What a mess.
The Camping World 500 at Talladega was going to be a spectacle. The level that spectacle went far beyond what most fans could expect, and it will certainly impact how Sprint Cup fans watch the final four races of the year. Here’s a breakdown of winners and losers from Talladega in this NASCAR recap.
Win: Kevin Harvick
Did Harvick wreck on purpose? Only the driver himself knows. The reality is that Harvick looked a lap away from losing his title defense. Now, he returns to the scenes of his greatest professional run from last year with a chance to win back-to-back titles. And with Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson on the outside of the Chase, there’s no reason to think a Harvick repeat is impossible.
How can NASCAR prove Kevin Harvick intentionally wrecked? Unless there’s audio (think Clint Bowyer from Richmond,) NASCAR is powerless against tanking. What’s worse, the Harvick situation brings up several flawed realities about the Chase:
- Why was Trevor Bayne on the track? Why is any driver on the track during NASCAR’s playoffs if they aren’t in the playoffs? If there were 12 drivers on the track, I’m not sure this can happen.
- What about driver safety? Matt Kenseth insists Joey Logano wrecked him last week. It was in Logano’s best interest as a driver to keep Kenseth out of the Chase, just as it was in Harvick’s best interest to wreck Sunday. How does that mesh with the a safer sport?
- What about the entire regular season? Harvick dominated the first 26 races. What is that worth? What about winning a Chase race?
The stakes seem diproporately high, which allows for a controversy like this to trump the action on the track. There are no easy answers to this situation, but it merits review in the offseason.
Draw: Joe Gibbs Racing
From picking Gibbs vs. The Field to losing two cars in one race, JGR had a tough Sunday.
On the other hand, Matt Kenseth was in trouble prior to Talladega and simply hit more bad luck. Gibbs also has two cars in the field, and the tracks set up well. Kyle Busch should contend next week; Carl Edwards has great records at all four remaining tracks. Is JGR unbeatable? Not anymore. Do they need to be in order to win the Sprint Cup? Not anymore.
From one big spectacle at Talladega to one small paperclip at Martinsville, the 2015 Sprint Cup season continues. Enjoy the media blitz, and insert a random catchphrase here.