Over the course of the last several seasons, running at a restrictor plate track has meant one thing: in order to win, you have to control every lane. That is easy to do when it’s one car that is pulling a high line, then ducks down to pull the low line in order to maintain position.
What if that lead car is in fact four deep? And what if all those cars came from the same garage?
On Sunday, for nearly all the distance of the final plate race at Talladega, due to the change in rules for the 2019 season, that is exactly what 36 other teams had to deal with. The entire field of cars had to chase down the Stewart-Haas quartet in order to even have an opportunity at a lead, much less a victory.
How could anyone get past this juggernaut of drivers?
The luck of the draw, or the lack of luck in fuel mileage, ultimately bit two of those four drivers, including one with just half a lap to go before the checkered flag. However, the fourth one that stayed in line with his teammates seemed to save enough, whether holding off going full-throttle and utilizing the draft to keep speed, or cutting the engine to coast his way around, somehow the one SHR driver that was not even talked about during the broadcast, suddenly was the one taking home the checkered flag.
Kevin Harvick dominated of this group. Clint Bowyer scored his first wins with the organization this season. Kurt Busch made a statement when he won at Bristol. But now, the one guy who had come so close on so many occasions, Aric Almirola, finally had his chance to celebrate. A new sticker went on his window, and now he has secured the second spot in the third round of the playoffs. An unlikely moment, but one that he certainly will enjoy.
What is sad is that the fuel situation cost many of the participants a chance at victory, and a couple are in need of a win to ultimately make it to the next round.
No wins this week, but a bit of a shuffle. Here’s the standings after the 1000Bulbs.com 500:
Ashley Hobbs – 3107 – Joey Logano finished 5th (5) 26
Penny Whitecotton – 3089 – Kyle Busch finished 26th (7) 56
Misan Akuya – 3082 – Kurt Busch finished 14th (4) 24
Billy Fellin – 3078 – Brad Keselowski finished 27th (5) 36
Rob Tiongson – 3063 – Joey Logano finished 5th (4) 22
Sal Sigala Jr. – 3053 – Brad Keselowski finished 27th (4) 23
Trisha Rodisch – 3051 – Kyle Larson finished 11th (6) 34
Dustin Parks – 3027 – Brad Keselowski finished 27th (2) 15
Rob Blount – 2165 – Ryan Blaney finished 29th (2)
Next Race: A strange afternoon in Talladega left one driver with a locked in spot to the third round, and many writers wondering “What did we just watch?” Now that the plates are off the engines, it’s time for the teams to decide the finale of the second round among themselves. There’s no more relying on others to make the right move at the right time, or having to block a pair of lanes from pulling forward.
It’s all about one race, and controlling their own destiny.
The finale of the second round of the playoffs comes to an area that is known to experience victory, as they cheer on the Royals and the Chiefs quite often in these parts. The second round concludes with the second trip to Kansas Speedway for another battle on the Plains. This battle will take the Playoff field from 12 drivers down to 8, while the League will go from eight participants down to six in competing for their title.
Participants, the deadline is already approaching. So be locked in for the final race of this round by Thursday, October 25, at 10 p.m. ET for the Hollywood Casino 400.