Talladega/Kansas Date Swap a Safety Initiative Itselfby Kyle Pokrefky May 6, 2016 0 comments
Okay folks, we’re out of the Talladega weekend, we can all breathe easy now.
The social media firestorm following last weekend’s Sparks Energy 300 and GEICO 500 was, for a lack of a better term, insane. Yes, Sunday was a race full of carnage and bent sheet metal with three major accidents, however, there were way too many knee-jerk reactions going around in response to it.
Some reactions out of Sunday seemed to call for a complete reinvention of the wheel when it came to restrictor plate racing in the name of safety.
Don’t get me wrong, the strive to push forward with safety initiatives should always take priority, but to greatly make sacrifices to the on-track product shouldn’t be the way to go. Restrictor plate racing has been a thing in this sport for 30 years; everybody recognizes it’s dangerous, but to end it or greatly modify it would receive a great deal of backlash.
If you aren’t going to drastically modify the cars, you can get your hands on other things that can help prevent another race like Sunday’s – and NASCAR has done just that.
When NASCAR announced its 2017 schedules on Thursday, the biggest change present on the Sprint Cup schedule for next year is the swapping of two Chase dates in the Contender Round. Long held as the closer to the second round, fall’s Talladega race will move to the second slot of the round, pushing the fall Kansas date to the closing spot.
Part of the reason why we saw so many large accidents in the GEICO 500 was due to the sense of urgency throughout the race, and it was a bit of an anomaly at that.
With the threat of rain omnipresent from the midpoint of the race on, drivers were trying to maximize their track position in case of a rainout. After all, it’s no coincidence that every single wreck last week involving five or more cars occurred after the halfway point of the race.
The date change on the schedule for Talladega’s fall race helps take out some of the ‘do or die’ urgency typically seen during the cutoff race. With a decreased sense of urgency, drivers will be less likely to take great risks and trigger the same monster-sized pileups we saw this past weekend.
Granted, it’s still the Chase and you’re still going to see plenty of dramatic moves during the race for both the win and for position, but leaving a driver’s Chase fate to be decided at a track other than Talladega may actually provide drivers with the opportunity to run a conservative race at Talladega rather than an aggressive one.
If you were worried at all about the dangers of restrictor plate racing following the GEICO 500, view this date change as a blessing in disguise.
Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images