By Roger Diez
For those who like to watch big wrecks, last Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega didn't disappoint, with not one, but two "big ones". The second was the most controversial, with Carl Edwards's bump-drafting miscalculation taking out himself, teammates Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth, and eight other cars. Team owner Jack Roush was less than pleased.
Points leader Jimmie Johnson stayed clear of the wrecks and stretched his lead over second-place Edwards to 72 points, while Tony Stewart's disputed victory moved him from 10th to seventh in the Chase standings, 203 points back. Regan Smith, who crossed the finish line first, obviously disagreed with NASCAR's ruling, but it was a judgment call on the part of the officials. They ruled that even though Smith may have been crowded by Stewart, he still went below the yellow line to improve his position, which is a big no-no at Talladega.
Personally, I think he should have been given second place rather than being bumped to the tail of the lead lap cars and finishing 18th, but I'm not the one making the call.
- Had the race finish not been so controversial, the big topic of the day would have been tires. Teams were getting extremely nervous about right-side tires after a number of both fronts and rears let go. The big problem was the nature of the failures, most of with involved violent explosions of the tire.
Goodyear is investigating, but the lack of commonality in the failure circumstances has them scratching their heads. In fairness, Hoosier tires had similar problems in Friday's ARCA race at Talladega. The most serious incident on Sunday sent Denny Hamlin to a local hospital. Hamlin has been cleared to drive in the Lowes' Cup race, but planned to skip last night's Nationwide race.
- Hamlin and the rest of the Chase drivers will catch a break this weekend. Since rain washed out qualifying, the field will line up for tonight's race in points order, putting all the Chase drivers up front for the start. Unfortunately, the situation aborts the start of Scott Speed's Cup career. Speed, who recently replace A.J. Allmendinger in the number 84 Red Bull Toyota, is out of the top 35 in points and is one of four drivers who will be going home.
- Perhaps Speed would rather be in Japan with his old Formula 1 Toro Rosso team this weekend. He wouldn't be in the title chase, but at least he would get to race. The championship battle is far from settled in F1, but things are looking pretty good for McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who stands to be the youngest-ever Formula 1 Champion.
Hamilton came ever so close last season, losing the title to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen by a single point after throwing away two races late in the season through youthful indiscretions.
This year, a much more mature Hamilton has taken a poor decision that stripped points from the team in stride and has gone on in a workmanlike way to extend his lead to seven points over second-place Felipe Massa. Hamilton doesn't need to win another race this season"second-place finishes in the final three races would clinch the title for him. The only other driver with any sort of shot at the championship is BMW pilot Robert Kubica, who is 20 points behind Hamilton. Both Hamilton and Massa would need to have three disastrous races for Kubica to have any realistic shot.
- If you watch this weekend's F1 race from Fuji Speedway on SPEED TV, you'll notice a very unusual thing about the tires. Bridgestone launched a specially designed tire with green grooves, part of the F1 "Make Cars Green" initiative, which will also include innovations such as energy regenerating hybrid devices on the cars in 2009.
Formula 1 has always prided itself as being on the forefront of automotive technology, and now the series has embraced fuel efficiency and environmental preservation as racing's next initiative to "improve the breed."
Unfortunately, the F1 start time of 7:30 p.m. on Sunday overlaps the end of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race, so you'll have to use your DVR, VHS, or TiVo if you want to catch both. I hate when they do that!