David Smith crunches the numbers for the Aaron's 499
Letâs say youâre a gambler. Parading across the casino floor, you feast your eyes on the roulette wheel. Itâs noted next to the wheel that the last five spins have landed on black. Your chips are now burning a hole through your pocket because you know that the next spin is due to land on red. You throw your chips down, bet on red and as the wheel once again lands on black, youâre filled with confusion. What just happened?
Youâre a sucker. Thatâs what happened.
Each individual spin of the roulette wheel is independent of all other spins, meaning what happened in prior spins has no effect on the current spin or future spins. Trusting previous spins is foolâs gold. You know what else is foolish? Trusting previous races to determine when cautions come out and how many cars get collected. This is actually something that crew chiefs do, but it is flawed logic. A caution-filled race one year can be a green-flag feeding frenzy the next, at the same track â¦ unless weâre discussing Talladega Superspeedway.
The 2.66-mile restrictor plate track is its own behemoth. Watching races on television donât do the beast any justice. Itâs wide, fast and scary as hell. Itâs Daytona if Daytona took performance-enhancing drugs.
5 of 9+ Dating back to 2010, there have been five crashes that included nine cars or more in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Talladega.
This is probably the best running definition of âthe big one.â In the last six races at Talladega, there have been five big ones. The numbers are sort of deceiving, though. The crashes arenât spread out; those five crashes spanned just three races, meaning half of the races in that time frame didnât have a crash that wadded up the majority of the field. Contrary to what youâll hear on television this weekend, a giant field-cutting wreck isnât a matter of when. The big one is a matter of if.
18 of 2 to 6 In the last six Talladega races, there have been 18 multi-car crashes consisting of six cars or less.
Weâll call these the ankle biters. The big one has given away to a plethora of mini multi-car crashes that swoop in and eliminate around 12 percent of the field at any given time. Want to know why the big one hasnât been a big concern the past three years? It has to do with these types of crashes, the ones that systematically eliminate the competition to a point where there arenât enough cars remaining to actually have a giant crash.
Now, letâs be careful here. This isnât a trend. A crash is something that occurs when a driver error or mechanical malfunction happens. A trend would read as follows:
âDriver A is going to become aero loose, overcorrect himself, crash, and take out 12.7 cars.â
That thought is wrong in so many ways. At Talladega, where large pack racing is on the menu, a mistake could occur at any point in the race, triggering an accident. The magnitude of the accident is based on the radius and reaction time of the cars around the trigger. Itâs also based largely on luck. The best thing to do in avoiding accidents is to be out ahead of them, as we saw last year in Matt Kensethâs restrictor plate race efforts.