[media-credit name=”(c) CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”236″][/media-credit]Clint Bowyer was inches away from making it back-to-back victories at Talladega Super Speedway in Sunday’s photo finish. Thanks to the new two-car tangos though, it was Jimmie Johnson pushed by teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the finish line first.
For Bowyer there is no solace in the fact that he was apart of NASCAR history. The finish between Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet and Bowyer’s No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet ties the finish at Darlington in 2003 as the closest in history. Sunday the margin of victory was marked at 0.02 seconds, the closest finish since the sport went to electronic scoring.
“Hell, no, that sucks,” he said laughing. “It’s never very good to know you made NASCAR history by losing. Sooner or later I need to start making history by winning.”
While Bowyer wasn’t happy he didn’t win, he was apart of what helped make those watching walk away from the day a little happier. It’s hard to find anyone who is a fan of the Noah’s Ark racing as it’s been called where drivers pair up in twos. Gone are the days of the big packs and racing three or four wide.
Trying to win at Daytona or Talladega is not in the driver’s hands anymore, they don’t control their own destiny. It’s about finding a partner and sticking with them all day and hoping they don’t mess up and take both cars out. Then at the end, hope you’re being the driver pushed to the finish line.
It’s what occurred throughout Speedweeks at Daytona in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup race. It occurred again this past weekend in both races. In two of the four plate races in the 2011 season, between Nationwide and Cup, the winner was determined by a photo finish. Yesterday’s Nationwide race could have been had the caution not come out on the final lap as Kyle Busch and Joe Nemecheck ran side-by-side coming off turn four.
“Here is the thing,” said Bowyer, “It doesn’t matter what happened throughout that race or what your thought was. If you didn’t like that finish and it didn’t make you forget about the race, you’re crazy.”
He continued, “Something about that, it just makes you forget about it and makes it — if it was a problem, it ain’t a problem anymore. You know, it always seems to fix itself at the end of these restrictor plate races. It doesn’t matter who is up there. You know, whether it’s ten cars or 43 cars left, it’s always a hell of a finish at these plate races, and always comes right down to the wire for whatever reason. You know, that wasn’t a green-and-white checkered; you thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be, and it never presented it receive. But it was still, you know, an unbelievable finish.”
Jeff Gordon, who finished third, said that when the new car was created and because of how much boxier it is the end result became this new racing. He also said that two-car drafting won’t be going away any time soon and he like Dale Earnhardt Jr. say they aren’t engineers and don’t know what could be done to change it.
“I thought that was pretty fun there at the end, whether I was pushing or being pushed,” Gordon said. “Those last ten, 15 laps are fun from a driver standpoint.”
Coming down to the finish line and determining the winner by a photograph and/or slow motion is the only thing keeping the fans watching. Unfortunately for NASCAR, rumblings have already started from some who say they won’t be renewing their tickets for the next restrictor plate race. Or after attending one race in the weekend didn’t go back for the following day’s event.
Plate racing is not as it once was and believe it or not, they actually now prefer the big pack racing. Two-by two, they say, is just not worth spending the money or the travel time on.
Throughout Sunday’s broadcast it was easy to see and hear their displeasure. Having to sit in front of the TV for three hours and watching two car hookups did not bring out the excited race fan that plate racing normally does. From the TV announcers trying to name the new racing to what some believed was very little excitement; fans weren’t having any of it and are screaming for NASCAR to do something.
Those are the fans that even bothered to continue watching. Others reported they tuned in to the start of the event then went about their business until they end when they came back to see who won. Two-by-two racing isn’t the in thing in 2011. They don’t like, don’t want it and don’t mind saying so.
They aren’t the only ones. Drivers, most notably Dale Earnhardt Jr., have been very vocal about the racing. Early this weekend the five-time Talladega winner said the racing was garbage. During the Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 radio communication between drivers included words like ‘crazy,’ ‘stupid’ and ‘idiotic’ when describing what they were going through.
In the end it was all worth it though, even if the racing wasn’t. The finish was one for the record books, already has everyone talking and gives high hopes for a repeat at Daytona in July. The race also tied the Sprint Cup Series record for number of lead changes with 88, the final lead change coming on the last lap at the finish line.
“Pretty damn good race,” said winner Johnson.