Drivers grumbling after wreckfest at Talladega

Associated Press Published: October 8, 2012
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"Ideally, we'd like to just walk straight down the line all the time. But from a standpoint of the sport and the health of it, I think not a lot of people watch chess matches, and I've never seen one televised."

There was a nine-car accident with four laps to go at Talladega in May, and that was a day after Eric McClure was hospitalized following a late wreck in the Nationwide Series race. The race to the checkered flag at Daytona in July led to a 15-car accident on the final lap, and then came Sunday's demolition derby.

"There has been a last-lap wreck in like 90 percent of these things for the last four years with this car," said Earnhardt. "Somebody needs to change it."

The introduction of the 2013 car has given NASCAR an opportunity to address several racing concerns, but most of it seems centered on improving the product at intermediate tracks. There's been little to no public discussion about plate racing beyond the grumbling of drivers tired of wrecking.

It was Stewart, remember, who assailed the racing in May with a four-minute, tongue-in-cheek Q&A that dripped in sarcasm directed at the perceived notion that fans want to see wrecks, not racing.

"It's not fair to these fans for them to not see more wrecks than that and more torn-up cars," he said. "We still had over half the cars running at the end, and it shouldn't be that way."

Gordon understands the dilemma NASCAR is facing.

"From an entertainment standpoint, they should be lined up out to the highway," he said after finishing second Sunday. "If I'm a race fan, I want to see two and three wide racing all day long, passing back and forth. I want to see guys shoving one another. I want to see the 'big one' at the end of the race because guys are being so aggressive ... and sort of defying danger."

But they didn't show up on Sunday. NASCAR's estimated crowd of 88,000 was the smallest since figures have been provided, and was down by 20,000 from the previous low of 108,000 in May, and coming at a track that used to pull in more than 300,000 people for its two annual events.

Maybe that's an indicator that the fans really don't want to see the carnage, or they already know how the race is going to develop. After all, the plate races follow a pretty similar script: drivers ride around for 490 or so miles, and a big wreck breaks out in that frantic push to the finish.

The complaining about last year's two-car tandem racing is proof NASCAR will never be able to please all of the fans all of the time. But they can at least try to limit the destruction.