Telltale Talladega HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (September 30, 2002) - The NASCAR Winston Cup points battle heats up another notch this week as the series heads to the fourth and final restrictor plate race on the schedule at Talladega ...
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (September 30, 2002) - The NASCAR Winston Cup points battle heats up another notch this week as the series heads to the fourth and final restrictor plate race on the schedule at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
Though a fan favorite, restrictor plate racing is not characterized as a "most desired racing form" for many drivers. Usually referred to as a "battle of the best wind tunnel-tested car," a race at Talladega is not usually described as an event where keen, tactical driving ability matters. At such a delicate part of the waning season, strong performances during the five-race stretch of short track events this summer can win the Winston Cup Championship, while Talladega remains where it can easily be lost.
Thus, an odd juxtaposition is formulated: At a race where the win is about pure luck and drafting capabilities, that same race may determine who will take home the Winston Cup trophy.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet, comments on what luck has to do with it, the season of oddities, and racing at Talladega (with a new fuel cell):
What does luck have to do with it?
"It does seem kind of unfair that a track that has as much to do with luck as engineering will most likely break a few of those teams running for the Championship. If you make it through the stretch of short track races on-top or unhurt, you can proceed through the remainder of the season knowing that that's what gave you the Championship. Your strong runs at those places set your Championship points status.
"But then you'll get through that and they throw Talladega at you. Some of these teams will be riding high on their momentum and something will happen at Talladega. Something big, it's always big at Talladega. And if you let it, that one wreck can put a halt to everything you've done over the summer. It'll force the team to play catch-up the rest of the races."
This is the age of a season of oddities.
"Richard (Childress) (team owner) and I were talking about the way the season has shaped up just the other day. Somebody should be running away with the Championship by about 400 - 500 points. It's been a really weird season - kind of like our second half has gone. Somebody will get on a streak and all of a sudden they'll just disappear. It's been strange. Sterling (Marlin) got up there and got out front early and then just basically fell off the map. Then Mark (Martin) is up there and he's been consistent - not consistent top five - but consistent top 15 all year long. It's hard to put a thumb on who's had the best car because at some point everybody in the top five has had the best car. (And then) it just falls off for a little bit. Jimmie (Johnson) fell off for a little while and then he won last week (Dover). Now he's up there. It's been a weird year. There have been a lot of strange things happen with myself and with Tony (Stewart) and just in the sport in general.
"It's hard to put your finger on one person because it's been such a strange year. This is Tony Stewart's time of the year. He always seems to run good from halfway on. He's good at Charlotte and Martinsville. As long as he gets through Talladega okay, if I had to choose, that's who I'd pick."
Talladega revisited, with a new, smaller fuel cell.
"Talladega will be the same deal where you've got to go beat the DEI (Dale Earnhardt Inc.) cars. The Chevrolets will qualify good and we'll all run in a pack. The fuel cells are going to throw a pretty big loop in it. It'll probably spread things out a little bit. We'll have to make more pit stops, so your pit crew will be a huge factor.
"I think the fuel cell is a good idea. I think they should put the roof fins on there with the fuel cells because the problem we're going to have now is that things will get spread out and we're not going to be able to catch up. You're probably going to see groups all over the race track and I don't think that's what anybody wants to see at Talladega."