Sunday’s race at Talladega was the last of its kind, and then it became one of the most unique and strangest races at the beast of a track.
This event was the last of its kind because next season, these cars will not even remotely look like they did on Sunday. The reason: the new aerodynamic package that includes a larger leading splitter on the front, a much taller spoiler on the rear, and the inclusion of a much smaller, tapered spacer, on the intake will make these cars have a lot different drive ability.
Not to mention the one thing missing from that package: the restrictor plate. Yes, for the first time since 1987, when Bobby Allison got airborne and tore down the fence right at the start/finish line, these cars will be running without the plates to restrict airflow into the engines. The hope is the tapered spacer and the larger spoilers and splitter, along with the other additions to the overall package that will be used each week, it will slow these cars down.
So, what did it all mean for Sunday? Answer…team dominance.
I have not seen dominance by an entire organization for so much of an event in a long time. Stewart-Haas Racing started in positions 1-4 on the grid, and for a lot of the event they remained that way. At different points, different team drivers were out front, and in the end, the team won.
However, it was the team driver that did not lead a lap until the very last one that ultimately got to celebrate. And the only reason why he was the one celebrating was because of the fact his teammates had to bail to add some fuel in order to make it to the finish.
The third ultimately ran out of fuel two corners and a straightaway before the checkered flag.
So it was Aric Almirola, the lone driver of Stewart-Haas Racing that had yet to win this season, finally holding a trophy up high above his head after coming so close on so many different occasions, that actually made it to the checkered flag. The last time he was in victory lane, his celebration came because of rain. This time, he had enough to make it to the finish line and celebrate with the fans and his team.
All four SHR teams now have gone to victory lane. Only other squad that can say each of their drivers have a win this year is Penske Racing. This now is coming down to a battle of which team will be strong enough to compete in that final race and win a championship.
So glad Talladega is now in the rear-view mirror. Time to move forward, away from a track where one wrong move can take out 20 drivers, and worrying solely on one’s own race.
STAGE 1: Kurt Busch
STAGE 2: Kevin Harvick
RESULTS: 1-Almirola 2-Bowyer 3-Stenhouse Jr. 4-Hamlin 5-Logano 6-Allmendinger 7-Johnson 8-Jones 9-Menard 10-Smith
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Larson 14-Kurt Busch 19-Wallace 23-Truex Jr. 26-Kyle Busch 27-Keselowski 28-Harvick 29-Blaney 31-Elliott 33-Bowman
CAUTIONS: 8 for 32 laps. Lap 12-14 (#96 Spin-FS); 57-60 (End of Stage 1); 63-66 (#48 Incident-FS); 105-107 (#42 Incident -BS); 112-115 (End of Stage 2); 137-141 (#1 Incident-FS); 161-164 (Debris-FS); 187-191 (#24, 88, 23, 20, 9 Incident-T4).
LEAD CHANGES: 15 among 11 drivers. Kurt Busch 1-11; A. Allmendinger 12; Kurt Busch 13-56; M. DiBenedetto 57; R. Blaney 58-63; R. Chastain 64; K. Harvick 65-68; Kyle Busch 69; K. Harvick 70-111; B. Keselowski 112-121; W. Byron 122-126; B. Keselowski 127-137; M. DiBenedetto 138; B.
Gaughan 139; Kurt Busch 140-192; A. Almirola 193.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 20 Mins, 24 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 153.707 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.105 Seconds.
PLAYOFF STANDINGS (Earned/Behind Leader [Playoff Points]): 1. Harvick, 3128 ; 2. Kyle Busch, -17 ; 3. Logano, -24 ; 4. Kurt Busch, -33 ; 5. Almirola*, -41 ; 6. Bowyer, -42 ; 7. Truex Jr, -45 ; 8. Elliott*, -62 ; 9. Keselowski, -65 ; 10. Blaney, -67 ; 11. Larson, -71 ; 12. Bowman, -113; 13. Hamlin, -992; 14. Johnson, -1000; 15. Dillon, -1004; 16. Jones, -1020.
*Secured spot in Round of 8.