NASCAR Xfinity Series
Fans who paid to see racing at Talladega have right to be mad
NASCAR Xfinity Series

Fans who paid to see racing at Talladega have right to be mad

Published Nov. 15, 2016 3:19 p.m. ET

After the Sex Pistols concluded the final song at their final show of their ill-fated 1978 U.S. tour, lead singer Johnny Rotten looked out at the crowd at San Francisco’s Winterland Theater and famously said, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

I bet a lot of race fans at Talladega Superspeedway were wondering the same thing Sunday night after watching some of the sport’s biggest names hang out at the back of the field all race long in the Hellman’s 500.

The main offenders, of course, were the three Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas driven by Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch. All three had big points margins heading into this, the final race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Round of 12.


The only ways any of three JGR drivers could get knocked out of the Chase would be either a mechanical failure or getting caught in a crash. So they understandably played it safe and hung around in the back, finishing 28th through 30th.

For that matter, so did Tony Stewart, who told his team he wanted to stay out of harm’s way.

“I honestly want to stick to the plan,” Stewart told his team on the radio prior to finishing 32nd. “I know you guys don’t like that, but I know what’s going to happen here.”

The irony to all this is the Chase was supposed to be all about winning.

Win and you’re in.

Win and you advance.

Win, win, win.

At NASCAR’s biggest and baddest track, instead of Winning Is Everything, we got Driving Miss Daisy.

Instead of NASCAR’s 100 percent rule, we got the Ali rope-a-dope.

I understand why JGR and Stewart did it.

But if I were a race fan who spent hundreds of dollars -- or more -- to come to Talladega and see my favorite drivers race, I’d be really, really pissed off right now.

And, yes, I’d feel like I’d been cheated.

When you pay to go to a race, you pay with the expectation

that all 40 drivers will race as hard as they can all race long. That didn’t happen Sunday and it was shameful to witness, even if it was smart strategy.

There is one silver lining to this mess, however.

Next year, Talladega won’t be an elimination race, it will be the middle race of the round.  So  no one will have enough of a points cushion that they’ll be able to hang out in the back all race long.


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