Sports / The Northern Virginia Daily/nvdaily.com
Murto: Talladega supplies NASCAR with thrills
The racing at Talladega provides the thrills and spills that NASCAR believes it needs.
Nobody will ever admit that they want to see cars wreck in a race, but I'm convinced that when a 20-car accident ends the Cup race at Talladega -- as long as nobody was injured -- the higher-ups at NASCAR jump with joy.
Photos of the accident that ended Sunday's Sprint Cup race were plastered all over Monday newspaper sports sections and Internet websites. That's what NASCAR wants, that's what they believe will draw the fans.
Carburetor restrictor plates and aerodynamics create the pack racing that inevitably leads to the "big one" in the races at Daytona and Talladega. It is exciting watching the high-speed chess match unfold in the draft, but it can also be expensive. One estimate was that a minimum of $8 million in damage resulted from the final lap at Talladega.
Matt Kenseth asked a good question in victory lane Sunday: Since most of these restrictor-plate races are simply waiting games until the end, why not shorten them? Kenseth led 33 of the 188 laps, and avoided the carnage that resulted when Tony Stewart tried to block Michael Waltrip in turns three and four on the last lap.
Stewart admitted his mistake, but that was little consolation to the drivers whose cars never made it to the finish. That is, as they say, racing -- especially at Talladega.
Matt Kenseth was not the only Kenseth to visit victory lane last weekend. Matt's son, Ross, won the prestigious All-American 400 Super Late Model race at Nashville's Fairground Speedway on Saturday night. Drivers from as far away as Washington state and Canada were entered.
The race was billed as 400 green-flag laps, but unfortunately it was ended due to rain at lap 220. The dampness that turned the win over to Kenseth wasn't the first rain to hit the track.
By the time the race scored lap 195, the cars had already been on the track for about 250 laps, given the laps run under caution. But it began raining at lap 195, interrupting a good back-and-forth battle between Kenseth and Cup regular Kyle Busch.
Busch ran first and Kenseth second when the yellow flew. Race officials kept the cars on the track to keep heat in the surface, and the rain eventually stopped. After 80 uncounted laps of circulating under caution, race officials gave the cars five laps of green-yellow, during which they ran at race speed but were not allowed to pass. That put heat in the track, ensured it was dry, and pushed the lap count past halfway to make the race official; radar showed more rain on the way.
The race went full green on lap 204, and the next lap Kyle Busch cut a tire and crashed coming out of turn four as he tried to fend off Kenseth. It was obvious by the roar of the crowd when they jumped to their feet that Busch was not their favorite driver.
On the final restart Kenseth raced away from the field, and when the rains came at lap 220 it fell too hard to keep the cars on the track. Track vehicles circulated for about 30 to 45 minutes, but the window of opportunity to get the race in closed and Kenseth was named the winner. Bubba Pollard ran second, and D.J. Shaw third.
The race may have been rain-shortened, but it was a success. Unfortunately there is a "news release" circulating on the Internet that claims the track was "still very wet" and it was still raining when the cars were allowed to restart, and that Busch hit a slick spot when he wrecked. That's absolutely false.
The sanctioning Pro All Stars Series and Fairground Speedway officials deserve nothing but praise for their successful efforts to get the race in. By using the race cars to keep heat in the track, the race was able to restart once the rain stopped. It was a shame the rain came back, but nobody controls the weather.
Judging from the reaction of the majority of fans, it may not have been Talladega, but they enjoyed the thrills and spills on the Nashville Fairground Speedway.
-- Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.