Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Talladega tumble didn’t slow Jamie McMurray

Leave a comment

So what does one do in the days after tumbling multiple times at Talladega Superspeedway?

Go for a ride.

Not like what Jamie McMurray took a week ago in Cup practice at Talladega, mind you. A different kind of ride.

He went on a 60-mile bike ride Wednesday that featured 8,000 feet of climbing.

“It’s crazy to have a wreck that is that spectacular to watch and that many flips and tumbles and I really didn’t even have a bruise on my body,’’ McMurray said Friday at Dover International Speedway. “I got to look at the car on Monday and it is amazing how much the roll cage was smashed in, but then how everything around me was still perfect. 

“I actually got our whole fab shop and the guys together on Tuesday when I was at the shop to thank everyone. I feel like a lot of times we get our team together to thank for performance and I told them, I’m like this is a completely different meeting: I am thanking you for keeping me safe. … When you have a wreck like that, you are super appreciative of all the attention to detail that NASCAR and the teams put into the cars.”

McMurray also exchanged friendly texts with Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, who competes in IndyCar and had a spectacular crash in last year’s Indianapolis 500.

“He sent me a text to ask if I was okay,’’ McMurray said. “I sent him the laughing emoji back. ‘I’m like ‘I have nothing on you.’ ”

 and on Facebook

NASCAR America: Chase Elliott frustrated at the wrong people

1 Comment

Chevrolet driver Chase Elliott was frustrated by the lack of help from Ford drivers in the closing laps of the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, but there wasn’t much more that the field could do under the current rules package according to NASCAR America analysts Parker Kligerman and Jeff Burton.

Elliott should have been frustrated by the NASCAR executives who created the current restrictor-plate superspeedway rules package.

“This is my problem with this package,” Kligerman explained. “I’ve had a gripe with this package since we’ve run it the last couple of years. Where it seems like to develop runs – to make the energy to make the run, at times with too few cars, it’s too tough.”

Burton agreed that the problem was that the field had been thinned by the multi-car accident that occurred on lap 167.

Chase Elliott said if he had one other guy go with him it would have made the difference; it wouldn’t have,” Burton said.

“You have to have two-wide, three-wide with this package to get those runs,” Burton continued. “It’s hard to just drag your brakes … As we roll forward and look at the end of the race, where Chase Elliott was so frustrated, there just weren’t enough cars.”

For more, watch the above video.

NASCAR America Scan All: “I just Cole Trickled that son-of-a-gun”

Leave a comment

“You’re gonna pucker up when you see this one,” Kevin Harvick told his spotter after the first of two multi-car wrecks in the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. He wasn’t wrong.

His colorful comment was only one of many caught in this week’s Scan All on NASCAR America.

Other highlights include:

  • “They’re pretty much all out of control; just some more than others.” – Harvick.
  • “Tell those morons to quite driving in front of me.” – Aric Almirola.
  • “I made it through somehow. Tagged in the right rear just a little bit, but I got through it.” – Austin Dillon.
  • “There is going to be some serious carnage here when we start racing.” – Chase Elliott.
  • “I’m telling you right now, I’m going to go buy a lottery ticket after the race. I couldn’t see anything. I Cole Trickled that son-of-a-gun.” – Gray Gaulding after driving through a crash.

For more of what the drivers and spotters had to say, watch the above video.

Ryan: More rules changes needed for NASCAR’s next Talladega race?

Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
7 Comments

It’s a fine line – usually a split-second bobble or a mistimed flick of a steering wheel between breathtaking exhilaration and bone-chilling dread at Talladega Superspeedway.

Sunday might have confirmed the margin is just as narrow with rules changes at the 2.66-mile oval.

The well-intended removal of ride-height restrictions (to help reduce the likelihood of cars getting airborne) might have seemed benign on its face, but it produced the most ill-handling pack of 200-mph missiles at Talladega in years.

From the moment Cup drivers took the wheel (and surely from the moment Jamie McMurray’s No. 1 Chevrolet barrel-rolled down the backstretch seven and a half times early in Friday practice), there was a general unease about the dearth of drivability in the pack.

Confidence helps in the literal death-defying environs of a restrictor-plate race, and when things get extremely skittish, a single line usually forms – a quasi-sit down strike in which drivers effectively log laps with the tacit understanding that everyone plays nice until the final 100 miles.

But the difference Sunday was that even when drivers wanted to force the action, they couldn’t. With cars low to the ground and lacking downforce and stability, scooting to the front was as tough as it’s ever been at the track where Dale Earnhardt famously charged from 18th to first in the final five laps of his last win.

The 25 lead changes were the fewest at Talladega since 20 in the Oct. 11, 1998 race, but it wasn’t an anomaly – the total lead changes in each of the past seven races were 30, 26, 31, 37, 30, 27 and 38 after a stretch in which 13 of 18 races from 2005-14 featured at least 50 lead changes. (Per an astute number-crunching fan, quality passes also hit a record low for the spring race at Talladega.)

Racing at Talladega has been creeping this way as increased emphasis on handling has lessened the free-for-all nature that normally has defined NASCAR’s biggest and fastest track.

As Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick, told NBCSports.com’s Dustin Long postrace Sunday, handling has become so important to performance, winning teams bring cars better suited for downforce than raw speed (a concept that once would have been unheard of at Talladega).

And approaching a plate race as if it were an event at Kansas, Charlotte or Chicagoland seems to produce a different brand of racing.

Rather than form the massive packs with rows three wide and 10 deep, drivers for at least one championship-contending team were instructed before Sunday’s race to avoid heavy traffic (and the pileups that invariably occur with it).

There still were two multicar crashes, one triggered by a seven-time champion losing control.

Has NASCAR made the cars too difficult to drive at Talladega?

NASCAR chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell indicated Monday that there would be no changes for the July 7 plate race at Daytona International Speedway, which is understandable given that the 2018 Daytona 500 produced a highly entertaining spectacle with the same rules.

But on the next trip to Talladega in five months, it might be wise to restore drafting confidence via stability. When the Drivers Council meets with NASCAR this week, the feedback might be “if you give us a larger spoiler or a minimum rear ride height, we will race better.”

Yes, the tradeoff might be higher speeds (presuming last Friday’s plate change is reversed) along with the increased likelihood of cars lifting off the pavement and going airborne – the preventive reason that restrictor plates were introduced 30 years ago to choke down horsepower (after Bobby Allison’s car sailed into the Talladega catchfence in the May 3, 1987 race).

But if the fan reviews were as mixed as social media indicated, it could be a move that NASCAR is forced to make, just as it was in the elimination of tandem drafting because of vehemently negative feedback.

Unfortunately, a cardinal rule of restrictor-plate racing is that safer isn’t always better for the show.


Sunday’s most intriguing storyline easily was Chase Elliott taking umbrage at receiving no drafting help from Ford drivers, and he didn’t mince many words about it.

In the absence of any visits to victory lane by the “New Kids On the Track” (with apologies to the moniker coined by Eddie Gossage, most boy bands would be playing shopping malls if they took this long to score a No. 1 single), the shade thrown by Elliott toward veterans Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch made for a delicious reminder of a potentially simmering narrative. (Especially given Harvick’s recent digs at the youth brigade’s lack of success.)

It also was a welcome departure from a typical Elliott interview, which is always polished and professional but sometimes can feel slightly rote.

It’s good for NASCAR if the driver most likely to be named most popular in December is comfortable and confident with speaking his mind so bluntly (and consistently in multiple postrace interviews).


The first clue this wasn’t the most eventful Talladega race ever?

Maybe it was that the race’s buzziest social media item was an enormously large power saw.

NASCAR could use a decent feud right now.


The best hope for a compelling 2018 rivalry remains the much ballyhooed generation gap, and it’ll take some results to stoke those flames (Talladega winner Joey Logano, who turns 28 this month, actually is young enough to be in the youth movement, but his 10 seasons of experience disqualifies him).

Bubba Wallace led five laps Sunday in finishing 16th (his fourth top 20 in six races), and an eighth last month at Texas Motor Speedway (where he kept Harvick behind him for three dozen laps) also was a “huge confidence-booster,” as were some words of encouragement from crew chief Drew Blickensderfer.

“The young guys, we’re coming about, we’re getting there,” Wallace told NBC Sports.com after a Tuesday morning sponsor announcement. “You look at what (Ryan) Blaney is doing, I put him at the top of all of us right now. Him and Larson. It’s cool to see what we’re all doing in trying to get there. For us, it’s going to take a little bit more. We’re a smaller team on a smaller budget.

“I was devastated about the finish at Bristol (where he led six laps but finished 16th), but Drew says we’re the smallest team taking like 25 percent of the big team’s budget and outrunning them with it, and that’s what you have to look at it.”


Logano led the final 42 laps at Talladega, a track that once produced a minimum of 87 lead changes in three straight Cup races.

During the Talladega plate era, that’s the third-most consecutive laps led to the checkered flag by a winner, and Logano also holds the second-highest total (45 in his Oct. 23, 2016 win).

The record for most consecutive laps led to end a Talladega plate race? Davey Allison led the final 71 on May 3, 1992.


A humble request: Can we stop referring to accidents involving several cars as “The Big One” (ack)?

It’s a crash. It’s a pileup. It’s a wreck.

And there’s a certain level of gravitas that should be employed with describing the violence of a 200-mph collision.

It demands a label more befitting and less flippant than something that possibly could be confused with the title of an Aerosmith album.

Spencer Gallagher experiencing sophomore surge in Xfinity

1 Comment

In Victory Lane after Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, an elated and soaked Spencer Gallagher looked into a TV camera and declared:

“When I get home we’re going to party like it’s 1999!”

In the hours that followed, the beer flowed on Talladega Boulevard. The GMS Racing driver eventually found himself sitting behind a table with a meme-inspired sign that read, “I have the best signature in NASCAR, change my mind.”

Gallagher had grabbed hero cards from every “nook and cranny” he could find “because I knew I was going to need them all.”

He proceeded to sign between 100 and 150 cards for fans.

“Something I’ve always been very proud of is my signature,” Gallagher told NBC Sports. “I like it about me. I love signing for people. I figured that would be a good little piece of signage to bring the fans in and get something in their hands.”

Roughly 11 hours after winning his first career NASCAR race, the 28-year-old driver was the last one standing.

Alone in his RV at 3 a.m., Gallagher did two things before passing out.

He played Super Mario on his Nintendo Switch and scoured the Internet for any video clips he could find of a race and a day he will “treasure for a long time.”

“That was my night,” Gallagher said. “I regret nothing.”

NO SLUMP HERE

Before sleep claimed him, Gallagher watched the final two laps of the Sparks Energy 300 overtime finish between eight and 10 times.

“It doesn’t get old,” Gallagher said. “Every second of that clip I can remember now what I was thinking in that moment and what I was trying to go. It’s just so great.”

Though it may have felt like it in the general chaos Talladega creates, Gallagher didn’t come out of nowhere to win.

Spencer Gallagher in Victory Lane after his Xfinity win at Talladega. (Getty Images)

Gallagher qualified third earlier in the day, his best qualifying spot of his career. He finished Stage 2 in second behind Elliott Sadler.

His win in the 115-lap race was his fifth top 10 through nine races and his second top five in the last three races. The first came at Bristol, where he finished fifth and qualified for the Dash 4 Cash the following week at Richmond.

It’s an impressive three-week stretch for a team that only claimed one top 10 last year in its first season of Xfinity competition.

Gallagher realized his team was trending upward following a race he considered disappointing.

“Ironically, it actually occurred to me in Phoenix,” Gallagher said of the race where he finished 14th. “I really wasn’t that happy with the car that day. But it had popped in my head that really, I felt that it was really an off day for us. If that can be our off days and we still pull out a top-15 finish, we might be on to something here. That’s the name of this game. You have to be up front and you have to race hard and bring home good results. But there’s an element of consistency to it. If you can have a bad day and still finish around the top 15, top 10, you’re doing something right in this business.”

Another measure for his team’s progress is Sadler, who said after Saturday’s race that Gallagher was one of the most improved drivers from last year.

Through 10 races, Sadler and Gallagher have the best average finishes among full-time drivers. Sadler’s is 4.9 and Gallagher’s 9.8.

“I think a lot of it is experience, getting to work together in our second year as a team,” Gallagher said. “I like to think a lot of it is the lumps we took the first year.”

In his rookie season, the No. 23 team had eight DNFs and finished better than 14th twice.

“We learned the hard way; we didn’t want to have another year like that,” Gallagher said.

The sophomore driver credits crew chief Chad Norris, who joined the team this season after two seasons working with Brennan Poole at Chip Ganassi Racing. He has four wins in 224 Xfinity races since 2005.

“He’s really been a big element in turning this program around and making it into a competitive worthy team in a NASCAR national series,” Gallagher said.

ONWARD

It wasn’t until Sunday, after Gallagher was drug from bed around 11 a.m., that it occurred to him the lap he led to win the race the previous afternoon was his first in 49 Xfinity starts.

“It’s not really something that crosses your mind, you’re just happy you got to lead the right one,” Gallagher said. “Hopefully it’s the first of many more.”

Then, remembering he qualified for the Dash 4 Cash this weekend at Dover, Gallagher had a second thought.

“It’s great there’s a trophy in my motor home right now. How am I going to bring these guys $100,000 at Dover and do it again?” recalled Gallagher.

“It’s true you get that monkey off your back,” Gallagher said. “Nothing will ever feel so good. But what people don’t tell you is that immediately after that comes the hint of, ‘How do we do this again?’ Then the cycles starts all over new.”

UPDATE: On May 2, four days after his Talladega win, NASCAR announced Gallagher had been suspended indefinitely for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy. The penalty will cost him a spot in the playoffs. Gallagher has agreed to participate in the Road to Recovery program.

 and on Facebook