Friday, May 3, 2013

Turn and Pray: Five Questions for Talladega

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR
There’s a howling.

A harsh, high-pitched howling.

One that rattles your eardrums and makes you wish you could look away, but you can’t.

This is Talladega, where desire and danger lurk within its turns and banking. As it grows more technical and down-to-the-wire, every false move is heightened. Nerves get hot, and fingers strangle the wheel.

All a driver can do is turn and pray.

However, will these 43 drivers have the art of pack racing to duel with, or will it be a long, training line? How will pressure on three certain drivers change the game? Who listens to their head, who listens to their heart? I ponder that and more in this week’s Five Questions.

Will the single-file restrictor plate racing continue? If you watched the Daytona 500, you saw a beautiful and glorious ... parade. Oh. Well, Talladega is bound to be better, right? Not exactly. Though many thought it would be, the aero package wasn’t changed. This means the same tall spoilers from Daytona will be featured this weekend, most likely resulting in a similar racing style. As exciting as restrictor plate racing seems, it won’t be the case this weekend.

Does Tony Stewart turn it around at his favorite track? When we last came here, it ended in disaster with Stewart on his hood. His comments about the track weren’t so pretty, either. The irony will be bittersweet if he has success here; he’s thriving on a track he hates, though he really needs that good run. It doesn’t seem likely that a breakthrough will occur this weekend, but there’s always hope. Hope that Stewart really needs right now.

Can Keselowski, Logano or Kenseth flourish under pressure? Some say pressure pushes people to perform better. If that hypothesis is true, we should see good performances from Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth. While these three are under the watchful eye of NASCAR, they should be putting the pedal to the metal and getting some wins, right? Right?

Birthday boy and race winner? Kyle Busch turned 28 on Thursday, and the best gift to himself would be a big ol’ win at Dega. With a win and a handful of top fives and tens, Busch can double up by avoiding trouble to get that win. Who doesn’t like a nice trophy for their birthday? I know Kenseth loves it.

Do drivers listen to their hearts too much? With Denny Hamlin being cleared for racing at Talladega (at least for a few laps), and the question I posed last week, it’s starting to look like the injuries are being put aside and the desire is center-stage. Now, the passion is refreshing, but it’s unnerving to think that all caution is being abandoned. Someone needs to tell the drivers that the racing can wait; their health and safety is the number one priority.

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