This is what was wrong with Talladega 
I had been looking forward to Sunday's race at Talladega for weeks. I love plate racing. I love the strategy and I love the skill and, maybe this makes me a bad fan, but I love the crashes and the excitement of having my driver either make it through or not make it through.

So what did NASCAR do on Sunday that was so bad? Well, according to most of the commentary coming out over the past day or so, nothing. The official line seems to be that the racing was great, logging single-file laps through the middle of the race is normal, and all was well.

Well I'll tell you what I missed, and Michael Waltrip alluded to it on TWIN last night. I missed seeing two skilled drivers hook up and drive to the front. I missed having two other skilled drivers hook up and try to beat them.

As I understand it, taking away bump drafting in the corners was supposed to prevent crashes and keep the cars on the ground. By all accounts, this strategy failed. I'm sure Ryan Newman and Mark Martin will attest to that. So what did it accomplish? They still had crashes. They still had the Big One.

I get that you don't want some yahoo coming up behind you and slamming you in the corner like Hot Carl did to Greg Biffle last year. But when you have a drafting partner you can work with, and you can lock together and sail past a pack of cars, what's the problem with that? I just don't see it.

I think NASCAR has done a lot of really great things over the past few years to make these races safer. I commend them for the fact that while Ryan Newman flew through the air and landed on Kevin Harvick, I wasn't terribly worried. Maybe I've been lulled into a false sense of security, but I have enough faith in the safety of these cars, to now automatically assume that the drivers are going to walk away from these sorts of things. Michael McDowell's spectacular crash in qualifying last year, and Hot Carl's wild ride during the last Talladega race have shown me that no matter how wild the crash, the drivers are walking away from these cars.

I am assuming that the new Nationwide cars are going to be just as safe, and that makes me feel better about those as well. So with the cars as safe as they are, what's wrong with a few wrecks here and there?

As a fan, I never want to see a driver hurt, but wrecks are part of the racing. I'm not watching to see the wrecks. I'm watching to see my favourite drivers NOT wrecking. Michael Waltrip avoiding the Big One was one of the highlights of the race. Jimmy Johnson escaping the carnage was one of the biggest stories. Brad Keselowski pulling a bonehead move to cause the wreck was another big story. You can bet people will be reluctant to help him in future plate races, and that's going to affect the racing. That's exciting stuff.

Watching Denny Hamlin over the past few plate races has been exciting. Seeing him hook up with someone and push them around the track is great racing. That's skill.

When you can only do it along the straightaway and then have to let go before the corner, you've lost that element of the racing. You just can't get far enough ahead like that, and therefore are taking something away from the drivers they could have used to RACE better.

That's my thoughts on the whole thing. NASCAR didn't prevent wrecks. They simply took away one of the most exciting elements of the racing.

I understand that they're trying to keep everyone safe, but plate racing is what it is. They've made people safer with all the new safety features, and I assume they will continue to do so. Just don't take away from the racing. If you do, then you might as well just stop plate racing altogether.

I mean... if you lower the banking or add a chicane to the straightways... then you won't need restrictor plates anymore, bump drafting won't be worth it, and you'll have ruined the whole spectacle that is plate racing. Why bother?


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Too bad about Kyle 
While he made a great last stand, I guess it just wasn't to be for Kyle Busch this year, as he just barely missed the Chase by a handful of points. After their recent feud though, I'll bet Brian Vickers is tickled pink that he got to be the one to edge Kyle out!

So now that the race for the chase is over, the Chase is on! Of the 12 drivers, there's 3 that I would love to see win the championship, and I'm not even sure I care too much which one of them it is. That gives me 25% of the field to root for, so odds are pretty good I'm going to enjoy this.

My favourites are Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, and Jimmie Johnson, each for different reasons. Tony because I think he's awesome, and winning the championship in his first year of team ownership would just be a phenomenal accomplishment. Mark because the guy has certainly paid his dues, deserves to be a champion, and probably doesn't have much time left to accomplish it. He's certainly proven that he's still the cream of the crop and winning the title would certainly be the feel-good story of the year. Finally Jimmie... because when are we ever going to get another opportunity to have someone win 4 championships in a row? This is only the second time anyone has ever won 3 in a row, so it may well be now or never and I'd love to see Jimmie pull it off. He and Chad are clearly one of the best combos ever in the sport, so it would be nice to see them do something nobody has ever done.

Now.. on a completely unrelated note... I've been doing a fair bit of biking lately and yesterday I learned something. A 710 mL bottle of Gatorade lasts about 50km. Yesterday I rode over 62. Ouch.


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Shootout Style! 
There shouldn't be any argument at all here. 3 races in, the new double-file restart system in NASCAR is hands-down the best change they've made in years! It started off a bit slow, but last week at Sonoma and the race at Loudon going on right now are hugely entertaining in large part due to the double-file restarts. I mean, Sonoma is entertaining no matter what, but was even better because of the drama of the restarts at the end.

Now something that isn't working so well is the TNT commentators. When it takes them 5 minutes to get around to why we came back from commercial into a caution, that's just not right. Kyle Petty is annoying and they just seem to be blathering on half the time. I like Larry Mac but that's about it.

I can't wait to get to the Chase so we can get someone else in the booth. Fox did a great job at the start of the season (but for all the Digger crap). Can't wait for ABC's turn.

Maybe next year if Mikey isn't driving, TNT can pick him up. He's been good fun in the booth for the truck series and hilarious on TWIN. I'm sure he's got a lengthy career ahead of him commentating, just like his big brother.



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Best Race My Ass 
NASCAR.com has a story with this headline: Thank fuel mileage for the best race of the season. I'm calling shenanigans on that. Sure, the last 5 laps were great, but the race as a whole was just a boring as any I remember at Michigan. Until the end when people started running out of gas, there just wasn't anything to watch.

The few double-file restarts certainly added a little excitement when they came up, and I'm fully behind that new addition to the sport, but beyond that it was pretty much exactly what those who don't get NASCAR picture. A bunch of cars going around in circles with nothing much going on.

Sorry to burst the bubble. I'm a little sad that Michigan is the closest race to me and will likely be the first one I get to see in person. It just doesn't make for much excitement.

On the flip side, I guess if you're there in person, at least you can go get food and wander around the various trackside attractions without having to worry about missing anything on the track. You sure couldn't do that at a place like Martinsville!


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And one more thing... 
I'd nearly forgotten, until I read this article, which sums it up perfectly.

I know Helio Castroneves has been through a lot in the last while. But if he starts crying on television one more time, I'm going to throw up.


Seriously. Suck it up, Helio. Quit being a whiney bitch. It's really getting annoying.

And while you're at it, you might want to have a word with your sister about PDA's. It's kinda creepy.

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