Monday, October 21, 2013

Cool and Calm or Chaotic Carnage?

Miguel Paludo (32) slides down the track on his roof as Darrell Wallace Jr. (54), Jeb Burton (4), Justin Lofton (6), and Kyle Busch (51) crash on the last lap of the Camping World Truck Series Fred's 250.

Talladega held two races this weekend and they were the exact opposite of one another. The Camping World Truck series race was the site of carnage and chaos. The Sprint Cup race was for the most part dominated by calm and commonsense. Which one do you suppose NASCAR fans liked the best?

Fans always say they don't watch for the accidents but of course, that's what many of them do, which is why you hear so much bitching after a relatively tame race like the one on Sunday. And the tracks know it. That's why their pre-race advertising always prominently features cars upside down, cars tumbling in the air, cars sliding through the grass.

Meanwhile, the goal for drivers is to come home with the trophy, naturally, but second best is coming home with your whole car. Its for damn sure you're not going to win, or even get a respectable finish, if your racecar is hauled off the track on a hook. This time of year, that is especially true for Chase drivers who just want to escape Talladega without a huge points loss.

I'm sure it's true for owners too. The truck race probably cost them, collectively, about a gazillion dollars when a last lap wreck took out practically the entire field. By contrast, most Sprint Cup owners left Alabama with their bank accounts intact.

So that yin and yang will always exist at plate races. Instead of applauding drivers for the consummate skill it takes to drive 200 mph with cars on all sides of you without bobbling, we evidently think that if they really loved their fans, they would take a dive and cause a big exciting wreck for our enjoyment.

The bottom line is that it was a good race with a feel-good ending - an emotional Jamie Murray with his family in Victory Lane, breaking a 106-race losing streak. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. It might have been even better if there had been a suspenseful attempt at a last lap pass, with the charge being led by Dale Earnhardt Jr, but rookie inexperience got in the way of that scenario.

For the most part, nothing much changed at the top of the Sprint Cup standings. They came into Talladega with Matt leading Jimmie by 4 points. They left with Jimmie leading Matt by 4 points. I still consider that a virtual dead heat with four races left. The next few in line gained a little but probably not enough to make a difference in the outcome unless both Jimmie and Matt have a purely disastrous race before the season ends. So far, this continues to be the Matt & Jimmie Show. Matt the Mild and Vanilla Jimmie as they are so often characterized although there is nothing mild or vanilla about the calculated, intense, determined way they both race. Passion does not have to be flamboyant.

Restrictor plate racing is my least favorite type of racing. I breathed a sigh of relief when this one was over. Now we head for Martinsville - short tracking - yeah!