The results sheet from Sunday’s Alabama 500 at Talladega tells of carnage. Of 40 finishers, 14 finished running, and 24 list as “accident.”
By race’s end, fewer than a handful of playoff contenders remained on the track with one more race to go before another cutoff round.
Drivers will blame the track, which necessitates NASCAR’s use of restrictor plates to keep cars from flying into the stands. Plates create parity, which bunches cars into mass-crash jeopardy.
It’s an old and circular debate which always arrives back at fan safety, but how to preserve competitive concerns? Nobody wants a majority of playoff contenders in the garage before the race can finish.
For playoff purposes, it might be time for the next progression from stage racing. Eliminate cars past a certain point in the field at each stage.
It will mean that some car sponsors get fewer laps of visibility. It will mean aggressive driving toward the end of each stage, but we see that. More team might go home with expensive equipment intact.
It might also be time to qualify playoff contenders by points during playoff races. Six of 12 playoff drivers qualified below the top 12 for Sunday’s race, and four of those crashed out.
Yes, battle damage took out four of six playoff drivers who qualified in the top 12. NASCAR officially parked Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48, ruling that his crew worked on the car during a red flag, but damage necessitated work.
Anything increasing odds that a majority of playoff cars finish the race is worth considering.