CRANDALL: Plate racing done right

Image by Kinrade/LAT

CRANDALL: Plate racing done right

Insights & Analysis

CRANDALL: Plate racing done right


Like every other driver who came through the GEICO 500 post-race media bullpen, Joey Logano was asked what he thought about the racing at Talladega Superspeedway.

“If you guys don’t like that, go watch something else,” he said frankly. “But it’s not going to be as entertaining as this. I thought that was as intense as it can be. Especially for me trying to find lanes and (figure out) what to do; the racing that was going on. So, that was cool.”

Have no fear Joey, what played out Sunday afternoon was liked. Very much. On April 28, 2019, Talladega produced the best restrictor-plate race in many years.

Pick any description you want: Entertaining. Unpredictable. Fast. Furious. Competitive. The 188-lap race checked every box. That’s regardless of NASCAR pushing out its loop data about Sunday having the most lead changes at the track (39) since May of 2014 and that there were 99 green flag passes for the lead. It also is despite the multiple wrecks and the breathtaking tumble Kyle Larson took – incidents that are bound to happen at Talladega and its sister track in Daytona.

What made Talladega a great race was that the field wasn’t clogged, to steal a word Clint Bowyer used a few weeks ago. With the new rules package and a tall spoiler, the 40-car field punched such a big hole in the air they were easily able to move around and put on a show.

“I thought it was very intense,” Logano said. “Very entertaining. The cars were moving around enough to keep it exciting, and the draft was… whew. It was tough. Fun race. It was fun to be mentally engaged for that long and trying to figure out what lanes you need to be in.”

No driver had a clear advantage. Any driver who was shuffled out of line could make the ground back up, and Denny Hamlin, Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr. and other drivers who had to start at the rear of the field had made it to the front before anyone had even started to break a sweat. There was single-file racing when the action settled down, but it got two and three-wide with no problem when it seemed time to mix it up. In other words, there was action, and plenty of it.

“I thought the racing was good,” said Ryan Newman. “The passing, all that stuff was good. It’s just nice when you have a fast race car that you can keep it out front, and with this package, it’s going to be impossible.”

Early on it was clear the GEICO 500 was not going to look like the last few Talladega and Daytona events, where the field either rode around in the high lane with drivers worried about someone getting to their right rear and disturbing the air, or stuck two-by-two-by-two-by-two with drivers frustrated they couldn’t go anywhere or make a move.

“I felt like when you wanted to go, you could go,” said Daniel Hemric. “For what the package was, I thought the race was good. I’ll go back and watch it and analyze it myself, but it was a good time for everybody.”

Drivers also had their hands full, and it was thrilling to watch the best in stock car racing hang onto what became an unstable race car when contact was made. Oh, there was also a very obvious and captivating battle of the manufacturers with Chevrolet teams finally getting their act together to work as a unit, as the Ford and Toyota groups have continued to do. Each group drafted together, pitted together, and focused on making sure they were the ones coming out on top by the end of the day.

“I think it was pretty good all the way around, with each of the manufacturers doing their thing,” said Kurt Busch. “No lane seemed more effective than years past. I’d give the package a thumbs-up.”

A return trip to Daytona Beach is two months away and one can only hope tweaks won’t be made to the package for the sake of making tweaks. There is nothing else to see that didn’t happen Sunday afternoon – it just needs to be seen a lot more.