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MCREYNOLDS: Talladega - Anybody's Game

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I think you saw the theme of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday play out exactly like we predicted it would when our "NASCAR on FOX" broadcast came on the air.

The theme, of course, is anybody can win at Talladega Superspeedway.

If you can stay in touch with the lead draft and not get caught up in a big wreck, then you can put yourself in the late race to win that thing.

Obviously, we had the big wreck on Lap 43 and it, quite honestly, took out a lot of top contenders. I am talking about such drivers as Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers (who had taken over the No. 11 car for Denny Hamlin earlier in the race), Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch, who took responsibility for causing the crash. That wreck took out a lot of very strong teams that we all knew would be contenders for the win.

I think we saw all these guys a little more racy than normal early on, more so then say what we saw in the Daytona 500 back in February. The teams learned a lot from the Daytona 500 and made their cars better for Talladega. Also, Talladega is a different type of track than Daytona. Cars tend to be a little racier there because the track is so big and wide.

The big thing, though, was racing the weather. We spent the early part of that race basically looking at racing the event to the halfway point, which would make the race official, as rain threatened in the area.

We did make it that far and more, but then at Lap 124, the caution did come out for rain.

I think you have to commend both speedway and NASCAR officials for being as tenacious as they were to get this race completed in its entirety. We all heard Ryan Newman’s interview outside the Infield Care Center — after the wild wreck that landed Kurt Busch’s car on top of Newman’s car — in which Newman questioned racing that late in the day at a track without lights.

It was a very negative interview directed at NASCAR for restarting that race as close to dark as it did with so much moisture in the air. That’s the reaction of a very frustrated driver that has another race car torn up at Talladega.

I was explaining to some folks as I was leaving the track last night that all of us in the sport take these race weekends for granted. If NASCAR calls the race for rain past the halfway point, so what? We’ll be in Darlington next weekend. We were just in Richmond last weekend. Shortening a race is no big deal to us.

It’s the race fans, however, who are the ones who suffer if a race is shortened. That’s why I was so glad everyone worked to see to it that race ran the complete length. There were a lot of race fans who stuck it out at the track all day long. Think about the fact that to some of these fans, this might have been their vacation for the year. They might have planned everything for the family around this one race.

So while we on the inside might take it for granted, I think we have to all remember that to our fans, this might be the only race they come to in an entire year. They worked hard and paid good money for their hotels, meals and race tickets, so it’s important NASCAR does everything possible to give them their money’s worth.

I would bet if Newman took his family to Disney World, which he might only be able to do once or twice a year, and halfway through the day they closed the park, I doubt he would be too happy about that. So I think you just saw him lashing out at NASCAR as a frustrated driver fresh from a pretty horrendous crash at Talladega.

Back to my earlier point, though, we saw once again on Sunday that anybody can win at Talladega when the circumstances are right. It really was exciting to see David Ragan and his Front Row Motorsports team not only win the race, but the company had a one-two finish, with teammate David Gilliland helping push Ragan to the win.

What an incredible day for Ragan and the entire company. Think about it, if they have a top-25 finish on any given Sunday, well that’s a great day for them, and here they were finishing first and second.

It’s hard to list what this means to that organization. Obviously a one-two finish puts much-needed purse money into the company’s coffers. In addition, Ragan is now automatically included in the Sprint All-Star Race, which pays a cool $1 million to the winner. Naturally, the even bigger picture is when you win a race the size and scope of Talladega, it sure is a great selling point when you are sitting there talking to potential sponsors of your team.

Look at some of the others who finished in the top 10. You had Regan Smith in the No. 51 car finishing sixth. Scott Speed in the No. 95 car finished ninth.

This, to me, this is what makes racing at Daytona and Talladega so much fun. It’s the unknown. It’s when the under-funded teams such as Front Row Motorsports beat the mega-teams such as Hendrick, Gibbs, Roush and Childress.