We wondered how all the unknowns were going to be answered in June’s GEICO 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway. With some major adjustments to the racing package and having no practice time to test them out, how would the GEICO 500 look?
It was actually one of the more thrilling races we’ve seen in awhile. We saw 43 lead changes in last year’s race, but 13 more on the Monday rain delayed event for a total of 56 lead changes up front in Monday’s rain delayed race.
19 of the 40 starters led at least one lap. We saw the third closest finish in Talladega history with minimal crashes.
That’s how a race is supposed to look.
“Yeah, the runs did seem a little slower,” said third place finisher Aric Almirola. “The other thing I noticed was with the cars going a little bit slower, we didn’t get the typical single file out right around the fence. We kind of stayed more packed up and together, which to me, I thought there was going to be more wrecks because of it. Early in the race I saw what I had in my racecar, I thought I had a really fast car. I chose to kind of ride around and survive.
“These races usually have a lot of attrition, a lot of wrecks, the big one. I thought our strategy was to make sure we were there at the end. We did that. The package seemed to keep the cars a lot closer together. Nobody really broke away.”
Second place finisher Ricky Stenhouse Jr. agreed.
“I thought it was great racing,” said the JTG Daugherty Racing driver. “You had to work really hard to form your line and really work the side draft, pushing cars, getting cars to push you. You had to work hard for it.
“I thought that was great racing. I felt like everybody kept their cars in control. We had some big saves out there. I saw I think the 12, the 11, 22, myself a couple times, get pretty sideways, but gather it back in.
“The third lane I felt like with this package got hurt the most. It seemed like you could get some runs going, but it would stall out pretty quick. Seemed like the bottom and middle were the way to go. It kind of took the top lane out of it, which in turn a lot of times we run single file around the top and the race can get kind of stale.
“I thought overall the package was really good. I don’t think any driver is going to have any complaints about it.”
This is all great news as NASCAR continues to adapt with this package. They didn’t want tandem racing and they got none of it. They wanted to slow the cars down and they succeed in that. Everything they tried to do, panned out.
Kudos to their engineering team in doing this. Now, what happens with a more aggressive playoff race this weekend? Will everyone be a bit calmer or will the thought of stage points create chaos early and often?