line is at the end of the front stretch leading to some of the most dramatic finishes in NASCAR. The race is 188 laps or 500 miles.

This year at Daytona International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was slicing and dicing his way from the front to the back to the front like it was 2004. He seemed to know which lane was the fastest and in an instant would change to that lane. He was so good at doing this that at times one would wonder is he in the fastest lane or is his lane the fastest because he is in it.

Each and every week we look at the driver ratings to see which driver is good. This week we are at Talladega and that is kind of true but where at one track a rating of 120 represents domination, Matt Kenseth rating of 91.6 only says he races up front a lot. Note Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has a higher rating at 94.7 but that is because it represents only two races not 12 like Kenseth’s.  Dale Earnhardt Jr’s rating is 91.5, right behind Kenseth.

Since driver ratings don’t matter much here we look to who has sealed the deal and won. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the master. From 2001 to 2004 he had five wins and two second place finishes. To say he owned the place is an understatement. This year he is driving like 2004 when he last won. That is why Dale Earnhardt Jr. will win the Aarons 499.

If you cannot get to Talladega Superspeedway for the Aarons 499 it will be broadcast on FOX Sunday, May 4th starting at 12 PM ET.

In addition this is the first superspeedway that NASCAR has visited since the new knock out qualifying format was added. Will the teams pair up and draft in order to get their drivers to the front? Will the smaller teams work together and draft in order to make the race. This qualifying is set to be the most exciting yet. It is expected to be so exciting that qualifying was moved to FOX, Saturday May 3rd at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 291384 John Harrelson/Getty Images

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Talladega
Ricky Stenhouse Jr………………… 94.7
Matt Kenseth………………………… 91.6
Dale Earnhardt Jr…………………… 91.5
Kurt Busch……………………………. 87.4
Brian Vickers………………………… 87.3
Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 85.1
Brad Keselowski……………………. 84.4
David Ragan…………………………. 84.2
Aric Almirola…………………………. 87.3
Jamie McMurray…………………….. 83.3
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (18 total) among active drivers at Talladega Superspeedway.