1st of all, they said they put a new rules package to break up the two car team-ups we've seen the last 3-4 years now. I don't know what you guys seen, but I seen the same deal as before. 2 cars ruled and if you didn't have a partner, you were screwed. As I have said in the past, I hate this style of drafting. I miss the old style of drafting where you could draft off of any car in sight and the more cars that were lined up, the faster you would go. I miss the big bevy of cars together and all the lane changing cars would do trying to figure where they can get a move forward. The old style is a classic chess match. The new style is have a friend and ride around together. I personally think it is boring. Regardless, the race took place anyway.
Early on it became apparent that Mike and Bobby Labonte were hooking up. I thought for the most part they worked well together. But it was obvious early on that they were hanging in the back and avoiding trouble. I think they took a stab at getting up front around the half way point where they drafted to a 4th place position but not long after that had shuffled back to 30th. From then on they seemed to hang in the 12th - 24th or so area. Mainly around 20th most of the time occasionally moving forward and occasionally moving back. It seemed to me when they were hooked, it worked well and they could gain ground. I believe they had started making a push forward when it was unfortunate that Blab spun out. Do I think Mike caused it????? No I don't. As we seen a few other times during the day, the front car sometimes spun out. It happened 2 or 3 times before then and it happened again with them. I don't think Mike pushed him around. I think Blab just lost it. It was a shame because I think they understood how to run together and was making a go at it when this happened.
Immediately I wonder just who would be Mike's new partner? I figured he wouldn't get a partner and would fade to the back. He was at the back but he did manage to find a partner with Landon Cassill. They had started out around the 30th position and had worked there way up to around 12th when the final caution came out and they pitted which split them up.
I was hoping for 3 laps to finish the race instead of 2 but the cleaning crew wouldn't get off the track in a timely matter and this left us with a green-white-checker. I honestly feel like every lap at this point would have counted towards a greater finish.
When the green flag fell with 2 laps to go Mike was 20th and without a partner. One thing about this package, you ain't going to stay running up front without a partner, but as long as the cars are all bunched together, it is possible to draft off the pack for a couple of laps until the field spreads out. Once the field spreads out, you better have a partner or you are a dead duck. Luckily, the field was bunched up and the last 2 laps seen Mike driving old-school style. Getting with any car he could get with to grab a draft and switching positions when it benefited him the most. This was sweet stuff and the kind of Talladega drafting I miss. I think you could draft like this up to about 4-5 laps and then after that the field would thin out too much and you would have to have a partner. Too bad we didn't have another lap or 2. I think he could have gotten a top 5 if we did.
As it was I was ecstatic to get a top 10. I didn't think he embarrassed us all day. And the Blab deal wasn't his fault. It was just a good run. Not great, but solid. Being he only raced 3 times this year, I'll take it.
Haters are going to hate but it was a good run. That's the way I see it.
Hopefully we'll get another 3-4 races next year but at this point I don't know.
Happy hating folks!