Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sprint Cup 2012: Race 10 -- Talledega's Hot Plate Special

Talladega provides the most unusual of challenges where NASCAR looks for challenging ways to slow cars down ever since Bill Elliot’s 212 mph lap and Bobby Allison’s car launching like a rocket into the stands in the late 1980’s ushering in the restrictor plate era for the sport’s two longest tracks. Meanwhile, no matter what limitations are thrown at the competition, the teams always search for ways to out pace their competitors finding more speed up against the limits, the latest is the pop-off valve – a sneaky little innovation that is designed to punish excellence – as in two cars paring up together to blow away the field.

The big story as the Sprint Cup tour descends upon Talladega, Alabama for the Aaron’s 499 is one that will become increasingly louder until the feat is accomplished, car owner, Rick Hendrick’s, 200th win with the subtext of when two of his all-star drivers, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will break their long winless streaks mindful that their last win was in Kansas, last October, with Jimmy Johnson. To that end, Jeff Gordon, one of Talladega’s most successful drivers sits on the pole for tomorrow’s contest. Kasey Kahne also has a top ten starting spot lining up in 5th while Earnhardt in 18th and Jimmy Johnson in 19th will have to work through the field to put themselves in a position to win.

A.J. Allmendinger, surely the series’ best driver never to win a race, starts second in the Penske #22 Dodge while the rest of the top ten looks like a Ford feast with only Tony Stewart added to the top starters in the #14 Chevrolet in 8th. Meanwhile, the “Blue Ovals” are dominating the top spots with Richard Petty’s drivers Marcos Ambrose and Aric Almirola in 3rd and 4th then the Roush in 6th and 7th, Biffle and Edwards. 10th and 11th are Fords too, Matt Kenseth and part-time Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne. Michael Waltrip running one of his limited scheduled races gives Mark Martin the weekend off starting in 9th as the top Toyota.

Another observation is that with 44 entries for 43 spots, how many entries are pure garbage that really don’t belong in the field – between the customary “start and park” rip-offs and some other extremely marginal teams, once again NASCAR shows a crying need to reduce the starting field to a more competitive number of entries. Certainly anywhere from five to ten reductions would make for a much more dynamic starting lineup with all teams either contenders or hard at work to sneak in a win. Considering the surge of the 1990’s and early 2000’s and that the 43 car starting line-up was not mandatory at all tracks until 1988, it is realistic that the sport dial back to what should assure the highest quality racing at the top level and even more so for the Nationwide Series which aside from moonlighting Sprint Cup rides, has only a handful of genuinely talented regulars, a field littered with “has been’s” and pathetic “wanna-be’s.”

Teams will be running with the cooling system pop-off valves designed to make cars overheat if they race in two car tandems just like what was done for the Daytona 500; however, much hotter weather could make this even more of an issue. Look for the big packs fans have come to expect at the great Indian burial ground.

Tomorrow’s entries line up as follows:

124Jeff GordonChevroletDuPont 20 Years191.624
222AJ AllmendingerDodgeShell / Pennzoil-AAA191.111
39Marcos AmbroseFordStanley191.039
443Aric AlmirolaFordVerifone Sail190.981
55Kasey KahneChevroletFarmers Insurance190.772
616Greg BiffleFord3M / O'Reilly Auto Parts190.586
799Carl EdwardsFordFastenal190.586
814Tony StewartChevroletOffice Depot / Mobil 1190.476
955Michael WaltripToyotaAaron's "Color your way to Talladega"190.245
1017Matt KensethFordBest Buy190.200
1121Trevor BayneFordMotorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center190.170
1242Juan MontoyaChevroletTarget / Kraft190.140
132Brad KeselowskiDodgeMiller Lite190.072
1439Ryan NewmanChevroletBass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats190.064
1556Martin Truex Jr.ToyotaNAPA Auto Parts189.958
1626Josh Wise*FordMorristown Driver's Service189.958
1727Paul MenardChevroletTurtle Wax / Menards189.906
1888Dale Earnhardt Jr.ChevroletNational Guard / Diet Mountain Dew189.864
1948Jimmie JohnsonChevroletLowe's189.797
2029Kevin HarvickChevroletRheem189.785
2118Kyle BuschToyotaM&M's189.691
2211Denny HamlinToyotaFedEx Express189.680
231Jamie McMurrayChevroletBass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats189.601
2415Clint BowyerToyotaAaron's / Alabama National Champions189.556
2513Casey MearsFordGEICO189.477
2638David GillilandFordTaco Bell189.354
2730David StremmeToyotaStock Car Steel and Aluminum189.331
2832Terry LabonteFordC&J Energy189.182
2931Jeff BurtonChevroletCaterpillar189.100
3020Joey LoganoToyotaDollar General189.073
3178Regan SmithChevroletFurniture Row / Farm American189.051
3234David RaganFordFront Row Motorsports189.021
3351Kurt BuschChevroletPhoenix Construction Services188.984
3410David ReutimannChevroletTommy Baldwin Racing188.902
3598Michael McDowellFordCurb Records188.630
3697Bill ElliottToyotaNEMCO Motorsports188.171
3787Joe / Pellet & Wood Stoves188.012
3836Dave BlaneyChevroletGolden Corral187.625
3923Robert Richardson Jr.ToyotaNorth Texas Pipe186.710
4083Landon CassillToyotaBurger King / Dr Pepper186.293
4193Travis KvapilToyotaBurger King / Dr Pepper186.206
4247Bobby LabonteToyotaBush's Baked Beans185.790
4333Tony RainesChevroletLittle Joe's Autos186.529

J.J. Yeley, car #49 failed to qualify.

No comments: