No quick fixes for 'Dega dangers
Five days after one of the best races at Talladega Superspeedway, the danger debate — prompted by Carl Edwards flipping over and into the catch fence — is far from over.
How aggressive is too aggressive? Does NASCAR need to enforce its rules or are its aggressive-driving zones merely a suggestion?
On Monday, NASCAR VP of Communications Jim Hunter said, "We tried letting the competitors police themselves when it comes to blocking and bump drafting.
"After reviewing all of those procedures, we might have to start making some judgment calls of our own and penalize, issue penalties for drivers who blatantly block and abuse the bump drafting," Hunter added. "We are going to take whatever measures we need to in order to ensure the races are as safe as possible for everyone."
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Idle threats and visual aids in the Talladega drivers meetings have done little to curtail the bump drafting in the "aggressive driving zones," begging the question from four-time champion Jeff Gordon — who also tops the Cup tour among active drivers with six wins at the 2.66-mile behemoth — where's the enforcement?
"We go to the drivers meeting and they show us the zones that we're not supposed to be bump drafting and on Lap 1 we were doing it already," Gordon said.
Gordon wonders if Sunday's accidents could have been avoided had the governing body made an example in the Nationwide Series race on Saturday as it did with Regan Smith last fall at Talladega.
"There were some guys that caused wrecks that were bump drafting on the exit of the corners and caused incidents and I think they could have set the precedent on Saturday and say we're making a stand for this kind of stuff," Gordon said. "That might have been something that would have opened our eyes up a little bit more — hey they're not joking. But when nobody really gets penalized for it you push the limits further and further and further.
As for the last-lap incident between Brad Keselowski and Edwards that resulted in Edwards flipping into the fence, Gordon said "Honestly I'd like to get them to clarify it because Brad Keselowski, to me, that crash was not caused by Brad. He did exactly what he should have done. The yellow line was probably what caused that."
Clint Bowyer somewhat agrees with Gordon on the yellow line but doesn't believe there's a rule the sanctioning body could create to fix the problem of aggression, particularly when it comes to the closing laps. He believes it's the drivers' responsibility to "police themselves."
REALLY BIG ONE
Lee Spencer: What did we learn from Carl Edwards' crash? There are plenty of lessons to go around.
Jeff Hammond: Fast cars, big wrecks. If fans hadn't gotten hurt, it'd have been one of the best races ever.
Darrell Waltrip: Don't mess with the track at Talladega. Just let drivers pass below the yellow line.
"If Regan Smith would have won that race instead of Tony Stewart (in 2007), that wreck wouldn't have happened and Brad probably still would have won," Bowyer said. "Maybe that would change that scenario some way or another."
And Bowyer doesn't fault Edwards for blocking in the closing laps. Had he been in the No. 99 Ford's position on Sunday, Bowyer would have done the same thing.
"As far as being down to the last lap and down to the wire like that at a superspeedway — that's just plate racing," Bowyer said. "If you're leading and you're trying to block and they're getting a run on you, they're trying to pass you, you know. It's just the way it is."
The ever-pragmatic Jeff Burton feels it's necessary to understand why the yellow-line rule was established initially. He not so fondly remembers when drivers would go wild and go six-wide in Turn 3 at Talladega. Not only does he advocate the rule, he insists "it prevented way more wrecks that it's ever caused."
Burton also sees bump drafting as a necessity to gain an advantage at Talladega.
"If you don't bump draft, you can't run in the front," Burton said. "If you don't block, you won't run in the front. If you just ride around there trying not to touch anybody, trying not to block anybody, you run in the back — end of story."