By KEVIN JACOBS
The restrictor plate race in NASCAR is a unique aspect of the sport granting opportunity to every team and driver the chance of winning or having a career-changing finish. The Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway did just that by delivering a myriad of performances worth credit and mention throughout the race. Here are four drivers who received their career-best finishes at Talladega.
Obviously, not being a full-time driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and only having six races total on your résumé, to gain a career-best does not seem like too much of an accomplishment, but the performance Ryan Blaney executed at Talladega cannot go without mention. Earning a fourth-place finish under the small sample size of opportunity for learning is an incredible feat, leaving not much doubt for the future of this young driver going forward. A top-five is a finish some drivers never obtain, but to reach that level under these circumstances has to be a career-best acknowledgement.
In opposite form from the last entry, Josh Wise with his 10th-place finish is the highest-finishing spot in his seven-year, 113-entry career. Wise and his Phil Parsons Racing team probably celebrated like it was a win and should have with his terrific performance. Hopefully, Wise and PPR took good notes when putting the No.98 together for Talladega and will start a trend of good finishes for plate races.
Starting his second full season in the NSCS, Cole Whitt’s 13th-place finish is the young driver’s highest career-finish. Sustaining a career average of 30th place, the top-15 achievement is a tremendous accomplishment for Whitt and Front Row Motorsports.
The final mention for Talladega producing career-best finishes is Matt DiBenedetto with his 18th place. An 18th place doesn’t get too much attention, but in an up-and-down career as DiBenedetto has experienced, earning a top-20 can build momentum and confidence into development for future races. A couple more top-20s can bring a lot to sponsors and can create a foundation for improvement.
With one race opening many doors in different facets of the sport, NASCAR should consider adding more restrictor plate races to the schedule or experiment with testing it out on certain tracks. A possible split with tracks as Michigan International Speedway or Pocono Raceway having one scheduled stop with a restrictor plate and the other without may be an addition worth trying, while simultaneously giving these tracks a different approach.