NASCAR got it right at Talladega this time
Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Talladega, AL (Sports Network) -
Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway was as good as it gets for NASCAR.
A record 88 lead changes among 29 drivers, three green-white-checkered attempts that led to an extra 32 miles, a winning pass yards away from the finish line and a slim 0.011 second margin of victory...who could have asked for anything more?
Yes NASCAR, you deserve a pat on the back for tweaking the rules and making the necessary adjustments to the current Sprint Cup car to make this race one of the best shows, if not the best, in your 62-year history.
The return of the rear spoiler, a larger restrictor plate and NASCAR easing up on its bump-drafting rules made this the most competitive race ever at Talladega.
"From the competitive standpoint, I don't know what else you can ask for," fourth-place finisher Denny Hamlin said. "Anybody can win this race. There's no doubt about it. Any car can win this race, and it's just who's going to put themselves in the position with 10 [laps] to go."
No wonder everyone in the 120,000+ crowd stood for virtually the whole 200-lap affair. The fans finally got what they deserved.
The event also offered NASCAR and Talladega officials a sigh of relief, after a pair of highly controversial races at the 2.66-mile track last year.
One year ago at Talladega, Carl Edwards went sailing into the frontstretch fence after he made contact with Brad Keselowski while the two were battling for the win on the final lap. Edwards walked away from the crash unscathed, but several spectators suffered non-life-threatening injuries when they were struck by debris from his car.
Carl Edwards was invovled in a serious wreck last year at Talladega.
When the series returned to Talladega in October, NASCAR imposed a bump- drafting ban through the turns, which didn't sit well with drivers. Ryan Newman's violent crash on the backstretch late in the race and Mark Martin's horrifying wreck on the final lap also added to NASCAR's misery.
Despite three major wrecks in this race, no one went airborne, thanks in part to the spoiler and the addition of the rear window blade.
"That was one heck of a race," Jeff Gordon surprisingly said after he was caught up in a five-car wreck that set up the first two-lap overtime attempt. "I thought all day the racing was amazing. There were times it got a little wild. We all knew it was going to go wild at the end, but I don't think you could have asked for a better race. I applaud that rear spoiler."
It got really wild in the overtime, with the maximum of three green-white- checkered finishes needed. The third one was the charm for Kevin Harvick, who pushed leader Jamie McMurray during the final two laps before perfectly timing his move around McMurray for the win -- his first since the 2007 Daytona 500.
"I think there was a lot of pushing and shoving, two and three-wide," Harvick said. "The spoiler made it so you could pull back up on somebody if you made a mistake. You just didn't want to be the very last car. It was very interesting day, and it played out perfect for us."
McMurray's bid for a third consecutive restrictor plate victory came up short in the slimmest of margins. In February, McMurray won the Daytona 500 after he made a slingshot move past Harvick for the lead with less than two laps remaining. McMurray also won at Talladega last fall.
"When we get ready to come to plate races, and you start thinking about everything that's going to happen and what might happen at the last lap; your heart rate just escalates, it peaks and it's just crazy," McMurray said.
If tachycardia is becoming the next issue at Talladega, NASCAR might want to have some defibrillators on hand when the series returns here in October.
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