The Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway ended with only one multi-car wreck. This stunned several drivers and other members of the garage who expected chaos at several points, including on the final restart.
“My stomach and gut hurt right now from just agonizing in the car every lap about when’s the wreck gonna happen?” Ross Chastain told reporters after finishing fourth. “Am I going to cause it? Am I going to get spun getting pushed? I know we didn’t crash, but we were trying to. I was fully prepared to.”
The lone multi-car incident midway through Stage 1. Harrison Burton moved up to the top line, but he spun after a push from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. He kicked off a wreck that collected Noah Gragson, Joey Logano, Ty Gibbs, Austin Cindric, Justin Haley, and Justin Allgaier. Though only Burton and Gibbs were unable to continue in the race.
“Honestly, yeah, with how hard we were pushing each other and some big shots there — I mean, I was full cross arm locked a couple times,” a surprised Ryan Blaney said about the lack of wrecks, quote courtesy of Ford Performance. “I think everyone’s gotten better at this speed of taking pushes and what to expect.
“I think everyone’s gotten more skilled and knowledgeable about it. You still have to be careful what you do, but it just shows that we can push real hard and not really cause any big wrecks, even though I thought we should have had some today. It’s good we didn’t. We had one early, but it was never a big one.”
A Potential Wreck Changed a Playoff Driver’s Strategy
The races at Talladega Superspeedway aren’t necessarily caution-heavy other than the 2020 YellaWood 500 which featured 13 yellow flags. The past three Talladega races featured seven, five, and six cautions, respectively. However, there is always concern about the “big one” that could occur and collect a significant portion of the field.
These concerns are so great that they actually changed the strategy of one playoff driver. Joey Logano went against his nature and ran around near the back of the field after getting collected in the lone multi-car incident. Though this change in strategy backfired as he ultimately finished 27th and surrendered his points lead to winner Chase Elliott.
“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 the race. “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.”
Chase Briscoe Provided an Interesting Perspective
There certainly was a considerable amount of surprise from the drivers that made it to the end of the race. They did not expect the majority of stock cars to head to the haulers with very little damage.
Chase Briscoe, the driver of the No. 14 Ford Mustang, provided a different perspective on the race. He explained that while there were no wrecks, there was still a considerable amount of aggressiveness during a unique trip to Talladega Superspeedway. The drivers were on the edge as they pushed to make big moves.
“I mean, it was tame in the sense there was no wreck, but I think that was the most racy race from start to finish,” Briscoe said. “We barely ever ran single-file and these cars it’s so hard to make up ground. It seems like track position is such a big deal and you’ve got guys pushing so hard, just trying to maintain the lane that they’re in. I guess from my side of things it was really racy because you’re never really riding around.
“You’ve got to go so hard all the time and shove the guy in front of you. We never really got single-file around the top, but I was surprised we didn’t see a wreck. I was figuring with how out of control these cars are when you get pushes from the back, especially the big ones we were having there towards the end I figured something was gonna happen. I’m glad there wasn’t anything happening, but it was kind of a surprise to me.”
Despite the increased aggressiveness among the drivers, they managed to avoid kicking off the Big One. The result was a much-needed “calm” race after fires, blown tires, and unexpected mechanical issues disrupted the first four events of the playoffs.