Wednesday, October 28, 2015

COMMENTARY: No Shortage Of Emotion After Volatile Talladega Finish

It was hard to know who to be angry with following a bizarre conclusion to Sunday’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Fans directed their anger – and a few dozen cans of beer -- at winner Joey Logano, after Logano denied Talladega favorite Dale Earnhardt, Jr. an opportunity to advance to the Eliminator Round of the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by claiming the checkered flag.

A number of drivers expressed unhappiness with colleague Kevin Harvick, who triggered a race-ending, multi-car crash with a questionable lane change that sent Trevor Bayne spinning.

Others were angry with NASCAR, after the sanctioning body made a late-race decision to wave off an abortive green-white-checkered flag restart and realign the cars for another try.

The wreck-plagued finale came with Logano running mere inches in front of Earnhardt when the caution flag flew for the final time, allowing the Team Penske driver to win his third consecutive Chase victory. It also enabled Harvick to advance in the Chase, despite a balky race car that would almost certainly have doomed him to elimination, had the race run to its planned conclusion. The Budweiser/Jimmy Kohn’s Chevrolet driver ensured that would not happen however, pin-balling off the side of Bayne’s Ford and triggering a multi-car melee that ended the race, with Harvick still in position to advance.

Logano won again at Talladega
Bayne was uncharacteristically outspoken after the crash, saying, “That's a crappy way for Harvick to have to get in the Chase; to wreck somebody -- what I believe to be on purpose (but) maybe it wasn't. The restart before that, he had engine problems and got out of the way. I think he realized if the caution came out, he was going to be fine. So I go by and get hooked in the left-rear. Harvick is a really good driver. I think he knows the limits of his car and where it's at, so that's why I think it was intentional."

Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth – both of whom failed to make the cut to the Eliminator Round – also emptied both barrels on Harvick afterward, accusing him of intention wrecking Bayne, and others.

“I knew (Harvick) could only run 30-40 miles an hour,” said Hamlin after scrambling free of his flaming Fed Ex Toyota. He knew he wasn’t going to (advance) unless a wreck happened. I don’t know if he called for it, but everyone’s trying to do everything they can.”

Hamlin emerged angry after a fiery finish
“The 4 knew he was blew up, so he said he was going to stay in his lane,” said an angry Kenseth afterward. “So (Bayne) then went up and outside, and (Harvick) clipped him and caused a wreck because he knew he’d make the Chase that way.

“I got wrecked two weeks in a row by people doing what they had to do to make the Chase. Call it what you want.” 

Harvick, expectedly, saw it differently.

“It wasn’t running really well on the restarts,” he explained. “Then at the end, I was trying to get out of the way. I don’t know if I clipped (Bayne) or if he came across as I was coming up. It was one of those days where everything went well until the very end, until the bottom fell out on those last couple of restarts when it cooled off. It has a broken exhaust pipe or something.”

NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton said that after reviewing the incident, he saw no reason to penalize Harvick. That’s not surprising, in the absence of any NASCAR rule outlawing crashes; whether intentional or not.

“Procedurally, we don’t see anything that is of suspect so far,” Helton said. “The only thing I mean about ‘so far’ is I’ve been around long enough to know that something could crawl out of the woodwork in the next 24 hours. We believe we did everything procedurally correct and the 4 car did nothing wrong.”

Harvick: Did he, or didn't he?
Ironically, Earnhardt’s championship bid was thwarted – in large part – by a revised restart rule that he had championed; an irony not lost on NASCAR’s perennial Most Popular Driver.

“Everybody is going to ask me a hundred times how I feel about the green-white-checkered rule now,” Earnhardt said. “I feel good about it. It was a good safe call. The race ended per the rules, and I'm totally OK with that. (NASCAR) decided officially who won the race, and Joey won it. He has had an awesome round. Unbelievable, really. We did everything we could today. Almost perfect, tried really hard.

“I felt like, per the rule book, it sorted out and I finished second,” Earnhardt said. “I’m OK with that. We could argue they could have waited another hundred feet to throw the caution, but they didn't have to. They threw it when they needed to and I'm fine with that.”

Intensity? We’ve got that.

Controversy? In abundance.

And with four races still remaining until a champion is crowned at Homestead Miami Speedway, there is no indication that things will calm down, anytime soon.


  1. This race showed what a fraud Nascar has become...

  2. Anonymous5:23 PM

    HOTWHEELSCOTT; have to agree. I can't believe there was no more mentioned about Kevin Harvick during the week. I thought for sure it would at least be addressed again as being looked at from more angles by NASCAR. Guess they wanted to sweep it under the rug and leave well enough alone hoping it would be forgotten. Secondly, if it is true that he was not able to keep up with the caution pace of the field then he with no doubt should have been put to the rear or black flagged.

  3. Anonymous3:08 AM

    Nascar screwed the opportunity for Junior to try and win. I reject all claims by the Nation that Junior had it in the bag. Bull. Suck it up. As for the lack of whatever people wanted Nascar to do to Harvick, you don't know the pecking order and you obviously don't know why they didn't do anything. You have not been paying attention all these years.

    As for this insipid playoff format with cars that go boom and other teams on the track, and it being eliminating segments, and it comes down to one race and one race only. Your 26 races then the other 9 mean nothing. It is a joke. And it seems BZF is loving the talk, but the guy cannot get thru his thick skull it is fans up in arms because of frustration, not because of joy or contentment.

  4. Anonymous4:38 AM

    In every other major sport when the playoffs start if you are not in them your season is over. When the superbowl is being played all the other NFL teams are not still playing The world series is now in progress and only 2 MLB are playing. The chase is a farce. Nascar is a farce. Kyle Busch in the chase is a farce.

  5. TheNASCARJeff4:52 AM

    I am sure that in the coming weeks (probably Phoenix) either Harvick or Logano will be spun out if they are close to a good finish or a win..Reap what you sew boys!

  6. I never have liked Harvick and after that chickenshit move he pulled he should be an easy target at Martinsville.Good luck making it to the final round.

  7. Anonymous7:15 AM

    For all of y'all who think nascar screwed up the restart y'all need to learn what defines a lap and the difference between a start finish line and a restart zone. You would think this would be a simple concept to understand but apparently not. Should they have changed the GWC rule for Talladega? Maybe. Maybe not. I personally had no problem with it as it seems that the only thing that happens at Daytona and Talladega with regard to GWC is a cluster f&%# that reminds me of a monkey f&*^(ing a football. Why tear up all of that equipment and put at risk the drivers and fans?

    As for Harvick. Hamlin was obviously exaggerating. Think about it folks. Denny said the 4 could only run 30-40 mph. A pace lap is 70 mph. That right there shows Denny was just spouting off. I have no idea if Harvick wrecked Bayne on purpose. I do know one thing and thats Y'all Jr. fans need to be as gracious as your driver was. Jr. once again proved why he is so popular.

    I would agree that NASCAR needs to stop all the rule changes. Brian should take a page from his daddy's play book. NASCAR isn't perfect, it is made up of humans who make mistakes sometimes. If you can't accept that then maybe you should find another sport, maybe bowling would be a good one for y'all. As for me I have been a fan my whole life and will continue to be a fan.

    1. They ended up tearing up a bunch of cars anyway.... one attempt means one attempt... Not "oh they didn't reach the start finish line"....That should have been it per the rules... Now they change them in the middle of a race....

  8. Was loving the race, long green flag runs. Just didn't feel right with all the radio chatter and drivers seriously thinking Harvick crossed the line. I do not think all other drivers would do the same. But I'm sure some would. Maybe a young Earnhardt Jr might have done it era 2002-2003 but we saw Jr's maturity after the race and I can't be convinced he would do what Harvick did. And I do not think Harvick's actions mirror the #22-#20 fiasco two weeks ago or the Newman last lap dive bomb pass in 2014. Some think all contact is the same, well maybe but something inside me thought the contact with the #4 & #6 didn't feel right and just left me feeling a way that is hard to describe. Wasn't mad because JR didn't win, was glad the #24 advanced. It just reminded me of an old video game move I use to use.

  9. Anonymous12:22 PM

    If NASCAR was such a fraud, Earnhardt would have won playing into the fans wanting NASCAR'S most popular driver to continue.

  10. Anonymous1:34 PM

    NASCAR gave Earnhardt another shot by saying the first restart "didn't count" cause they never took the green.

  11. Thanks Godfather for all that you do. You are bring intelligence and insight to the important issues confronting our sport.

    3 thoughts:

    1. Not sure how NASCAR let themselves get talked into reducing the GWCs at 'Dega in the first place. Fans do NOT want to see races end under yellow and ending under yellow forces NASCAR to be in the role of sorting out the order finish. That's a lose/lose for NASCAR. The drivers don't always know what is best for the sport.

    2. The current Chase system creates (by design) moments where an entire season, the future of a team or for that matter an entire career can hang on the balance of a single late-race restart. Those moments are going to show the true character of the individuals involved. What do you do when you are in a position to "cut corners" in terms of the true or honorable path to advance your own self interest or that of your team? These moments have already revealed the true character of KH, JL and in the case of Richmond in 2013, the key competition decision makers at MWR. Look for more of these revealing moments to come and don't be too disappointed when they show us that more that we'd like to admit, when presented with option to take a dishonorable short cut, many if not most in our modern society will choose to dishonor themselves in pursuit of their own self interest.

    3. In my view, all of this controversy is good for NASCAR if for no other reason than it arouses emotion and get's people talking. NASCAR has been all but invisible outside of the shrinking hard core fan base in recent years, and this kind of action is exactly what the sport needs to begin its journey back to national sports relevance. Now if we could just find a solid African American driver at the Sprint Cup level this sport would be back in the national spotlight and on the road to a solid recovery.

  12. Anonymous4:12 PM

    1. Dale JR has more class than most of the whiney drivers that are racing today.

    2. Funny no one mentions that Dale JR's so called "team mate" is the one who pushed Joey to the finish line. I blame him more than any of the rules.

    3. Yes, I am a fan who is getting fed up with all of the rule changes. I do not like the fact that drivers who have won, especially more than once is eliminated and drivers who have not won are in the chase. Don't like that there is not some way that only the 16 or so drivers are the ones who are driving for the championship. Have two races, one for the ones who don't make it and the later race in a day or evening of the ones who have won. Fans would get buy one get one free, I know if I was going and had a chance to see two shorter races, it would appeal to me. At the end of the 10 races who ever has the most points wins.

    4. When Dale JR retires, I become a "casual" fan. No more watching practice or qualifying, will put the race in PIP and watch football on the big screen. Actually it starts this year again at Martinsville. Did that last year after he was eliminated.

    5. Like you on Race Hub and reading your words. As it is, have recorded both NASCAR America and Hub most of the year and skip thru most of it. After awhile you can only stand so much, as week after week, it was Kyle Busch coming back, or Jeff Gordon retiring. Same things said every week.

  13. I know my comments are late to the game but I didn't care for how the ending of Dega went down one bit. Do I think Harvick caused the wreck on purpose? Absolutely. But can I blame him? Not entirely. If NASCAR has the safety of the fans and drivers listed as its first priority- they should have not allowed Harvick to restart with a failing engine like that in the first place. It would be one thing if nothing was uttered over the radio but the 4 team made it known to everyone that pace speed was all they had. This should have at least warranted a directive from NASCAR to have Harvick pull out of line. I've seen cautions called for beer koozies and phantom debris with nothing more than "driver safety" given as an explanation. But to allow a car to attempt a restart (not once but twice!) that can't even get out of it's own way is ridiculous. It totally sends the wrong message.