Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Martinsville vs. Talladega: NASCAR style

In the past two weekends, NASCAR has raced on one of the shortest racetracks that they go to Martinsville Speedway, a tight paperclip half-mile speedway where you will find some of the best short track racing on the NASCAR schedule. And the next weekend (this past Sunday) at the largest racetrack on the schedule, Talladega Superspeedway, a 2.66 mile high speed oval simply known as restrictor plate racing.

Martinsville Speedway
Last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, the site of the Tums Fast Relief 500 that saw some of the better side of racing in NASCAR. 500 laps around a tight paperclip half-mile speedway, short-track racing at its finest are what racing is all about whether it’s NASCAR or just a short track bullring all around the United States, Canada and beyond.

Last weekend’s Tums 500 saw Juan Montoya roughing up several drivers including Jeff Gordon to make his way to front of the field. I like what Jeff Gordon said early on during the race after Montoya went by him, “He’s got the best car out here, but doesn’t know what to do with it” and I agree with fully. I will go on record as saying I will be completely surprised when he wins again in NASCAR so long as it’s not on a road course. This was one of those races that had action throughout the field at any given time.

One theme had to be pass or a lack there off, however it’s not supposed to be easy. I never expect a driver to just pull over and give up the position, especially on a short-track like Martinsville. This is racing, you have to earn each and every position period.

At the end of the 500 laps, it was the classic rivalry of Jimmie Johnson vs. Denny Hamlin with this one going simply to Denny Hamlin. However just like Denny Hamlin said in victory lane, the story was Jimmie Johnson finishes 2nd and extends his points lead, while tucked in the right hand lower corner was Denny Hamlin wins Martinsville.

Talladega Superspeedway
Well now this brings me to Sunday’s AMP Energy 500 at you guessed it, Talladega Superspeedway. I would describe restrictor plate racing as a heart-stopping, yet hard to watch at times type (or form) of racing in NASCAR.

Now I watched Sunday’s Cup Series race at Talladega I agree with several drivers, the racing just wasn’t there. I believe the race was boring. During the race, two drivers talking on the radio to their crew chief/crews summed up at least the first 80 somewhat laps of this race. Kevin Harvick asked for his iPod, of course the response was we can put it in your drink cup on the next stop (I hope I got that right, don’t quote me), but even better, Tony Stewart said “Somebody tell me something to keep me awake”, unfortunately I didn’t catch the response from his crew.

The first 80 somewhat laps was racing single-file, it was a parade, we don’t have parades in NASCAR during a race on track, come on.

However when the racing finally got going, the fans commented later that they hated some of the strategy of running in the bad until the closing laps and then making their way to the front to try and win the race. Case in point was Jimmie Johnson, he hung out in the back until 15 almost 10 to go before moving up. I even thought that he was too late.

But you know that it had to happen sooner or later and two “the Big Ones” happened. 5 laps to go had Newman getting turned with his teammate Tony Stewart going into the outside, Ryan Newman ended up getting turned, going airborn, coming down on Kevin Harvick’s hood and windshield which I think softened the blow if that is possible, before flipping several times, and coming to a stop on his roof. Race at this point was red flagged. What a wreck, I was glad to see him walk away.

Then coming to the white flag, another wreck happened with I believe Brian Vickers hit Brad Keselowski who hit Kurt Busch (bump drafting) which touched off a chain reaction that also saw Mark Martin get hit in the right rear quarter and flip wildly, several involved and the race was over. I couldn’t believe it, Jamie McMurray wins at Talladega, but the bigger story once again, Jimmie Johnson finishes (6th as of Sunday night) and extends his points lead.

Two races that were completely different, but really shouldn’t be considering the goal of all NASCAR races is to put on a show for the fans period, well Martinsville in my opinion did, however Talladega didn’t. What’s next for NASCAR, what can they do about the restrictor plate racing?