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NASCAR: Are great finishes enough?

By Scott Adamson
Scripps Howard News
Fans who want to watch a NASCAR Cup race on Sunday afternoons (or Saturday nights) are required to invest a lot of time in the pursuit.
Even without an inordinate amount of cautions and the occasional red flag, youíre going to spend a good four hours in front of the TV.
Of course the way things are going this year, you really donít have to make such a long-term commitment.
Just tune into the last 15 minutes of a race ó especially a restrictor-plate mandated, superspeedway race ó and youíll see everything you want to see.
Thereís no denying that the finish to the Aaronís 499 at Talladega Superspeedway last Sunday was a classic ó one of the best ever. Iíve watched races at TSS live or in person since 1988, and I donít remember a better one.
In a real photo finish Jimmie Johnson edged Clint Bowyer by .002 seconds to take the checkered flag, tying the closest Cup finish since NASCAR began keeping such records.
It was the result of tag-team racing; Bowyer was being pushed by Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon by Mark Martin, and Johnson by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
When the event got down to cases the tandem of Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle joined the fray, creating a mass of sheet metal hurtling toward the white stripe.
ěWhen youíre four-wide coming across the finish line, thatís a pretty good race,î Johnson said. ěThere was just so much going on at the end of that thing coming to the stripe.î
Bowyer was classy, despite his obvious disappointment in the outcome.
ěIf you didnít like that finish, youíre crazy,î he said. ěThat was an unbelievable finish. I hope people enjoyed it, because it looked pretty wild through the windshield.î
The new two-car draft approach sets the stage for great finales, and few fans at Talladega were sitting at the end.
But …
The two-car two-step makes the bulk of the race boring.
Yeah, there were 88 lead changes at ëDega, which ties a track record.
The season-opening Daytona 500 requires restrictor-plates to slow down the cars and it had a lot of passes, too.
But these big, high-banked tracks are famous for three and four-wide racing. That, unfortunately, is no longer the best way to get from point A to point B. The fastest way around the track now is to find a friend and play piggyback for as long as you can.
I assume some people find this exciting and, again, there are quite a few lead changes.
Still, its seems so … pedestrian.
Itís like watching an action movie where the finish is chock full of pyrotechnics and nail-biting drama ó but the rest of the film has no special effects at all.
And not even much of a plot.
You wonít find a better last lap than the one that was contested on the 2.66-mile tri-oval last weekend. It was the other 187 laps that lacked the ěwowî factor for me.
Yet if the finish trumps all ó if you donít mind spending three hours and 45 minutes in anticipation mode ó then block out another four hours when racing returns to Daytona in July.
The white flag lap very well might make it worth your time.

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