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Hide your wife, hide your kids, because Talladega’s fixing to get crazy up in here.
We all wanted this day to come, and it has finally arrived: the cut-off of the second round. Talladega Superspeedway’s date. The Day When Everything Goes Cray.
There’s so much to discuss, so I’ll skip the rambling and get on with it. Five questions, five responses from yours truly. Fairness, retaliation and goodbyes are all discussed in this week’s column.
Will we see Charlotte-related retaliation? In case you’ve been living under a rock, Charlotte Motor Speedway ended in a melee between Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth. There was even tackling! It was a great example of the emotions the new Chase format conjures. Denny Hamlin was also involved in a scuffle with Keselowski, and there was a slight tiff between Joey Logano and Danica Patrick. Will we see any responsive actions this weekend? Not only is the answer "no," but it’s "heck no." It would be preposterous to attempt payback at Talladega. The carnage will garner enough entertainment itself. If you’re looking for payback, tune in a week from Sunday; Martinsville Speedway is the perfect place for some rumbling.
What was the reasoning behind Stewart’s penalty? There was another thing that came out of Charlotte: penalties! NASCAR announced Tuesday that Keselowski received a $50,000 fine for his actions, and Tony Stewart’s fine clocked in at $25,000. Both are also on a four-race probation. Many fans are confused on why Stewart was dragged into this mess and what the mainstream media would take away. As expected, news outlets exploited the fine and tied it back to the fatal incident with Kevin Ward Jr. What exactly was NASCAR thinking? Well, they approached it as they would any other driver; they specified that the driver of the No. 14’s actions on pit road resulted in the monetary punishment. The fact of the matter is, he backed into Keselowski around other drivers that had their belts and HANS devices off. This happened after Keselowski sideswiped Kenseth, and the latter driver was mad because he felt endangered. I feel that NASCAR took that into consideration when they divvied out the penalties.
Can an underdog do the thing again? "Do the thing" obviously means winning. Drivers such as David Ragan are great at restrictor plate tracks and have the ability to steal a win. Anything can happen, so don’t count the small teams out. Two others I’m focusing on are Casey Mears and Landon Cassill. Mears knows how to work the draft well; Jimmie Johnson has used him as a dance partner many times. That’s a pretty big seal of approval. Cassill is an enigma to me because he is on the cusp of doing great things. If he had the chance to run for a high-end team, I have no doubt he could do a solid job. This could be the weekend he highlights his skills, which are phenomenal at plate tracks. A spoiler might be in the near future.
If Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t make the Chase, is NASCAR at a disadvantage? Earlier this week, I read an article that talk about the backlash if Johnson made it into the next round. I’ll save you a click: fans wouldn’t be happy. Why? Because that means Dale Earnhardt Jr. would be out of the picture. Look, I understand some people would be disinterested, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The ratings would probably dip more, yet there’s much more excitement to be had in the final four races. However, this isn’t applicable until Junior officially misses the cut-off. No pressure!
Is it fair that Talladega is the cut-off race? This is a question many have been asking since the format was revealed. So many scenarios could kill title hopes. What if a huge wreck happens, and all these drivers get caught up in it? I’m going to be honest: it’s a bit off-putting. Despite that, we also need to remember that LIFE IS NOT FAIR. If these drivers wanted to be locked in and have it easy, they should’ve won one of the past two races. Also, driving like an idiot would increase their chances of not getting eliminated. Drive aggressively, but don’t overdo it, guys.