Following NASCAR's announcement that there would be no bump drafting allowed in the corners on Sunday, virtually all of the drivers had to change their strategy, and a lot of fans weren't very happy about it.
Several drivers opted to drop to the back of the field for most of the race, running at only half throttle for many of the 500 miles which made up the AMP Energy 500. There's nothing new about drivers being conservative in the early stages of long races, but many of the fan's favorites never made a move to reach the front of the pack until less than 20 laps to go in Sunday's race.
Points leader Jimmie Johnson ran most of the day in 30th place or so, but managed to survive the late race crashes and finish 6th. Johnson's decent finish practically guaranteed his fourth Cup championship.
For much of the race, the majority of the drivers were content to play follow the leader, apparently not wishing to take a chance on incurring NASCAR's wrath by touching another car at any point on the track other than the straights. The racing predictably began to get interesting in the closing laps, which resulted in two rather spectacular crashes that left Ryan Newman upside down in the infield, and Mark Martin also turning turtle briefly during the resulting green-white-checker finish.
Newman's car was spun across the track, colliding with several cars, including Kevin Harvick's car. The 39 Chevy of Newman then turned backwards, and went airborne, landing upside down on the hood of Harvick's 29 Chevy. As Newman spun into the infield on his lid, he nearly collided with Harvick's car a third time. Harvick, who led several laps earlier in the race, must have felt like his yellow and red Chevy had a bull's eye painted on it.
I've had a theory about the so-called new car, which used to be known as the car of tomorrow. My theory has been shared by other fans and various media types alike, as well as, I'm sure, more than a few drivers. On a race track where speeds of 190 plus miles per hours are the norm, that huge wing on the back does exactly what it's designed to do, when the car is moving in a forward direction, which is provide down force to keep the car on the track.
When the car is moving rapidly in a backwards direction however, the wing acts just like the wing on an airplane, creating lift, and resulting in the spectacular airborne flight that Ryan Newman took on Sunday. Obviously, it appears that the new car is not the perfect solution for keeping not only the drivers safe, but ensuring the safety of the fans as well..
Fans get injured when cars fly up into the air, landing in the catch fence, or in what would be an absolutely horrible scenario, flying over the catch fence.
Fortunately, Newman's car went airborne on the low side of the track, not up against the outside wall, as did Carl Edward's car in the April race at Talladega. Had Edward's car not caught air under it's wing in April, that brave young lady we saw on Sunday's pre-race show would likely not have suffered injury. If nothing else, I would ask that NASCAR reexamine the safety aspects of the wings on the rear of the cars.
As regular readers of this site know, my race day routine involves not only watching the race itself, but following several message boards, and lately, of course, following Twitter closely. The fan comments I have been reading since Sunday's race have been rather predictable. I don't think any race fan wants to see cars simply stay in line and follow the leader for the majority of any race, especially Talladega. "Boring" was a race used by many fans on Sunday.
Unfortunately, quite a few of the drivers expressed their feelings of boredom as well, and several drivers quite frankly apologized for putting on a boring race, at least for the most part. The crashes, though spectacular, were unfortunate, especially when the entire NASCAR world is watching the rescue workers first have to lift Ryan Newman's race car back onto it's wheels, and then cut the roof off the car to extract him. Fortunately, none of the drivers were seriously injured in Sunday's race, though I imagine that Newman will be feeling rather stiff and sore for the next several days.
Talladega has been the site of some of NASCAR's greatest racing in the past. I hope we see it there again soon.