Wild cards are always unpredictable, as there’s a possibility that something unexpected will happen, and sometimes actually does. That’s why there’s a wild card round in baseball and football, a chance for the lower seeds to stun the opposition and move ahead.
NASCAR’s version of a wild card has been different over the years, especially during the playoffs. Over the years, different ideas of what a wild card is during the playoffs has changed, from including the top-10 in points plus two race winners outside of those standings in a quest for a title, to including new race courses that ultimately are deciding races.
But then, there’s Talladega…the OG wild card.
This is a track that has always been in the playoffs dating back to the original “Chase” format in 2004, and has been a race that has always been one that worried drivers and fans alike since, as I have said in the past, has so much out of the drivers’ control. Then, when the elimination style format was added, this wild card got an entire new meaning when it became the elimination race to the Round of 12.
Drivers wanted to ensure they had a victory in hand before coming here, as they could go for a tumble and destroy the car, and not worry since they were already advanced. But, having such a challenging event be the one to decide who moves on, and who misses out on a title opportunity, has created a lot of controversy, both from drivers and fans.
It’s easy to understand the excitement of wanting the race to end with that kind of unpredictability, but at the same aspect NASCAR wants that unpredictability in the end.
But, when this race was instead moved to the second in the round of 12, some of the controversy went away, but the unpredictability and fear still remained. After all, to be in control at a place that is always out of control, is hard. The only time someone is in control is when in the lead, and even that at certain times they are not in control. Memories of the tandem draft meant that the pusher car was the control, and the front was at the mercy of the one behind.
Now with no restrictor plates, but the tall spoilers, splitters, and spacers on the injection, this is still the same Talladega, just with a different look.
It will still be the wild card race in the playoffs, but now it shares that duty with next week’s event. Still, Talladega will always be the original race where control depends on those around one another, rather than the one in the roll cage.