By: Pete Pistone – @PPistone | MRN.com on October 23, 2016 | 7:24 P.M. EST
Next year, Talladega moves to the middle race of the second round in the Chase.
For me, that’s a shame.
Ending the middle portion of the playoffs at the unpredictable restrictor-plate track has provided some memorable moments in the first two seasons of the elimination format Chase. Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 might not have been as wild as its two predecessors, but it had plenty of drama and an overtime finish.
Joey Logano prevailed, winning the fall Talladega race for a second straight year and will now move on to the Round of 8. Other championship contenders were not so fortunate.
Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski, who combined to win eight races this year heading into Talladega, both were knocked out of the race and title contention by engine issues. Austin Dillon lost a chance to move on by .006-seconds when Denny Hamlin finished third place and earned the right to advance. Chase Elliott needed a win to stay alive and didn’t get it, but put up am impressive effort.
More than likely that kind of intensity and those stories will disappear in 2017, when Kansas and Talladega swap spots on the calendar. Oh there will still be the same plate racing excitement that Talladega and Daytona always produce, but gone will be the extra layer of storylines about who survives and who doesn’t in the championship picture.
I for one will miss it.
- There most likely won’t be a penalty for Martin Truex Jr. and the Furniture Row Racing team, which would have added insult to injury after the early exit with an engine failure on Sunday. NASCAR confiscated a jack bolt prior to qualifying on Saturday just before Truex Jr. won the pole. The team insists the bolt was a mistake and there was no competitive advantage in using it and although there could still be some sort of penalty assessed, it doesn’t appear likely. “I would say [a points penalty] is unlikely,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR’s vice president of competition. “It has to go through our process. … It could be [a safety issue], but it wasn’t to the point to where we would think it was a safety infraction.”
- There was a lot of negative fan reaction to the Joe Gibbs Racing team hanging at the back of the field and not competing for the win but rather protect the spots Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth had on the Chase grid. I understand the disappointment from fans, who follow their favorite teams and drivers to watch them race. However, I also get the strategy of big picture racing from JGR and doing all it can to win the championship. The creation of a playoff system has created scenarios in NASCAR similar to what is seen in other sports when teams look at the big picture. Think of NBA teams that rest star players at the end of the regular season to not risk injury for the playoffs. Or NFL teams that close out the clock with run plays rather than risking interceptions late in games. It’s no different than a racing organization employing a strategy with an eye on the title, even though it might be a bitter pill for some fans to swallow.
- Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race eliminated two drivers in its inaugural Chase and they were the pair that came into the weekend at the bottom; Daniel Hemric and John Hunter Nemechek. While Nemechek exited with an engine failure of his own, Hemric was involved in three different incidents to finally get knocked out of the title picture. Six drivers survived to the next round after Saturday’s race, which was won by a non-Chaser; home state hero Grant Enfinger, who is hoping the victory will lead to a ride in 2017.
- Speaking of next season, the Sprint Cup Series “Silly Season” machine was humming over the weekend. Casey Mears opted not to comment on his future with Germain Racing but there is more speculation he’ll be replaced by Ty Dillon, who would move over from the Richard Childress Racing XFINITY Series program to the team with a continued alliance between the two. Another RCR affiliated team at JTG Daugherty Racing may be the home for Greg Biffle in a second ride to pair with AJ Allmendinger. The news that Cheez-It was ending its sponsorship at Roush Fenway Racing added fuel to the possibility of Biffle leaving the organization.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.