Though Sunday was full of great racing and close-calls, the Sprint Cup Series finish at Talladega Superspeedway left the drivers relieved and everyone else underwhelmed. Many expected The Big One to strike, yet an incident involving Austin Dillon occurred during the last lap in turn two. This set the field up for a finish under caution.
Pack racing filled most of the track, bringing that nail-biting experience fans crave at a restrictor-plate venue. The lead changed every lap, a few cautions dotted the day, and everyone made it out safe. That paints the picture of a perfect race.
However, with seven to go, the cars began to thin out, and a single-file line formed. The top ten seemed content with their positions as the laps dwindled. Nobody was making a move.
With less than a lap left, Dillon was poised to change that, and it backfired. He was in third, set to break away with second-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. and make a run. Earnhardt Jr. didn’t attempt it, and Dillon went for a spin.
The yellow flag flew as the No. 14 was thrust into the air by Casey Mears, twirling vertical in the air like a ballerina, landing on four tires afterwards. Per the NASCAR rulebook, the caution ended the race and froze the field, determining Jamie McMurray as the race winner. A restrictor-plate ace, his win for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing wasn’t a complete surprise.
What many fans are asking is, “Why were the drivers in a single-file line? Were they scared of wrecking?” That answer is (partially) yes. After last year’s melee, some drivers were most likely apprehensive about going for it. Although it created a “sub-par” finish, it was a smart idea.
Talladega always brings the unexpected, yet this was a different type of unexpected. One that we aren’t use to. But, and this is very important, it was a safe finish after a day of hard racing. That’s something to cheer about.
Point Standings after Talladega
1. Jimmie Johnson (–)
2. Matt Kenseth (-4)
3. Kyle Busch (-26)
3. Kevin Harvick (-26)
5. Jeff Gordon (-34)
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-52)
7. Greg Biffle (-53)
8. Clint Bowyer (-57)
9. Kurt Busch (-61)
10. Carl Edwards (-68)
11. Ryan Newman (-72)
12. Joey Logano (-75)
13. Kasey Kahne (-101)