Excitement, Heart-stopping, Bumping and Grinding, Drafting.
Talladega is usually all of these things. Fall 2016 was different. The drivers except for a few seemed uninterested in going for the win. They seemed content with a 25th or worse place finish. There are only 40 drivers in a race.
This Dega race was the finale of the Contender round of the Chase for the Championship. Only two drivers of the twelve that were left in the chase were safe and guaranteed a spot in the Eliminator Round because they won at Charlotte and Kansas. Those two drivers were Jimmie Johnson, driver of the Lowes 48 Chevy and Kevin "Happy" Harvick driver of the Jimmy Johns 4 Chevy. Even though they were safe, they were driving for the win.
The rest of the Chase drivers which included a contender for Rookie of the Year, Chase Elliott, Penske Team-mates, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, Joe Gibbs Racing aka JGR team of Matt Kenseth, Kyle "Rowdy" Busch, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin, Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kurt Busch aka Rowdy's older brother, Richard Childress driver Austin Dillon, and Furniture Row Racing driver of the 78, Martin Truex Jr. These drivers had to either win or earn enough points to move on to the Eliminator round.
Two of the remaining ten drivers saw their dreams go up in smoke...literally. Truex, who dominated the first round of the chase was the first one to bite to dust with a blown engine. "Big Bad Brad" would join him in the blown engine group with less than 40 laps left when he lead the most laps of the race. If I was either driver, I would be proud of my team because they never gave up and were truly racing.
With two down, that left only two drivers left to be out of the Chase. Elliott was in a win or die situation. Coming into this final race of the Contender round with -24 points it was an near impossible feat that Chase would make the eliminator round. The rookie made risky moves to try to get a second line working but nothing seemed to work in his favor. All in all, I was impressed with his season and expect to see BIG things from him in the 2017 season.
Three drivers are out and four drivers are fighting for their chance to move on. You might wonder why I only said four drivers when I have seven drivers left to discuss. The JGR drivers Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards disrespected the sport in the worst way possible in my opinion. Instead of racing for the win, they decided they had enough points to move on and coasted the back. This pissed me off, as NASCAR has a rule that drivers need to race for the win every single race. I want to know where was the Kenseth that wrecked Joey Logano last year when he was a lap down and JOLO was leading. I want to know where the Rowdy Busch that said, "coming in second is being the first loser" was, and finally I wanted to see Carl Edwards prove that he wants to be there. I hope NASCAR does something to prevent this in the future. Maybe a good fine would whip those boys into shape.
After a caution caused the race to go into overtime, Joey Logano found himself in Victory Lane and Austin Dillon found himself on the outside looking in as Denny Hamlin beat him in the chase points by a single point. (He beat Kurt Busch by .006 seconds.)
All in all, Dega was a boring race with a few notable moments. As a NASCAR fan, I look forward to the restricter plate races and was dissappoointed that it was single file. As the chase moves forward I only hope the drivers will to win increases as well.