Do NASCAR fans want to see wrecks? Were they thrilled by the wild action on the last lap at Talladega or was it the 25-car pileup that made the finish more exciting?
Members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council debated what they thought about the final lap at Talladega, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s comments about the racing and the big wreck and much more. Here’s what they said:
How would you describe the final lap of Sunday’s race at Talladega?
71.6 percent said Terrible
28.4 percent said Fantastic
What Fan Council members said:
• Fantastically terrible. Everyone walked away OK, so yeah, if I'm being honest: Fantastic.
• NASCAR should be held liable for the next death during a restrictor-plate race.
• There's no excuse in this day and age and with the technology available to us that such an all-encompassing wreck would still occur. It's a minor miracle no one was hurt. And a major miracle that no one was killed. It is shameful that something so idiotic is considered desirable by some “race fans.” I call B.S. on that because any true fan of racing wants to see racing, not crashing. Take Talladega out of the Chase. It is too unpredictable and too costly, both in points and money.
• I love it as long as NO ONE gets hurt.
• I will admit, I do enjoy a multi-car wreck, but what happened at Talladega is ridiculous. There is no reason that the cars should be that bunched up. NASCAR has hurt themselves by putting too many restrictions, like the restrictor plates.
• Where to start? The destruction of millions of dollars of equipment, so many drivers could have been seriously injured or killed and the end result of the race was ultimately unsatisfying for viewers and for drivers with respect to the Chase standings. There has got to be a way to address this, to keep the excitement about Talladega without this kind of carnage. These are real people in these cars and I am really horrified that it is being portrayed almost like an action movie where everybody gets up and dusts themselves off after the shoot. I don't know why this is tolerated in the sport. They don't replay illegal head hits over and over again to promote future NFL games. This is far worse.
• Even though my driver wrecked, watching those cars four-wide with cars bouncing off each other and the wall while bump drafting through the corners was awesome. The wreck was cool, but without Tony's mistake, I think they were gonna pull off a four-wide pack coming across the finish line for an awesome finish.
• Everybody seemed to be doing their best to win — except Denny Hamlin. I want my Chase champion to be the best, to be a winner, to be smart, but have guts and talent in equal parts. Smoke did everything he could think of to win. It resulted in a less-than-great finish for my driver BUT I prefer an all-out assault on the win to taking it easy, being careful and finishing with a whimper.
• Probably would have thought it was awesome if my driver had made it through the carnage and passed a few guys in the championship race.
• Worse than terrible. Horrendous. Awful. Abhorrent. Repulsive. Dreadful. Disastrous. Revolting. Unpleasant. I just cannot understand what morbid excitement anyone can get from wrecked cars and the possibility that a driver will get hurt or killed. It's eventually going to happen and that's sad.
Was Dale Earnhardt Jr. right in complaining about the racing and calling fans that like the big multi-car wrecks bloodthirsty?
77.1 percent agreed with Dale Jr.
22.9 percent disagreed with Dale Jr.
What Fan Council members said:
• Amen, Junior! What a huge waste! Look at all the steps NASCAR has taken to save the teams money and then they throw it all away in one lap of one race. I've never understood fans that like wrecking. And the media feeds it by repeating every wreck over and over and over again. Races are usually advertised using the wrecks from previous years. “Bloodthirsty” is a good way to put it, and I'm glad Dale Jr. said it. I get really sick of reports that “fans want to see” wrecks. Sometimes I wonder just who those fans are and why everyone is so eager to have those kinds of people as fans.
• This is what fans want to see. It is bloodthirsty but that is what fans are expecting to see. When you see a commercial for race tickets, what do you see? Wrecking, beating and banging. This is what fans want. Look at Bristol: Burton Smith changed the track so fans could get the wrecks back.
• Amen! Dale Jr. is right, it is bloodthirsty and for someone to want that is crazy. Bring on the Gladiators and Lions!!
• Boring as things have been lately, they needed a good wreck.
• Loving a track because it provides massive wrecks like this race at Talladega is no different than being a Roman and enjoying a trip to the Colosseum to watch lions eat Christians. Same level of barbarianism.
• I used to like these big wrecks, but that carnage is scary. I don't care how safe the car is, it feels like playing with fire when we see the Big One.
• No, I don't agree with Dale Jr., but in all fairness what do you expect to come out of a driver's mouth when he was just wrecked on the last lap and is speaking with emotions? Was he supposed to say, "Oh well, that was just racin’ and we will get them the next week." I thought fans wanted to hear emotions out of the drivers.
• Give me a break Dale. Junior had a very different tune when he was winning a bunch of these races. He complained about the tandem racing a couple years ago, saying you can't see anything but the bumper ahead of you. He doesn't like the pack racing either, apparently. Maybe as he gets older he likes it less — I can understand that. But the last lap crash was like every other "Talladega Big One." It is what it is.
• No one who is a true fan would want to see a wreck like that.
Grading Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega
49.3 percent called it Good
19.9 percent called it Great
19.3 percent called it Fair
11.5 percent called it Poor
What Fan Council members said:
• Call me bloodthirsty or a non-purist, but the wreck at the end (and knowing the drivers are well protected) was the best part.
• That was the most fun, exciting race at Talladega for the past few years ... I didn't have a problem with the wreck occurring and I prefer to see the drivers go all out for the win and end up wrecked rather than carefully making their way across the start/finish line and being awarded the victory for their cautious behavior.
• Absolutely the best race of the year. The action was unbelievable and the last two laps were jaw-dropping. Nothing in sports even comes close to the excitement that Talladega delivers!
• This is complete B.S. racing. No wonder the attendance is at its lowest in 15 years. What we saw was a monumental waste of time.
• I attended the race. I love Talladega, however, I only really get interested in the race the last 50 laps or so unlike other tracks where my attention is held all race long.
• While I'm glad to see pack racing and not the terrible tandem trash, that wasn't a race until the last three laps, it was a parade. Should it be changed? Yes, with bulldozers! (RIP DAVID POOLE.)
• The last lap made up for the rest of the race in my opinion. To see “Mr. Don't Block Me” block and wreck half the field was funny. Good race overall.
• Wish I could say it was great. I will say I always respect those that have the ability to be racecar drivers and the amazing skill it takes to race at anywhere, but especially Talladega. One of the good things that did happen was a PINK car won and as a breast cancer survivor this made me happy.
• It was not enjoyable waiting for disaster to happen. Not racing.
• Outstanding race. I felt most of the field was running much more competitively from the drop of the green flag to the finish. The big teams (88, 18, etc.) who got themselves a lap down put on a tremendous battle lap after lap to get in front of each other for the lucky dog. And the GWC! It was four deep row after row after row coming to the white flag! You had to know it wasn't going to last the whole lap. I do wish the race finished clean because it would have been absolutely nuts to see how it developed down the straightaway.
(Photo by ASP, Inc.)
With six races left, what are your feelings about the rest of the season?
39.7 percent say they have mixed emotions
37.4 percent say they’re pumped and can’t wait to see what happens
22.9 percent say they don’t have high expectations for the rest of the year
What Fan Council members said:
• I am pumped to see what is going happen because there is still a lot of racing and the point standings could still be shaken up. I have a feeling something that is totally unexpected is going to happen. Maybe it's just wishful thinking.
• I think the remaining races are gonna leave some people feeling a little let down after seeing what they saw at Talladega. I'm sure I will be watching...but doubt with the same intensity I did for ’Dega.
• I believe it's too hard for anyone to make up much ground in terms of points, so it looks like it's now just a three-man race. With that being said, the Chase has kind of lost its excitement factor.
• I think there will be a lot of boring races with cars strung out and not able to pass or the dreaded fuel-mileage race.
• I have mixed emotions about the final six races. I am glad there will be tons of drama and tons of storylines that we will all talk about until the season is over. I also think it is kinda disappointing that there are "really" only three guys that still have a shot at the title.
• Brad's made being a 2 fan incredibly fun again — it's amazing what he's been able to accomplish. I hesitate to let myself think about what the possibilities are with as good as he's running — but absolutely I'm looking forward to finding out.
• Mile-and-a-half races have been known to be boring. Other than Martinsville, the rest of the Chase may be in trouble as far as entertainment.
• I have very mixed emotions for the rest of the season. With the first three races being boring, I worry that the next ones will be all spread out with no passing or no real racing. I still think there could still be some small changes to keep more of the drivers in the hunt for the championship that would make it more exciting.
• I want to enjoy the championship, but 1.5-mile cookie cutter-tracks bore me to tears. I'm sorry that Brian France is so clueless that he can't understand the difference between a good and a boring race.
• I don't know. It's been a weird Chase so far with not that many have-to-see moments. I hope the rest of the year is better and they don't turn into gas-mileage showdowns.
• The battle between Brad and Jimmie has been excellent. The two best in the sport right now giving it all they’ve got. I am mega-pumped to see Brad take down Five Time.
The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was founded and is administered by Dustin Long. Fans can join by sending Dustin an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.
It’s a NASCAR theme that plays out as regularly as the seasons on the calendar change—in fact, it occurs seasonally, as NASCAR’s four restrictor-plate dates reside in February, May, July and October: The perils of “pack racing” at the sport’s largest venues, Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
Quarterly, television commercials sell viewers on the promise of intense, white-knuckle, photo-finish action, complete with a major-league version of the local Saturday night Demolition Derby.
Make no mistake, the selling points are true. Horsepower-sapping restrictor plates put a ceiling on the power each engine produces. The result is a giant pack of sleek racecars, jostling just inches from one another at nearly 200 mph.
The spectacle is undeniable; the outcome all-too-predictable. Drivers, hellbent on leading the only lap that counts—the last one—fight for every inch of real estate in the race’s final circuits. Inevitably, the paint-swapping turns too aggressive and savagery commences.
Such was the case on Sunday, when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series made its fall pilgrimage to Talladega, Ala., home to the 2.66-mile behemoth superspeedway, with its lurching tri-oval and 33-degree-banked turns.
Filling in the event’s template this trip, it was Matt Kenseth that avoided the big wreck on the final lap of a green-white-checker overtime finish, taking the win. Sunday’s version of the “Big One” was, in fact, an actual big one, as 25 cars piled into one another.
Tony Stewart accepted blame for this trip’s destruction, which occurred as the 30-car pack barreled through Turns 3 and 4. Defending the lead, his ill-timed block of Michael Waltrip’s surging machine ignited the grinding melee that saw Stewart’s car turn upside down, only to land on all four wheels. He, along with all others involved, walked away physically unharmed.
“I just screwed up,” Stewart said. “I turned down across Michael (Waltrip) and crashed the whole field. It was my fault blocking to try to stay where I was.
“I was trying to win the race. Michael got a great run on the bottom, a big head of steam. When I turned down, I turned down across Michael’s racecar. Just a mistake on my part that cost a lot of people.”
Kenseth, meanwhile, had the good fortune to be on the high side of the three-wide pack. As chaos ensued behind his Ford, he had clean track in the windshield and sailed through the tri-oval unchallenged to take the checkered flag.
Somehow (and there’s always a “somehow” in these wrecks) Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch skated past the mess and finished second and third.
Kenseth, as most race-winning survivors state, had little insight into what happened. After all, he was in front of the incident. The obligatory, “I’m really proud to be in Victory Lane with these guys; they worked on it hard today,” and “I don't know how that happened,” was all the victor could muster.
However, other drivers—even those not involved— had strong words about the style of racing on NASCAR’s two largest tracks.
“At the end you know it’s going to get aggressive,” Gordon said. “It started to ramp up, so you’re pretty sure there’s going to be a caution, and then with the green-white-checker, you know you’re not making it back to the checkered (flag).
“I remember when coming to Talladega was fun, I really do, and I haven’t experienced that in a long, long time. I don’t like coming here. I don’t like the type of racing that I have to do.”
The most unlikely critic this time (and there’s always at least one post-race critic), was the man who once championed pack racing: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“If this is what we did every week, I wouldn’t be doing it, I will just put it to you like that,” said Earnhardt, who was swept up in the accident and finished 20th. “If this is how we raced every week, I would find another job.
“I don’t even want to go to Daytona or Talladega next year, but I ain’t got much choice.”
But return the series and its band of driver will. Daytona testing is scheduled for January while Speedweeks at the same facility culminates with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 24.
And the same story will be written then. Just insert here the race-winner’s quote, offending-party’s name and number of cars involved in the last-lap crash.