TALLADEGA, Ala. – It’s on to Talladega Superspeedway, where the focus Friday was on engine temperatures and tandem racing and everything that factors into the fast Alabama track.
But as everyone turned their attention to Sunday’s race, there was still a slight hangover from the dramatic decisions that altered NASCAR’s last outing.
A late penalty took Carl Edwards out of contention for the win Saturday night at Richmond, and a caution for debris gave Kyle Busch the opening to take the victory away from Tony Stewart. After finishing third, Stewart complained the debris was nothing more than a plastic bottle that provided zero threat to anyone on the track.
Both drivers left Richmond unhappy with NASCAR, but both had cooled by the time they got to Talladega.
“There is nothing else that I can do,” said Edwards, who was penalized for jumping a restart. “I am satisfied with that personally, that I did everything I could do and that is that.”
Stewart also seemed resigned to simply accepting the final outcome.
“It looked like a bottle to me, but the end result is the same thing: it still cost us an opportunity. It still cost us a win,” Stewart said. “Yes, they did what they needed to do, but you just hate the timing of it. And, you hate that it even happened in the first place.”
Either way, the late-race theatrics had people talking, and that’s what NASCAR needed after a stretch of ho-hum racing.
On Friday, NASCAR president Mike Helton defended both the penalty and the need for the caution.
But he didn’t discount the affect both incidents had on the perception of the overall product, which usually spikes whenever NASCAR is shrouded in controversy and drama. Helton remains confident there’s plenty of action ahead for NASCAR.
“I’ve been around long enough that I’ve seen stretches where we’ve got more drama than we can handle, and I’ve seen stretches where the focus should be on the race track,” he said. “So just sit tight. … There’s going to be drama, and there was a little last weekend between them and us.”