Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud at Talladega: Everything Is Going Well … Until It Isn’t

What Happened?

When tri-oval turmoil took place on the final lap, Tyler Reddick snuck through to take the victory at Talladega Superspeedway. A double block from Michael McDowell on Brad Keselowski sent the No. 34 spinning up the track while Keselowski had to check up to avoid the crash. Reddick kept his foot in it and leapt to the front coming to the checkered.

See also
Tyler Reddick Avoids the Big One, Wins at Talladega

The sixth career victory for Reddick marks his first of the 2024 season and his first superspeedway triumph in the Cup Series. Adding to the fun, Michael Jordan finally didn’t jinx his team, watching the win go down in person.

What Really Happened?

Everything was going well. Until it wasn’t. That could be a motto for racing at Talladega.

As the final stage began to play out, the Toyotas chose an alternate strategy. While the pack slowed its pace to save fuel, the Toyotas left nothing to chance and pitted so they could drive all-out.

After just a few laps, it became apparent how much faster the small group ran compared to the pack of fuel-savers. The strategy seemed great for the aggressive Toyotas. In a moment’s notice, that all changed.

While trying to make speed, the pushes became super aggressive, resulting in a four-car crash. Erik Jones went sideways, with Bubba Wallace, John Hunter Nemechek and Denny Hamlin joining in. Their strategy went from hero to zero in a turn 3 heap.

At the end of the race, the field kept a tame two-by-two, much like the race last fall. It all seemed fine until McDowell got a little too far out. In just a few hundred feet, everything went from sunny side up to upside-down.

Literally.

The same phrase could be uttered for the racing product. 

During the fuel-saving portions of the race, the action passed the eye test. Three-wide for row after row while guys are making runs looks like a lot of fun. Let the drivers complain about going too slow, for the fans, the action stays the same. At least until the switch flips.

When fuel savings drop from the picture, the inability of drivers to make moves and pass becomes glaringly apparent. The two lanes trade minor runs, inflating the number of lead changes in the race.

Meanwhile, the drivers outside of the top four stay locked in position, unable to move forward. The third lane looks so inviting after working earlier in the race, but once go time is engaged, that high line only offers a trip to the back.

In the previous car, we saw drivers line up around the high line to tick off laps, but once they wanted to go, the racing got juicy. This superspeedway car keeps things interesting until crunch time, then drivers stay in line because they are unable to make anything happen.

Fan reactions still seem split on how to judge the superspeedway package. I think enjoyment of these races will turn out just like everything else in this race. People will like it, until something flips on a dime and fans have had enough.

Who Stood Out?

In the midst of the fuel-saving games, Shane van Gisbergen certainly impressed in his Cup superspeedway debut. The New Zealander yo-yoed throughout the field, making his way to the lead a number of times before being spit into the back pack.

With the race winding down, SVG made a move to the outside line and looked to lead it to the front, until Kyle Busch and Ty Gibbs moved up and the momentum dissipated. Still, van Gisbergen brought not one, but two rides home in one piece this weekend — an impressive feat for a first time at Talladega.

Running an unsponsored, unchartered car, BJ McLeod deserves a shoutout. He had everybody rooting for him through the first half of the opening stage as he drove to the lead on the high side. Unfortunately, he ran out of gas and put himself in the wall to keep from wadding up the field.

See also
Michael McDowell Spins from Lead, Corey LaJoie Flips in Last-Lap Talladega Calamity

Who Fell Flat?

Last fall’s winner Ryan Blaney was surprisingly absent from the front of the field. Ford still had a bit of superspeedway strength, but Blaney did not participate in much of that showing, leading only one lap. In the past three Talladega races, Blaney had a worst finish of second. This time he finished 20th. 

Speaking of Ford, it has to be close to full panic mode. The past three years, the first Ford win came on a superspeedway. Today nearly continued the trend, until the lead Fords got together. 

Ford plays a dangerous game relying on superspeedways to jumpstart the program. These next two weeks are crucial for the blue ovals to show they have any chance at competing deep into the playoffs later this season.

Better Than Last Time?

Save fuel. Stay in line. Rinse. Repeat.

This is the process, not just at Talladega but Daytona as well. Compared to last spring, this race felt a tad more competitive, and finishing with a caution at the line rather than a yellow with most of the final lap to go definitely helped to make this race feel just a little better.

Paint Scheme of the Race

The best look on this track belonged to SVG with this Wendy’s scheme. The light blue flames with the black and red gradient had this car looking hotter than a 10-count spicy nugget meal.

Just behind the Wendy’s machine in this week’s paint scheme rankings, the Tootsie’s new look for Daniel Suarez felt like a modern Nashville remix. The various shades of purple and pink on the black background mixed with a shiny finish to paint a starry sky behind those neon lights.

What’s Next?

The NASCAR Cup Series travels to Dover Motor Speedway for the only time this year. The Wurth 400 begins Sunday, April 24 at 2:00 p.m. ET on FS1.

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janice

the moment mike joy mentioned “the big one” in stage 3 before they went to commercial i knew he put the kibosh out there. he put it out in the universe and bam, sure enough the mayhem happened several times. brad looked heardbroken finishing second. i got really nervous about eric jones’ hit.

typical dega…ride, ride, ride, then oh my it’s almost over, let lose the craziness and mayhem.

DoninAjax

Kind of like in baseball for a pitcher going for a no-hitter. The announcers don’t want to say “no-hitter.” The announcers were told in the morning meeting to mention “The Big One”!

Tom B

Eric Jones crash in the wall reminded me of Dale Sr. fatal hit. Safety has come a long, long way since then.

Shayne

Kurt Busch would probably disagree with you.

Kevin in SoCal

Kurt Busch’s hit was weird, it barely looked like a hard hit.

gbvette

I agree, that hit scared the heck out of me for that same very reason. Thank God for Safer Barriers and the Hans device! As a friend of Erik’s late father, I’m a fan of Erik’s and have followed his career since he started out in Late Model Stocks in the Midwest 15 years ago.

Though it hasn’t been reported here at Frontstretch, Erik was transported to a local hospital after being released from the infield care center, and was held there till about midnight Sunday with bad back pain.

wildcatsfan2016

Typical restrictor plate race. Run around nose to tail for lap after lap, then mayhem results multiple times including at the end. I have never liked RP racing.

RCFX1

I don’t get Nascar. Hamlin spins because of some water puddling. Next caution: someone spun due to a water puddle. How much would it have taken to take the dryers over there for a lap?

DoninAjax

If a car spins out coming out after a green flag pit stop because of the moisture there is an instant caution to bunch up the field for a double-file restart and possible mayhem.

janice

the water was seeping up through the seam. they said on broadcast that there wouldn’t had been an issue when hamlin spun because you don’t typically run 4 wide at that section of the apron. i wondered why they didn’t hit it with titan, but it was below the out of bounds line so i guess the powers to be thought it wouldn’t be an issue.

Kevin in SoCal

They had to leave it there so Hamlin would hit it to make up for NASCAR giving him the win at Richmond. (/s)

Bill B

Would there be an fuel saving going on (except maybe for the final run) if there weren’t guaranteed cautions at the stage breaks?

Really don’t want to point fingers because RP races are so stupid, but McDowell’s last block was a ridiculous. Total disregard for reality and physics.

I didn’t think much of the race. I guess the fact that there wasn’t a big wreck at the end of each stage is an improvement.

At least Hamlin got knocked out early. That made the race worth while for me.

Echo

Wonder if Hamlin told bubba what an idiot he is. Hamlin is going to have the car to beat if he makes it to the championship race. I just hope he chokes during the run up.

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