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Talladega Fall 2011 Observations

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If you know me or are a regular reader of this blog, you already know that I’m not a fan of NASCAR restrictor plate racing at Daytona and Talladega.  Nothing I saw from Talladega today changed my mind. With that in mind, here are some observations from yesterday’s high speed push fest.

  1. I can’t bring myself to call most of what I saw racing.  The last lap however was racing.  The tandem of Burton and Bowyer were able to pull out to a considerable lead after other tandems had troubles getting hooked up and at least one tandem broke up because of team ordered broken promises (Gordon/Bayne).  The racing took place when Bowyer pulled out from behind Burton and the two raced for the win.  No one depended on being pushed by another car, it came down to who had the best car and who could drive their car the best.
  2. I’ve always hated team orders and I always will hate team orders.  To me, team orders are the epitome of business trumping sport.  I’m not surprised at Roush’s orders and it wouldn’t have surprised me if a Chevrolet team owner would have ordered Chevrolet drivers not to push Fords.  The Gordon/Bayne incident at the end of the race provoked two thoughts:  1)When team order scandals hit other forms of motor sports, supporters of NASCAR frequently like to crow that there are no team orders in NASCAR.  Sorry, but there always have been and always will be.  Jack Roush proved it this week.  The next time F1, IndyCar, or sports cars have a team orders scandal, those surrounding NASCAR would be wise to remember this Talladega race.  If they don’t, I’m sure I won’t be the only one to remind them.  2)The fact that the owner of one Ford team, Jack Roush, was able to issue orders to all Ford teams exposes the issue of the sport falling into the control of a handful of team owners.  By controlling the engine supply of Ford teams, Jack Roush essentially controls all of the Ford teams, not just his own.  For the Chevrolet teams, there is a similar situation with the Hendrick and RCR engine shops.  The Toyota situation is somewhat but not altogether different with the majority of engines coming from corporate TRD. A minority of owners controlling the majority of the teams is not good and it appears to be a trend that won’t reverse anytime soon.
  3. I’ve complained a lot about NASCAR not having a traveling safety team and the response time of local track crews to crashes.  This week I have to give credit where credit is due though.  When Regan Smith crashed heavily into the outside wall late in the race, emergency crews were practically to his car as soon is it rolled to a stop and quickly got to him.  Given the tragedy of the last week, it was a particularly scary crash.  It reminded the ESPN crew of Jimmy Johnson’s crash from last week but it reminded me of the crash at Daytona that took Dale Earnhardt’s life.
  4. Nicole Briscoe and the ESPN crew did a beautiful tribute to Dan Wheldon in the pre race show.  It had to have been terribly difficult for her, given that she is married to an IndyCar driver who was in last week’s race, but she did a terrific job.  Her emotions made the tribute heartfelt and her honest comments at the end about how families of the racers handle tragedy as opposed to the racers themselves added another dimension to the analysis of drivers Jarret and Wallace and crew chief Petree.

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