This morning, on The Morning Drive show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, the “Wide Open Wednesday” portion of the show took on a a “Let It Go” theme. As a result, a couple of lines of that now-annoying song was played after each caller took his/her 30 seconds to make his/her gripe. Needless to say, I think, that song has been stuck in my head ever since, and it’s now Wednesday afternoon. Well, now I’m passing on my pain by telling the folks who are still complaining about the lack of a second line forming in the closing laps of Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway to just “Let It Go.”
Okay, I get it. That race would have been much more exciting if a second line would have formed in the final laps and there would have been more passes for position on say, the final lap. Remember that race at Dega several years ago in which there was something like 88 or so “official” passes for the lead? I guess that race kind of spoiled us.
First thing I’d like to point out before I go any further is that some drivers did pull out; the move just didn’t pan out for them. Tony Stewart and/or Denny Hamlin, anyone? Okay, they may have been the only ones, or at least a couple of the few, but at least they tried to do something.
Why am I saying, “let it go,” though? Not all races can be edge-of-your-seat exciting. Over the course of a 36-race season, there’s got to be a dud here and there. I’m not saying that the Talladega race was a dud, but judging by some fan comments across social media a call-in shows, apparently it was.
Can you really blame the drivers, though? If driver “A” pulls out, there’s not guarantee anyone would go with them (Hamlin and Stewart, for example). It’s a risk vs. reward kind of decision.
Sure, “win and your in” is, I guess, still the mantra under the still-relatively-new Chase for the Sprint Cup format. But winning still isn’t the only thing. Points can still get a driver in as long as there’s not 16 different winners in the first 26 races, and chances of that happening are slim to none.
Why did I bring the Chase format up? Maybe drivers want to keep themselves pretty high in the standings, in case they don’t win between now and the next checkered flag at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. Like it or not, folks, there’s still a place for points racing in this sport.
Maybe that’s why Hamlin and Stewart were the two most notable drivers who did try to make a move late in the Talladega race. Hamlin already has a win, so he’s in. As for Stewart, he’s in such a hole that, at this point, the only way he has a snowball’s chance in h-e-double-hockey-sticks of getting in is by winning a race, so he didn’t really have anything to lose, either.
Drivers in more comfortable positions to make moves brings me to what has turned out to be another fan gripe about Sunday’s race at Talladega, or maybe I should refer to it as an accusation hurled — Jimmie Johnson let teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. win.
Okay, so Johnson didn’t seem to try to pass Earnhardt in the closing laps, but does that necessarily mean he “let his teammate win.” I guess this one kinda grew legs with the fact that Earnhardt is a teammate that, to that point, was stll winless on the season, while Johnson was already a two-time winner.
Johnson insists that he didn’t “let Earnhardt win.” I guess only Johnson knows what was in Johnson’s head at the time. I’m not going to venture a guess either way. But what’s to say that Johnson would’ve won if he had pulled out to pass? How do we know that cars behind him would’ve gone with him and not Earnhardt? Earnhardt was a five-time winner at Talladega before Sunday’s race, after all. Pulling out of like sure didn’t work for Stewart or Hamlin, did it?
On the subject of Johnson, he seems to be in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. During his five-year stint as champion and then sixth year a few years later, fans complained that he was winning all the time. Now he’s being criticized for now winning. Oh, to be Jimmie.
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