Philadelphia, PA – Whenever the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series runs at Talladega Superspeedway, you can expect someone to speak his mind when all is said and done there. This time, it was Tony Stewart.
Amid hot and muggy conditions, Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega featured a high attrition rate, thanks in part to several cars overheating and two big crashes.
Stewart, the three-time and defending series champion, was one of those caught up in the second "big one," a nine-car accident that occurred when A.J. Allmendinger bumped into Paul Menard and spun him around just after a restart in the closing laps. Stewart managed to finish the race two laps down in 24th.
Nine cars also were involved in the first big crash, which occurred on lap 143 when Dave Blaney and Aric Almirola made contact to trigger the pileup.
"I'm sorry we couldn't crash more cars today," Stewart said during his post- race interview. "We didn't fill the quota for today for Talladega and NASCAR."
How NASCAR responds to Stewart's comments is yet to be known.
"I feel bad if I don't spend at least a $150,000 in torn up race cars going back to the shop," he added. "We definitely have to do a better job with that."
In April 2007, Stewart got himself into hot water with NASCAR for remarks he made about the sanctioning body on his weekly Sirius Satellite Radio program following the spring race at Phoenix International Raceway. Stewart criticized NASCAR for issuing a caution for debris on the track late in that event, which he felt hurt his chances of winning it. He finished second.
NASCAR officials spoke with Stewart when he arrived to Talladega one week after Phoenix. They did not punish Stewart for his remarks but did issue a fine and probation to him for not fulfilling his post-race media obligations there.
Nineteen drivers failed to finish at Talladega, including Stewart's teammate, Ryan Newman, as well as Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson from Hendrick Motorsports.
"I think if we haven't crashed at least 50 percent of the field by the end of the race, we need to extend the race until we at least crash 50 percent of the cars, because it's not fair to these fans for them to not see any more wrecks than that and more torn up cars," Stewart said. "We still had over half the cars running at the end, and it shouldn't be that way."
NASCAR fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. was one of those who managed to not get caught up in any of the wrecks. Earnhardt Jr.'s ninth-place run at Talladega continued his early season momentum, as he has finished in the Top 10 the last six races.
"I knew there would be a lot of wrecks today," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I just kind of had to play it a little too safe. It worked out, and we ended up getting a finish and not tore up and on the hook."
The big wrecks weren't the only thing that had some drivers angry at Talladega. Cars overheating also created mayhem throughout the race. Johnson and Newman's day came to an end in the early going when they both suffered engine failure. Gordon also experienced overheating prior to his wreck.
"This temp thing is kind of a joke," Gordon said. "They (NASCAR) are going to have to fix that. We all knew that was going to be a big issue, but when you can't really even race because the temps, even in a regular pack are an issue, we have to address that."
Prior to the season-opening Daytona 500, NASCAR made alterations to the restrictor plates and the front grille openings on the cars with hopes of bringing back the traditional pack racing and reducing the two-car tandems at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega.
Overheating was a concern for teams in February at Daytona, but higher air and track temperatures at Talladega made it a bigger issue.
"This package might be a little bit more to the daredevil side, but I'm all right with that," Talladega race winner Brad Keselowski said.
Concerns of overheating and major wrecks will be a topic once again when the series returns to Talladega for the fourth race in the championship Chase on Oct. 7.