Talladega: What to Watch For

It's time for the Aaron's 499 at Talladega. Of course everyone knows what to watch for this week. Restrictor Plate Racing. Large clumps of cars hurtling down the front stretch at 190 mph within inches of each other. Three and four wide racing. Talk of "The Big One" that could happen at any moment and take out a few cars, or half the field. And the inevitable bump drafting.

But what, out of the "ordinary", is there to watch for this weekend?

A Wonderful Tribute
Let's start with a very positive, honorable tribute. Sunday would have been Dale Earnhardt's 55th birthday. The day before has been named "Dale Earnhardt Day". And on Thursday evening, Dale Earnhardt will be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame. Earnhardt was a 10-time winner at Talladega, and was considered by many to be a master at Restrictor plate racing.
photo by Harold Hinson. Taken from DaleEarnhardtInc.com

The DEI team, along with a unified effort by their major sponsors, has have decided to honor the 7 time NASCAR Champion by running his paint scheme on all of their cars this weekend. The #1 Bass Pro Shops (driven by Martin Truex Jr.), the #11 Menards (driven by Paul Menard) and the #8 Budweiser (driven by Dake Earnhardt Jr.) Chevrolets will all sport a black paint scheme with red, white and silver trim, mimicking the paint scheme of the #3 car of Dale Earnhardt. Even the team's #8 Busch car, which will be entered in Saturday's race and be driven by Truex Jr. has been repainted for this weekend in honor of the Sr. Earnhardt.

Seeing that paint scheme on the track at Talladega, not once but four times, once again may just instill the old fears in some of the drivers that remember racing against "The Intimidator."

The Dangers for Fans
Not all of the news out of Talladega is good at the moment. Fans have been reminded just how dangerous things can be. And I'm not talking about for the drivers.

Two fans were camping outside Talladega on Monday, apparently planning to spend the week leading up to the race at their campsite. As they put up a pole they would use to fly the flag of their favorite driver, the wind picked up and wrested the pole away from their grip. It landed against some nearby power lines. As the pair tried to pull the pole off of the lines, they were electrocuted. The Talladega Country Coroner pronounced them dead at the scene.

It's a tragedy, but it's also a reminder to fans that the track isn't the only dangerous pace at racing events. If you plan to attend an event of any kind, make sure you're careful!

Commercial Interruption
For those watching the race on television, let's watch... and hope, that FOX has figured out a way to keep their commercial breaks confined to the length of caution periods. In past weeks, during a caution, they've been going to commercial, and not returning until after the green flag has flown.

For those of us watching on TV and following the action on NASCAR TrackPass, we don't miss too much, because we can see the action on our computers. Well, not really see it, but we can get a feel for it. For those with only television access, restarts have been missed more and more frequently.

I know advertising money is important, but is it more important than the action on the track?

Softer Bumpers
This weekend we finally find out if NASCAR has found a solution to the practice of bump drafting. Or "slam-drafting" as some like to call it. The softer fenders have been a big news item lately, as an effort to keep drivers from running into the back of slower cars.

So now we'll see if they do any good. Will they curtail the bumping and banging by making drivers more wary of damaging their front fenders and losing their aerodynamics? Or will the drivers continue to bang away? Some drivers say it will make a big difference. Others disagree. We'll just have to watch and see!

Published on April 27, 2006 in