NASCAR's rules and cars have changed through the years, but one constant remains at restrictor-plate tracks such as Talladega Superspeedway: The crashes are spectacular and unlikely to stop.
What fans saw Sunday — a 25-car, last-lap wreck triggered by Tony Stewart that sent his car airborne — could be just as likely at Talladega or Daytona International Speedway in 2013, when NASCAR unveils a new car.
Kasey Kahne was among a handful of drivers who tested the car — which will more resemble the manufacturers' floor models — at Talladega last week and said the car could be a challenge in the restrictor-plate races.
"They move around more. That will make everything interesting," Kahne said. "It was interesting with six cars, let alone 40. It will cause some problems at times, I'd say.
"Pushing was definitely different, the way the car moved around in front of you and also I felt when I was getting pushed. I think that was something with the smaller spoiler and just the front ends of the cars, the shape on the front end; it's not as near as nice a fit on the back of the car."
Racing at those tracks remains a dilemma 25 years after Bobby Allison's car crashed into the catchfence at Talladega, injuring fans and prompting NASCAR to use carburetor restrictor plates to slow the cars. Series officials have traded one issue for another. Instead of cars running laps at more than 210 mph, now they are clustered side-by-side, with drivers unable to avoid calamity when it strikes.
NASCAR has undertaken safety initiatives since Dale Earnhardt's fatal crash on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, including the addition of SAFER walls around tracks, driver compartments that provide more protection and a car model that is safer. But some elements of racing at these tracks cannot be controlled.
"Because this type of racing and the way the aerodynamics are and the power on these cars, that's what happens," Jeff Gordon said. "When you lose that momentum, you lose a ton. You're going backwards in such a hurry and the other guys are coming forward with so much momentum, it's inevitable that those types of things are going to happen.''
Twenty-two of the 43 starters in the May race at Talladega were listed by NASCAR as being in a crash. Sunday, it was 30 of 43.
For car owners who watch their vehicles damaged or destroyed, they likely won't feel any different next year than they did before Sunday's race.
Jack Roush, who watched driver Matt Kenseth pull away for the win as the field behind him wrecked, admits he's conflicted about restrictor-plate racing.
"I really just figure those cars as a write-off whenever I load it up in the truck to bring it to one of these restrictor-plate races," Roush said.
To those concerned about the racing at Talladega and what future races hold, Kevin Harvick tweeted Monday: "All this talk about Dega this morning cracks me up... This race has been this way since restrictor plates were put on. #oldnews.''
As he took questions from fans, he added: "Here's the deal people gripe about tandems, packs, & they will gripe about the plates off..Its Daytona & Talladega no matter the rules.''
Maybe the 2013 car can solve some of those issues.
Although they had yet to test the new car, Gordon and Kyle Busch were asked how much it would impact racing.
"It's going to be awesome,'' Gordon said Sunday, tongue-in-cheek. "Start buying your Talladega tickets now."
"(And) Daytona 500 tickets,'' Busch said.