Did The End Justify The Means?

Charlotte, NC (April 18, 2011) – This is one time where you have to wonder if the end justified the means. You’ll get no argument here that the finish to the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway was one of the most incredible in the history of auto racing. Eight cars, four wide in a 200 miles per hour dash to the checkered flag? Nobody has ever seen that before. Unfortunately, what everyone saw before that really made you wonder – is this really great racing? We don’t even know where to begin in assessing what troubles us about the most about this kind of motorsport. Here are just four of our concerns in no particular order.

First – one car can’t pass another without a push from the car behind. Inherent in ‘restrictor-plate racing,’ this has peeved us from the day NASCAR introduced the engine horsepower reducing device in the late 1980’s. What’s the point of spending zillions of dollars on research and development of 800 horsepower engines so you can throw a brick on the top of the carburetor to choke it down to 500 ponies or so?

There just has to be a better way slow the cars and despite 20-plus years of trying to find one, NASCAR doesn’t seem to be any closer to an answer that will satisfy both competition and safety concerns.

Second – in its current incarnation, plate racing has the second driver in the tandem flying blind at 200 miles per hour. Want to know what that’s like? Tuck in behind a semi on the Interstate at 70 miles an hour and ride there for three hours, never getting an inch off the back bumper. Seriously, don’t do this, but you get the picture.

The safety compromise here alone should be enough to have NASCAR seriously reconsidering rule changes before the races Daytona and Talladega again later this year.

Third – As a long-time NASCAR race spotter, we’d never give our driver to another spotter during the race.


Call it old school, but if our driver is going to win or wreck during the race, then it’s on us, good or bad.

Also, allowing someone else – someone who you are trying to beat – control your chances of winning or losing so totally compromises the spirit of competition that it makes our head spin.

Supposedly, this is somehow safer, but after the carnage at Talladega yesterday, is it really?

Four – More haves, more have nots.

Was there ever any question that one of the mega teams would win Sunday? Sure, you can say that about just about any NASCAR Cup race, but when four-car teams can have their drivers openly choreograph moves and gang up on the competition, it just makes it worse than ‘normal.’

At a track that historically produced unlikely winners, it was way cool seeing independent drivers Regan Smith and Dave Blaney in front at Talladega. But if you thought one of them could win yesterday, you may want to have your prescription changed.

That’s no disrespect to Smith and Blaney. You could argue that Smith gets more out his equipment than anyone on the Cup tour and Blaney is a solid veteran. They raced their tails off Sunday, but the only reason those guys got pushed to the front was out of necessity. There was never any question that it was going to be a Hendrick, RCR or Roush car/driver was going to win this race.

We could go on here, but you get the point. Sunday’s Talladega Cup race will be trumpeted by NASCAR and the media as an amazing show. It certainly was that, but was it great ‘racing?’

The jury is still out on that – especially at our house.

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