October 24, 2011
NASCAR stars disappoint Talladega fans
By DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- After Sunday's Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship shows that Carl Edwards boosted his position on the leader board by 14 points.
It also shows that Kevin Harvick, who was second going into the race on Sunday afternoon, dropped three spots to fifth after he was involved in one of several wrecks that littered the 188-lap event.
What it doesn’t show, however, is that Edwards was pretty much invisible for most of the 500 miles on the big track in central Alabama.
The No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford team chose to deliberately stay at the back of the racing pack for much of the proceedings until a late run when an assist from RFR teammate Greg Biffle in the No. 16 Ford pushed them to an 11th-place finish.
And Edwards was clearly joyous at the outcome, to the point where he said: “I don’t know that I have ever been so excited about 11th place.”
Well it says here that he shouldn’t be so excited.
In fact he and several other drivers — hello Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. — should have been standing at the exit of Talladega Superspeedway handing out refunds for the 100,000 or so fans who paid to see Chase contenders race and for the most part saw nothing of the sort.
Except for the opening few laps when Johnson, Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch battled for the lead most of the Chase drivers chose the comfort and safety at the back of the grid in the hopes that simple survival at Talladega was preferable to racing.
If that is the mindset then NASCAR bosses must radically change the rules to ensure that what happens at Talladega is actually racing and not hiding.
Richard Childress, owner of the winning No. 33 Chevrolet of Clint Bowyer and the second place No. 31 Chevrolet of Jeff Burton, pulled no punches afterwards when he criticized Edwards for laying back in the race.
He also heaped praise on his driver, Harvick, for at least making an effort to give the fans what they paid for — a race.
“These fans pay a lot of money,” he said. “I hate it for Kevin, but he was doing what he was supposed to be doing.
“All of our RCR cars race to give these fans a show. We didn’t sit in the back and ride till the last minute.
“Our cars ran all day long. We don’t get paid to ride in the back. I’m proud of every one of ‘em. I’m proud of Clint getting the win.”
What happened to Harvick was that while racing to the front he was caught up in a multi-car wreck on Lap 104.
This was a Harvick team that came to Talladega trailing Edwards by a mere five points.
But after finishing 32nd, Harvick and the No. 29 RCR crew left the 2.66 mile oval 26 points behind and in fifth place.
While it wasn’t a devastating hit — Harvick is still in the thick of the Chase fight — he said if he had to do it all over again he would rather be at the front battling for a win than at the back just trying to avoid a crash.
“Obviously that wasn’t the day we wanted,” Harvick said. “But the way the rest of those guys raced, it didn’t devastate us.
“We wanted to be in the front. We thought that was the safer place to be in case the thing went green. I thought I was around a pretty good group of cars there. I don’t know what happened. It is just one of those deals.”
At the end of the day even Earnhardt admitted the Hendrick Motorsports strategy of hanging back wasn’t the best one for him or the fans.
“That’s not a strategy that is really putting yourself in position to win,” he said.
Earnhardt said good on Bowyer for staying up front all day and getting the win.
“The No. 33 did it all day long,” he said. “They ran up front and raced hard all day long. You have got to tip your hat to them for doing that. That is one of my favourite strategies.”
Let’s hope the lesson here is that racing is exciting, hanging back boring.