NASCAR decided its superspeedway package after several days of tests at Daytona and the revised Atlanta, and it was in full effect on Sunday in the GEICO 500 at Talladega. Teams figured out how to run the 510-horsepower package during the Daytona 500 – where the cars had bigger problems, bottoming out with flat tires and acting unpredictably in the draft – and brought their best to Alabama.
Their best setups did not produce the best racing, though. The race was calm, with only six cautions and two for multicar crashes, it was an uncompetitive calm. Multi-lane racing was mostly limited to restarts, and while the field could stick together, a dominant lane tended to form following the lead cars as other runs struggled to gain momentum.
Daniel Suarez, who was taken out by a wreck about halfway through, said that “it was pretty calm, really, the whole race. Just kind of two-by-two. We really couldn’t get the third lane going.”
Harrison Burton, taken out in the same wreck as Daniel Suarez, said the racing was “quite a bit different” to Daytona, which had looked more like typical superspeedway racing from the previous car. “The top wasn’t quite as fast,” he went on. “I felt like when I got out in front at Daytona, I wanted to maintain the outside. Here it was like the bottom was chugging along pretty good. It was hard to get runs. The bottom had about 10-15 cars lined up and it was hard to leapfrog all those guys. It was pretty different.”
Chase Briscoe, also taken out in a wreck earlier in the race, told reporters: “I felt like the cars were way more stable than Daytona so you could get way more aggressive.” But, he said, “It was weird, you couldn’t build runs. I was hitting the rev limiter anytime I had a run at all. It was going to be really hard to develop a huge run.”
Despite problems with the car, Burton was correct in his assessment that “at the end, it is going to be pretty racey for these guys.” But the final lap drama was largely a result of the difficulties with the car. Weak runs from both lanes led opportunistic drivers to form their own lanes or jump into other lanes, and Kyle Larson’s ambitious jump up the track resulted in a major wreck in the trioval.
NASCAR returns to a restrictor plate track, Daytona, in August.