Thoughts, observations and a few questions following the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway:
- I know that you can’t please everyone (you’ve got to learn to please yourself). It’s why they make vanilla and chocolate. But if you truly are an auto racing fan of the NASCAR variety, then you must agree that Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 was one of the most entertaining Sprint Cup regular season races in recent memory.
- It was a stark reminder of how different a perspective you get when you see the race in person rather than rely upon the visual and verbal descriptions offered by both television and radio. While there was apparently quite a bit of racing going on in the field, the FOX Sports television broadcast saddled viewers at home with the same monotonous shots of the same cars. The PRN broadcast, heard via Raceview, wasn’t much better although radio did talk about some of the midfield racing action.
- Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus on win number 76, which ties Johnson with the legendary Dale Earnhardt. Johnson is my pick for the title this season.
- Goodyear brought a tire combination to Atlanta that was just good enough to have forced teams to manage their tires. Compounding that issue was that the race was dictated by long green flag runs. Kudos to Jeff Gordon in the television broadcast booth for pointing out the tire management issue.
- The long green flag runs we witnessed on Sunday may be a harbinger of things to come this season, especially on the 1.5-mile tracks. That 20-minute clock idea doesn’t look so silly now, does it?
- Gordon’s insight in the booth, even two races into the season, has been invaluable. Especially if you’ve been a Gordon fan. You get to further appreciate why he was so good a driver for so many years.
- I also like the role that Larry McReynolds now plays on the FOX Sports broadcasts. A much better fit.
- There were times during the long green flag runs when you literally thought some of the cars were having trouble because they appeared to be going much slower than before. That’s the magic of Atlanta. Its coarse and aged surface wreaks havoc on tires and setups and causes tremendous fall off just laps into a run. That’s why the drivers love it, too.
- Even though the new low downforce setup was initially proposed by the drivers, you have to give a tip of the hat to NASCAR competition execs for following through with the idea. It provided the first competitive 1.5-mile race in many years. Yes, I know, it hasn’t changed the fact that the car out front always benefits from clean air, but the race leader was challenged several times. The real test will be if we see similar racing next week at Las Vegas. I expect we will.
- I can’t believe so much time and energy was spent on Matt Kenseth’s penalty. The replay showed an obvious violation of pit road regulations. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff either doesn’t know the rule book or he was showboating to cover his ass. No matter the reason, the kerfuffle put Kenseth two laps down to the leaders and out of contention. I mean, did team owner Gibbs really need to get involved?
- I think the Sunoco commercial with the drivers making engine noises is stupid.
- Ford was MIA once again with Brad Keselowski the highest finishing blue oval entry (ninth). Maybe we should we say a small hurrah for Roush Fenway with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s top 10 finish. Don’t expect this anemic showing for Ford to continue for much longer. After all, Joey Logano drives a Ford.
- I could never understand what all the excitement and media love has been over Clint Bowyer. I’ve always felt he belongs back in the field alongside the McDowells, the Cassills and the Annetts of the world. That’s where he’s racing now.
- It was easy to see by the results on Sunday which teams have their 1.5-mile setups figured out and which ones have more work to do. I remember when Kasey Kahne was the man to beat at Atlanta. Of course, he was driving a Dodge in those days. Those were also the days when he appeared in those funny Allstate commercials.
- Were you one of those people who was predicting such a great season for Kyle Larson after practice and after the Xfinity race on Saturday? What in the world happened to him and Ganassi teammate Jamie McMurray on race day? If you thought that this group would slide in to fill the void with Chevrolet when Stewart Haas leaves for Ford, think again. They’ve got a long way to go.
- Was it me or was Dale Earnhardt Jr. in just about every NASCAR oriented television commercial? I’m not disputing his being the most popular driver, but I can remember when Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson got their fair share of commercial exposure. And where are all the commercials featuring the current champion? And where are the Danica Patrick commercials that seemed to run back-to-back?
- A disappointed Kevin Harvick, who led the most laps and was burned in the final restart when he spun his tires was asked by Jamie Little after the race what he thought of the new 1.5-mile package. His answer was very revealing. “I know now it’s not how fast you are in practice. It’s how (well) does your car handle.” Don’t bet against “The Closer” over the next two races (Las Vegas and Phoenix). He may win both.
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