Talladega is the biggest oval track on the NASCAR circuit and it has also been proven to be one of the wildest tracks in the NASCAR season as well.
Last weekend was the first stop of the year for the Sprint Cup Series at the 2.66 mile track in Alabama, it also marked the only stop of the year for the Nationwide series at the superspeedway.
Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski won the two races and both did it in different styles, but in addition to the winners the Aaron’s dream weekend as the weekend is known (because the Aaron’s company sponsors both the races the Aaron’s 312 and Aarons 499) taught some lessons to fans and drivers alike as they move forward on the season.
- The first lesson that we learned from this weekend is that there will be a tight points battle in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series for the rest of the year.
Sprint Cup Series:
It is true that Greg Biffle has led the points in the Sprint Cup series for the last eight weeks, but coming into Talladega, Biffle had just a five point lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. Leaving Talladega, Biffle has a seven point buffer between him and second place Matt Kenseth.
Biffle has held onto the points lead with strong runs, but his points lead has remained tight all year. Even though Biffle has remained atop the points standings, he is the only one that has stayed place in the last couple weeks. After Talladega, 12 of the top 13 drivers in points changed at least one position. This is very typical for a restrictor plate race, but the points behind Biffle have been changing hands almost every week. With 16 races left before the chase starts, points will become more important each week.
In the Nationwide series, the points lead finally changed hands, after weeks of knocking on the door, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finally passed Elliott Sadler to take the official points lead. Stenhouse Jr. has a five point lead over Sadler.
All season the two drivers on top of the points lead in the Nationwide series have been chasing each other both on the track and in the points. Both drivers have two wins each and week-in and week-out the two drivers are usually found close to each other on the track.
This week was no exception. The two drivers had two drastically different strategies for the Talladega race, with Stenhouse riding in the back of the field for most of the day, while Sadler stayed in the front. Sadler was involved in a late race wreck, but his crew was able to repair the car and allow him to finish in the top-10.
- The second thing we learned this weekend, Kyle Busch has found his mid-season stride.
A look at the stat sheet will show you that the best and worst finish of the weekend for Kyle Busch was second place.
Sprint Cup Series:
Kyle Busch appeared to be in position to win the Aaron’s 499 he was second going into turns three and four, but Brad Keselowski put a unique move on Busch and there was nothing Busch could do, but watch Keselowski win the race.
For most of the race, Busch was in the middle of the pack, just riding around, not really making a move to the front. It wasn’t until the laps were winding down that Busch started to find his way to the front. In the end, Busch was able to follow Keselowski and finish second, for the second time at Talladega this weekend.
Coming off a win at Richmond and going into a stretch of the season where Busch has recorded wins in seven of the next nine events, it appears that Busch has gotten into mid-season form just in time.
It took a while, but Kyle Busch Motorsports has also started to come into its own in the series. After winning at Richmond with Kurt Busch driving the No. 54, the same team was sitting in the lead until the tri-oval on Saturday.
It was a rough start for the KBM team, with more wrecked cars than finishes, but that has turned around lately and after two good runs at two different track types, KBM might have gotten past the growing pains that come with a new team.
- It was also learned this weekend that innovation is alive in the sport.
Sprint Cup Series:
After having the slingshot move put on him in the Nationwide series, Kyle Busch said in his post-race press conference that the one position you didn’t want to be on the final lap was in the lead at Talladega. Interestingly, that is exactly where Brad Keselowski found himself on Sunday with Busch pushing him.
However, when the checkered flag flew it was Keselowski that out drove Busch to the win. How Keselowski did it was something that no one had seen. Keselowski went high into three and pulled down, breaking the tandem and allowing Keselowski to get the win.
This shows that drivers are still trying what they can to win every race. Keselowski told reporters after the race that he had been planning that move for a while, he just didn’t have a chance try it out until today.
Some people might argue that the Sprint Cup Series has lost some of its roots with the rules packages the way they are and teams being put in a box, but Keselowski was able to think how to get the advantage while being stuck in that box.