If 501 miles around Texas Motor Speedway seemed mean, then you have not seen a 500.08 mile race at Talladega Supespeedway, site of Sunday’s YellaWood 500.
While tire failures, accidents and a Playoff contender’s injury surrounded last Sunday’s Round of 12 opener, Sunday’s race at Talladega won’t be a total relaxing drive. Instead, it’s truly a dash for Playoff points, cash and about being the team who prevails in a Talladega clash.
Whereas Texas had a bit of a feeling of trepidation, a similar sentiment may surround Talladega, but in a more accustomed way. After all, racing around the 2.66-mile superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama presents the usual “Big One,” the inevitable multicar accident eliminating contenders in an almost unfair way.
Sure, the element of sheer dumb luck may play a role on Sunday afternoon. By that, it may be about being ahead before the caution lights turn on during the final lap. Or it could be about dodging the wrecks like a skilled gamer playing Crossy Road.
Bubba Wallace captured his much anticipated first Cup win last year in a rain shortened race. Earlier this year, Ross Chastain emerged victorious from his No. 1 car fielded by Trackhouse Racing.
In other words, this race is a total crapshoot. No matter if you are Kyle Larson, Joey Logano or Daniel Hemric, if your car is competitive, relatively undamaged and in near showroom condition after the first two stages, yes, there’s a chance.
This weekend, Cody Shoppe, Jasmine Sharpe, Kobe Lambeth, Luis Torres, Matt Sisoler, Nathan Solomon and yours truly ponder over necessary safety changes with the Next Gen car and risk versus reward racing at Talladega.
Podium Preview: YellaWood 500 at Talladega
Alex Bowman will be out of Sunday’s race at Talladega due to concussion-like symptoms from his accident at Texas Motor Speedway. What can NASCAR do to improve upon the safety aspects for Bowman and his peers to reduce these injuries?
Shoppe : Something has got to be done as soon as possible! The lack of give these cars have in medium impacts is so concerning. We can go on forever with violent accidents with old generation cars compared to these concussion impacts. Let’s just hope something is done before things get any worse.
Sisoler : I’m not an engineer so I really don’t have a lot of solid suggestions that could fix the injury issues with the cars, because I don’t know what changes could be made. But something needs to be done. Cody Ware is able to walk away from his massive hit and be able to race this weekend, which is a good thing make no mistake about it, but Alex Bowman backs into the wall on what seems like an innocuous hit and can’t race due to a concussion, and him not being the first driver to have something like this happen (Kurt Busch) isn’t ok.
They seem to have sacrificed some of the driver safety for durability of the cars, and maybe NASCAR should change that a bit and make the cars less durable so that they give a bit more, absorbing more of an impact and don’t have a driver or two per season taken out by backing into the fence and getting a concussion.
Tiongson : Prior to Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman’s crashes respectively at Pocono and Texas, it was often said how the Next Gen car was tough and could take a hit. While that’s true with the car itself, unfortunately, something has to feel the effects of a crash.
In this case, Bowman’s Turn 4 crash at Texas last Sunday was worse than it looked. The slow motion, in-car camera clip of Bowman during the accident showed how severe these hits are inside these cars. It seems like the drivers are dealing with the brunt of these accidents far more severely than we’ve realized.
While it’s great that the cars can take a hit better than past Cup cars, there has to be a way for the drivers to not absorb as much of the impact. I am hopeful NASCAR will work on this.
Racing will always be a dangerous sport and we’ve been fortunate to not have any deaths in the top three series since 2001. However, NASCAR and the OEMs have much work to do during the offseason.
Solomon : NASCAR needs to do a ton, but it starts with completing more crash testing data. Most importantly, they need to find a way to make the bodies of the cars less rigid so they can absorb impacts better. The rear clips on the Next Gen cars in particular have been very rigid, and rear impacts are what resulted in both Bowman’s and Kurt Busch’s concussion.
Outside of crash testing, I think NASCAR must allow for more organizational tests this winter so teams can collect more data. The data will help them hopefully crash less and make more gains in general with the car.
Talladega is a harrowing middle race for the Round of 12 where risks and rewards conflict greatly with each other. Might we see drivers aggressively vying for stage points to offset or minimize the potential loss of maximum points in Stage 3?
Sharpe : It seemed that in both the Truck and Xfinity races that most drivers prioritized snagging as many stage points as possible for the first two stages. Personally, I think that’s the best way to go, with superspeedways typically having the largest and most damaging wrecks later in the race.
With issues of the Next Gen car fresh in the minds of the drivers as the season’s second concussion hit last week with playoff driver, Alex Bowman, there may be more caution and care surrounding this race overall. No one wants to risk the well being and health of others, especially for those still fighting for a chance to snag a championship.
This gives me chilling flashbacks of Daytona in 1994. After multiple injuries and deaths in a short time period, the drivers came together and vowed to race one another with dignity and respect. They did just that and the racing was fantastic.
If they do try something, I just hope it’s done in a respectful manner. Racing can be great without wrecking others.
Lambeth : I think it would be a wise move for the playoff drivers to focus on collecting stage points in the first two stages. Coming to a place like Talladega, everyone knows the potential of getting caught up in the Big One.
If a driver picks up a decent amount of stage points and gets caught up in a wreck in the final stage, they’ll leave Alabama in a better position entering the Round of 12 cutoff race at the Charlotte ROVAL next weekend. I believe the days of riding around at the back all day long and waiting for the final laps to make a move to the front for playoff competitors are over.
Two hair raising laps around Talladega Superspeedway makes riding that neighborhood roller coaster seem like a dream!
However, it’s time to consider last Sunday evening’s rough and tumble Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Round 30 of 36 of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, with our race and points reports!
Now, let’s consider the top 10 starters for Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega!
Lastly, here’s our picks for Sunday’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega!
Lambeth : RFK Racing has turned the page with their NASCAR Cup Series program heading in the right direction. Chris Buescher visited victory lane at Bristol and we’ve seen Brad Keselowski make some big gains with his performances lately. This fall Talladega race is an event that Keselowski has found great success in, so I think it would be fitting to see the strong superspeedway racer finally put the No. 6 Ford Mustang in victory lane!
Shoppe : We all know the difficulty in picking a superspeedway winner. I’m looking for someone to get me decent stage points and avoid as many wrecks as possible. I’m going with Denny Hamlin to hopefully survive the Talladega carnage today!
Tiongson : After coming so close to a victory in the spring, Kyle Larson will apply what he learned and capture a pivotal win at Talladega with a last lap pass.
Sisoler : Every plate race is a toss up, you don’t know what you’re going to get. That being said, I think we’re going to get a season sweep at Talladega for the first time since, I believe, Jeff Gordon in 2007. The Melon Man, Ross Chastain, has proven he can win superspeedway races this year, and I think he’s gonna come through for another win (and smashed watermelon) in that No. 1 Camaro for Trackhouse.
Solomon : I’m going to roll with Aric Almirola this week to continue the trend of non-playoff drivers winning. Almirola has a pair of superspeedway victories in his career and he’s due to finally get it done in the Next Gen car. Expect Almirola to head to victory lane on Sunday
Sharpe : After winning the Daytona 500 back in 2021, Michael McDowell knows when to strike and snag the win.
We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into the race? Who are your favorites to win? Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!
Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week! While we progress toward a new kind of normal, please do your part to curb the impacts of the pandemic by washing your hands and getting your COVID-19 vaccine or booster. By working together, we can minimize the threat of COVID-19 for ourselves, our loved ones and neighbors.
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. Ultimately, they are not indicative of TPF, the organization and its staff.
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