At Talladega, it’s the lure of the unknown

Looking back on an interesting Geico 500 weekend from Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway:

Folks said they didn’t know what to expect when the field took the green flag for Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway but when has that not been the case at NASCAR’s biggest track?

Talladega has forever been the “unknown” when it comes to the top series, from the first race there in 1969 (PDA boycott) right up until today.

It’s part of its, well, charm sounds too nice.

There’s always been the danger factor and the speed factor and today the folks down there between Atlanta and Birmingham really push the party factor, too.

As long as the racing fits the bill, party on.

NASCAR has been known to change the rules to fit the situation and the situation was no different this time around. When speeds began to climb on Friday (eight cars were clocked at 202-plus during opening practice), adjustments were made. A one-inch wicker bill was added to a spoiler that was already just three inches shy of a foot tall.

The next time on the track, the cars went even faster. Maybe they were more stable …

What happened?

Well, a good race for one. Which wasn’t or should not have been a surprise. After all, it was Talladega and it’s a rare occasion when the 2.66-mile track offers up a dud. Lead changes and three- and four-wide packs and a few crashes that always seem to occur were the order of the day.

In other words, a typical Talladega race. Competitive, interesting and so different from races contested elsewhere.

The series will return to Talladega in October and chances are folks will arrive once again suggesting they don’t know what to expect.

Don’t listen to them though. They know. After all, it’s Talladega.

Chase Elliott became the season’s sixth different race winner when he captured Sunday’s Geico 500. There’s a playoff spot with his name on it, along with ones for Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. (all of Joe Gibbs Racing) as well as Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano (both of Team Penske).

All six of this year’s race winners were playoff participants a year ago.

Where does career win No. 4 put Elliott? At No. 79 on NASCAR’s all-time win list, along with former racers Bob Flock and Chargin’ Charlie Glotzbach and Bobby Hamilton.

Morgan Shepherd, the 77-year-old who still makes the occasional Xfinity Series start, and Ken Schrader also had four career Cup wins, as did Michael Waltrip and Wood Brothers Racing patriarch Glen Wood.

Elliott is one of four drivers to win four times for Hendrick Motorsports – joining Schrader, Kyle Busch and Ricky Rudd.

There’s a four-driver lineup when it comes to wins while working with crew chief Alan Gustafson as well. Elliott (4), Mark Martin (5), Busch (4)) and Jeff Gordon (11). That’s win No. 24 for Gustafson.

The win was the first for Chevrolet this season; dating back to the 2018 Daytona 500 the automaker has five victories and four belong to Elliott.

After sweeping the top three spots at Daytona, it was something of a surprise to see Toyota teams off the mark at Talladega. Kyle Busch was tops for the manufacturer with his 10th-place finish. Truex Jr., led 11 laps, most for the group. He finished 20th.

Busch and teammate Hamlin combined to lead 67 laps at Daytona, where Hamlin won.

The most obvious difference, aside from the rules package – Joe Gibbs Racing drivers worked closely with Hendrick (Chevrolet) teams at Daytona; at Talladega, Chevrolet organizations were practically under orders to work only with one another.

NASCAR penalized the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team Tuesday for a violation found during opening-day inspection at Talladega.

According to the official penalty report, body filler was used on the rear deck lid of the Chevrolet. Per the rule book, the deck lid must be used as supplied by the manufacturer.

Crew chief Danny Stockman has been fined $25,000 and car chief Greg Ebert has been suspended for one Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points race. The team was also docked 10 championship owner and driver points for the L1 infraction.

The only other penalty noted from Talladega – Jeremy Bullins, crew chief for Ryan Blaney, was fined $10,000 for a missing lug nut on the No. 12 Team Penske Ford.

NASCAR officials also noted that Austin Wayne Self, a competitor in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, has completed the sanctioning body’s Road To Recovery program and his suspension has been lifted.

Driving for his family-owned team, Self finished ninth (Daytona), 27th (Atlanta) and 15th (Las Vegas) this season prior to his suspension for a failed drug test.

A two-day Goodyear tire test scheduled for Tuesday/Wednesday, April 20-May 1 at Chicagoland Speedway, was scuttled due to weather concerns. The test has been rescheduled for May 7-8. Drivers listed to participate are Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford), Ryan Newman (Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford) and Paul Menard (Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford).

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