TALLADEGA, Ala — It’s Talladega where close finishes are as normal as big crashes. However, on a day that saw the final margin of victory at .046-seconds, we never saw that big crash. 33 of the 37 drivers to start Sunday’s YellaWood 500 would see the checkered flag. There were 57 lead changes among 17 drivers and just 6 cautions on the day with only 1 of them for a multi-car incident.
Both Joey Logano and Austin Cindric were collected in that early race crash but both however escaped much damage. The plan was still there. Collect stage points early, then ride around. With one big crash already occurring, surely another would follow suit.
All 3 Team Penske drivers were in the top 5 at the end of Stage 1. Ryan Blaney won it, Austin Cindric was 4th and Joey Logano 5th.
That was by design. So was the 2nd stage. Logano was 16th. Cindric was 28th. They were logging laps, happy with the early stage points and even more excited to see a finish to where their sheet metal wasn’t wadded up.
Just think of what they could do with clean cars and others damaged. After all, that’s the norm on these races. More crashed cars than not.
It’s just that, there wasn’t any more crashes. The only caution in the end flew for Daniel Hemric stalling on pit road with 6 laps remaining. Logano was already too far behind to make up any ground. Surely we’d see another yellow, right?
It didn’t happen.
The 3 lap shootout went green to checkered without any interruption of another caution. Logano would only muster a 27th place result. It lost him 19 points in the process in going from +37 entering the weekend to +18.
“We just wreck all the time so we thought, ‘Boy, we’ve got a big points lead, let’s just be smart and don’t wreck,’ and we’ll be able to get out of here with a top 10 assuming they would wreck because they always do,” Logano said after amassing 6 stage points on Sunday. “That was the only time I’ve ever stayed in the back, ever, was today, and they didn’t wreck. We gave up a bunch of our points lead. We’re still plus-18, which is a decent spot to be, but the goal was to race for stage points and then drop to the back and wait for the crash. I hate racing that way. I’ve gotten beat many times from people that do that then I tried it, and it didn’t work.”
It’s ironic he said that. He said this in Texas.
“Do we need more superspeedways?” Logano asked 8 days ago “Is that the type of racing fans want to see? Because when you look at the way that people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, (they) are the ones that are riding around in the back.
“Do you believe that you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back not working, not going up there to put a good race on. They’re riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front trying to win. I don’t think it’s right. That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that.”
That’s what he felt like he had to do on Sunday and it didn’t pan out.
Similar for Cindric but he did rebound to finish 9th. He’d gain 7 points on the cutline as he went from -7 to tied with 1 race remaining in the Round of 12.
“Stage points are a big deal,” Cindric said. “Obviously, helping (Blaney) get a stage win was big and recovery from the wreck, damage control and driving back up through the field, I think when everybody kind of scatters to try and do what’s best for them, it’s very important to be decisive, and I was able to make some good moves and be able to be in some lanes that moved. Call it 50/50 decisiveness and 50 percent luck, but, overall, it certainly puts us in a good spot to race for a spot in the Round of 8 at the Roval, so we’ll put our best foot forward and have some fun next week.”