If you ever have the opportunity to wheedle your way into a NASCAR driver's meeting, do it. You'll get an eyeful of all the drivers and crew chiefs hanging out, chatting with one another (or not) in a way that could fuel speculation for the rest of the week.
On Sunday morning at Talladega, teammates generally hung with teammates. Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer were huddled deep in conversation for one of the last races they'll run together under the same banner. The Hendrick guys sat in a single, dominant row. Jack Roush was on one side of the front row with Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle; Richard Childress and Kevin Harvick staked out the other side of the front. Further back, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and their respective crew chiefs were deep in conversation, most likely about the two-car draft plans.
At a driver's meeting, NASCAR officials introduce the VIPs of the day, thank a few sponsor executive VPs, and offer up a prayer. And then they turn it over to questions, and this time around there were a few pointed ones.
Carl Edwards began the questioning by asking what the protocol would be during the hypothetical-but-almost-certain wreck on the white flag lap. "Let's say there's a wreck on the final lap," he said. "Before the yellow comes out, will guys be allowed to go throttle down coming to the finish?" Edwards was obviously following up on a concern he expressed on Friday, that drivers who hammered down the throttle to try to get through a wreck were causing more problems than they were avoiding.
NASCAR officials told the drivers that television and other information would freeze the field at yellow, and thus there was no need to floor it. We'll see how well that plays out.
Brian Vickers followed with a question about restarting races before everyone was completely ready and in position, and Matt Kenseth wanted to know if drivers were allowed to push each other back to the finish under yellow. (Perhaps an irrelevant question, if in fact the field is frozen when the yellow flies on the last lap, but still.)
When told that drivers can't assist other drivers, Kenseth dryly replied, "everybody's going to be assisting everybody else for 188 laps," to the laughter of the entire room.
The general theme of the meeting, though, was that NASCAR will do its best to lay out parameters for white-flag and two-by-two situations, but in the end it'll be down to judgment calls. So, yeah, good luck out there, drivers. Cross your fingers that you've made the judges happy.
- Carl Edwards