Podium Preview: GEICO 500 at Talladega

Don't you dare put that GEICO 500 at Talladega evil on me, Ricky Bobby! (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Don’t you dare put that GEICO 500 evil on me, Ricky Bobby! (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

For the first time in 32 years, today’s GEICO 500 will be run without restrictor plates. OK, so they’re using a tapered spacer which serves about the same purpose. Still, there’s a lot of unknown with today’s 10th round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season!

By all means, NASCAR made adjustments to slow the cars down in a pack.  However, a taller spoiler and a wick only made for faster cars in the final practice session.  In other words, this could be as wide of a race as any in 2019!

With this in mind, The Podium Finish’s columnists, Amanda Shoopman, Ashley HobbsChristina BowmanCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKathleen CassidyKatie CoopleKobe LambethMatt Sisoler, and yours truly analyze another round of changes to the All Star Race and 2021 Cup schedule takeaways!

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Question 1
Might this year's changes to the All Star Race generate excitement for NASCAR? (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Might this year’s changes to the All Star Race generate excitement for NASCAR? (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

This year’s Monster Energy NASCAR All Star Race format and package was announced last week. Given that it may be a prelude to the Gen 7 model, should this race become a testing ground for potential ways for NASCAR to improve upon its on track product?

Hobbs :  The All Star Race has appeared to be a testing race for a few years now. Everyone knows the racing for this this special event has gone downhill the past few years, so it is not surprising that NASCAR wants to use it as a “test”. This race has been used as a test a few times, and we can clearly see how that has worked out (#sarcasm).

Lambeth :  I actually do not mind NASCAR’s willingness to try new things. In my opinion, the All-Star race has lost a lot of flavor over time. I think hosting it at Charlotte Motor Speedway has finally run its course. It is time to switch to a new venue, particularly a short track or even the nearby Dirt Track. However, I am completely fine with them testing out new parts for the Gen 7 car. They have nothing to lose by experimenting.

Lucas :  I hate that one of NASCAR’s premier races has basically turned into a giant research and development test for fans and teams. Sometimes it’s a good package, but for the majority of time, its a real snoozefest. Will I still watch and enjoy it? Of course! But it really is a shame that the race has fallen to its current state. I have some great ideas for the event, but that is for another conversation another day. It’s also interesting to see that there is a common trend with former prestigious races falling from grace across the schedule. But like I stated before, that’s an entire different conversation for a different day.

Shoopman :  Considering it’s a race where points are not on the line, I do not think it’s a issue for NASCAR to be using this race to test new things. I would agree with the general consensus that the All-Star Race is not what it once was, so in the end I believe there is little to nothing to lose by experimenting with new things.

Sisoler :  I think it’s a good idea. With no points on the line for the drivers, we will be able to see what these new Gen-7 parts will do to these Gen-6 race cars, and it could create some interesting racing. We’ll have to wait and see, but in the grand scheme of things that is NASCAR Cup Series racing, I feel that what is possibly being lost is worth the upside of learning something about next year’s race cars.

Tiongson :  Given how we’re going to see big changes in the upcoming years, I say, “Why not?” There’s no points on the line and it’s better seeing a sampling of what could work in a race that’s usually been nothing but a throwaway event. A few years ago, we saw NASCAR utilize an option tire which didn’t change anything. However, it was worthwhile for NASCAR to try something different. Now, with some elements of the Gen 7 car in play, it could be beneficial to try something now versus in a race where there are implications with the championship. I would just like to see this race rotate in the future.

Question 2
We've got a fever and the only prescription is more short tracks! (Photo Credit: Jonathan Huff/TPF)

We’ve got a fever and the only prescription is more short tracks! (Photo Credit: Jonathan Huff/TPF)

There’s been much speculation about the 2021 Cup schedule after the current five year agreement concludes.  If you had the power to add a couple of new tracks to the schedule, which ones would you want to enhance the overall experience?

Acero :  For starters, do away with one Pocono date if not both. Throw in another road course, let’s say Road America and toss Iowa into the mix and you have got a revamped NASCAR schedule!

Bowman :  I would love to see another road course added to the mix! I think it brings a lot more diversity to the field and showcases some talents from drivers that we don’t get to see. In addition to that, I would like to see the final race of the year get switched up from time to time, especially with the Chase format that we have now. If you have one driver who is known to dominate Homestead every year in the final four and maybe the other 3 are mediocre, it limits the excitement. Let’s say we switched it every two years to another southern based track (due to the time of year) like Atlanta, Texas, even Phoenix  or Las Vegas – you would have a lot more variety in Champions.

Cassidy :  Bring back Rockingham! There are some tracks that are loved by fans and drivers such as Rockingham that should replace some track’s second races. I feel like this schedule change wasn’t enough to give fans what they wanted, but was enough to make fans unhappy. I hope NASCAR listens to the suggestions fans and drivers have about what tracks they want to see!

Shoppe :  I think by now, NASCAR is aware that the fans want short tracks and road courses! First of all, I’d like to see the IMS event move across the town to the Lucas Oil Raceway so we can see an actual good race in Indy! Hopefully, the Nashville Fairgrounds deal can come together for 2021. If not Nashville, then I’d be happy with literally any short track, I don’t care where!

As for tweaks to the schedule itself, I am one of those who strongly believe that the championship race should be rotating among several venues to give opportunities to those other then who is great at Homestead or Phoenix for example. That also gives more fans a chance to see a champion crowned!

Two laps around Talladega and the pack is getting quite antsy!  Before we drop the hammer for a win, let’s rewind back to Round 9 at Richmond with our race and points reports!
Bowman nearly got a win with race runner up Joey Logano.

Bowman nearly got a win with race runner up Joey Logano.

As a result, Bowman gains some ground in the points race!

As a result, Bowman gains some ground in the points race!

As usual, Ashley Hobbs stops by to share some stats by Crunching the Numbers, GEICO 500 at Talladega style!
Will it be another strong race for Hendrick and Stewart-Haas Racing?

Will it be another strong race for Hendrick and Stewart-Haas Racing?Will it be another strong race for Hendrick and Stewart-Haas Racing?

Since 2004, the race winner has an average starting spot of 9.1 and has led an average of 29.3 laps.

Since 2004, the race winner has an average starting spot of 9.1 and has led an average of 29.3 laps.

Johnson has been consistent at Talladega.

Johnson has been consistent at Talladega.

Now, here's some Talladega race trends since 2004.

Now, here’s some Talladega race trends since 2004.

Digest Talladega's past 10 race trends!

Digest Talladega’s past 10 race trends!

Now, here's Talladega's trends in the past five races!

Now, here’s Talladega’s trends in the past five races!

The TPF Stats machine sees another victory for Kyle Busch.

The TPF Stats machine sees another victory for Kyle Busch.

You’ve read our thoughts and digested some statistics, Talladega style! Now, it’s time for winning so let’s go for the checkers with our GEICO 500 picks!
Essentially, we've chosen the field for today's GEICO 500 at Talladega!

Essentially, we’ve chosen the field for today’s GEICO 500 at Talladega!

Tiongson :  As much as some folks want to see the end of the Team Penske/Joe Gibbs winning streak end, it won’t at Talladega. Look for Joey Logano to repeat his Dega feat with his second win of 2019.

Lucas :  I’ll take all three Penske cars please. No? Well, ok then, lemme take ole JoLo (Joey Logano) for the W!

Shoopman : You know, after my shortcomings in my fantasy league, I am doubting my instincts. But I’m going to go with Joey Logano.

Bowman :  Aric Almirola is going to punch his ticket into the Playoffs at Talladega.

Sisoler :  Normally he gets lost in the cracks and behind teammates Harvick and Bowyer, but of the drivers I’ve done my research on for this race, over the last five Talladega races, he’s got an average finish of fifth with a win last year. You know who I’m thinking of. Smithfield and Aric Almirola will once again be in Victory Lane at Talladega!

TPF Stats :  It is hard to look past Joe Gibbs Racing in any race, even at Talladega Superspeedway. Therefore, we will be sticking with the top driver; Kyle Busch (even though it has been over a decade since he has gone to victory lane in the GEICO 500).

Hobbs :  I’m going with one of the best modern day restrictor plate racers this weekend; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. That’s assuming he doesn’t ruffle too many feathers.

Acero :  Denny Hamlin and that 11 crew is on a magical ride this 2019. He’s been to VL at ‘Dega before and will do it again come Sunday!

Cassidy :  Bad Brad Keselowski.

Copple :  Ryan Blaney.

Lambeth :  Talladega is going to produce another first-time winner. William Byron will show decent speed, similar to his performance at Daytona and tame Dega on Sunday afternoon.

Shoppe :  Chris Buescher will miss all the wrecks and be a surprise winner in Talladega!

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the GEICO 500!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races in 2019.  

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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