OK, it’s Uncle Jimmy’s story time, otherwise known as confessions of a fan who has a convoluted view of Talladega. If I may let the fan in my out, I was rooting big time for Mark Martin in 2009. He had taken a big swig from the Fountain Of Youth, and the (at that time) five-time championship runner-up was making a spirited run at Jimmie Johnson’s “four-peat.” It was a feel good story in the making.
This was during that era when Johnson was darn near indestructible. You had to have your “A+” game going to beat the 48. Martin said he felt “lucky,” but getting caught up in that last mess with Kurt Busch and a cast of thousands was anything but (see video by clicking here). He had some other misfortunes that caused him to give way to Johnson, but on this day, I was furious. I like Jamie McMurray, but to have THIS race play a major role in Martin’s demise had me so furious at NASCAR, I was ready to walk away from it.
This isn’t to say Talladega doesn’t belong on the NASCAR schedule, but to think the fortunes of more than one playoff contender hinges on a restrictor plate race is pure madness. ANYONE in the field can win this right by virtue of the right drafting partners, avoiding the dreaded “big one” and keeping the engine together for the long haul. Admittedly, some have a knack for winning at Talladega, it has enjoyed the distinction of being Dale Earnhardt Jr’s. playground. He may be a student of the draft, but let’s not kid ourselves, there’s more than a pinch of luck in that winning formula.
Sure, like many other fans, yours truly does find a certain attraction to the track, though the pre-plate days were more fun. There’s lots of good memories of Dale Sr., Awesome Bill and the Allisons tearing it up at the site of what is essentially a NASCAR Mardi Gras. It’s kind of fun to have a wild card race, or two on the schedule, but in the Chase? No.
It’s definitely a love/hate thing. It was sweet to see Jamie Mac end a long dry spell at Talladega. It was momentarily cool to see Dave Blaney (Ryan’s dad) take a good run at a win. You can count me as a fan who was fine with Earnhardt’s spring victory. It just doesn’t belong in a playoff format. For the love of all that’s decent, PUT A ROAD COURSE in the Chase! Win on one of those and you have done something!
I’ll watch with nervous anticipation, knowing full well this will be a race we’ll be talking about for a long time….for better or for worse.