It’s round two of the NASCAR season and we finally get a better picture of how the season is going to go.
The Daytona 500 has the prestige but as a plate track, we only get a sense of who’s going to be good on a plate track. Whatever. Atlanta is a mile and a half, the track type making up the bulk of the schedule.
Except Atlanta’s surface was last paved in 1997. That’s ancient by NASCAR standards. With Gordon retired, no one left has raced on the track without that pavement on it. So Atlanta is like driving on sandpaper. Tires, tires, and tires were everyone’s concern heading into this race. Lower downforce and massive tire drop off means Atlanta is a 180 from Daytona.
This is a track that favors the drivers.
This race was old school.
Jimmie Johnson won the Folds of Honor Quik Tip 500 at Atlanta. Another sponsor I have no idea what the hell they are. I actually thought it was Fields of Honor for most of the weekend.
Not a big surprise that he did well and won the race. As much as I maintain that his five years of championships were a great personal achievement that may not have been good for the competition level of the sport at a time when NASCAR needed more competition, no one can deny he isn’t one of the all time greats. As much as we may want to. Johnson tied Dale Earnhardt Sr’s mark of 76 wins on the all time list. Impressive by any measure you can think of in any era of the sport.
Remember a second ago I said how this Atlanta race was old school. I mean that in the best way. There were only two caution flags, plus a lase second wreck. This race was all about the drivers out wheeling each other and the crew chiefs out smarting each other. Which the #48 team did both to score the win. Only twelve guys finished on the lead lap, and there were that many only because one of the cautions flew with three laps to go. Much of the race had less than ten. But since it wasn’t a wreck fest, the box score had everyone running at the end. Not something we see too much of anymore. The drivers were slipping and sliding all over the track. They were bumping around the old pavement. They were covered in grit and grime and chunks of rubber (bless you 50″ plasma purchased before the children). It was wonderful.
Most of the drivers I pegged as having a good race ahead of them did. Johnson. The Busch brothers. Keselowski, although his race was quietly good. Kahne… whoops. Missed that one. He’s becoming the Danica off Hendrick Racing. The biggest surprise in the results was Larson. His car never got it together and was a non factor the whole race. Without any cautions until the race was half over, the #42 team never had a chance to work on the car and finished three laps off the pace.
I absolutely loved this race and was surprised that I saw the Let’s Never Change Cadre complaining on twitter. I guess the thing that really never changes about the Let’s Never Change Cadre is that they’ll always find some reason to hate on any race Dale Jr doesn’t win. We’ll be over there enjoying NASCAR without you.
Crew forgets to tell Kenseth about black flag
Whoops! This was a big one. Kenseth was running very well up front when NASCAR pegged them with a pit road penalty. It was the gas man who dropped an adjustment wrench on the back decklid of the car for the tire carrier to pick up and do his adjustment thing with. [Buzz sound] Fail. Rules say gas guys can’t do anything but fuel the car. This is a safety thing. Gas fires still happen. Brendan Gaughan’s pit crew at a Richmond Xfinity race last year. Thing is, Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Radcliff, argued that the gas can wasn’t engaged yet and that queuing up a wrench like that was standard practice. And while he was arguing with NASCAR, no one told Kenseth about the black flag. Which then turned into a black flag with white X. I didn’t even realize that was a thing, that’s how often that one drops. Someone on twitter said it happened to Robby Gordon at a Montreal Xfinity race a few years ago. I certainly don’t remember it happening in Cup. NASCAR stopped scoring Kenseth, so from their point of view, that lap after the black-white-X flag dropped, just didn’t count. Added to losing a lap from a pass through peanalty and Kenseth was down two. One was survivable. A couple well time cautions and all’s well. But two? Eh, not so much. He never got either back and finished 19th.
Kenseth was pissed and I don’t blame him. I haven’t seen a screw up that bad … well… since Kenseth T-boned Logano just for kicks.
Truex was … displeased with Regan Smith
So I wasn’t really sure what caused this. It certainly wasn’t something caught by the TV broadcast. Regan Smith was a few laps down in mid race and Truex was among the front runners (as he was the whole race). I guess Truex figured the #7 held him up more than he needed to. Atlanta is a wide track with room to get out of each others way, but I guess if your car is handling like a dump truck on ice there’s not much you can do. Whatever the case, the Fox broadcasters had Truex’s in car camera rolling while Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon and DW were talking about him and whoops! Middle finger time! I didn’t even catch it at first. My dad was all “Did that just happen???” and I had to use the magic of the DVR to get that nice little screen cap you see to the left.
We’ll see if anything happens on Penalty Tuesday or if everyone tries to ignore it. Which is often the best tactic since the pictures didn’t make the rounds too much.
Bonus question… how the hell would Regan Smith even be able to see the bird? It’s not like Truex went full Norm Benning with the finger out the window.
Pit Stall 13 Update
Ryan Newman was the recipient of the magical Pit Stall number 13. This is the first true pit stall 13 of the year, since Daytona has 12A instead. How’d he do with the magic behind him?
Well, he ran better than his 24th place finish would have you think. Newman’s #31 RCR team stayed on the lead lap throughout the whole day when the lead lap cars dwindled down to a low of eight. But at the end of the race when everyone was trying to stretch their tires to the end, the Caterpillar Chevy blew the left rear. Newman didn’t hit anything or anyone but the tire shredded to hell and hosed up his car pretty bad and killed his good finish.
- 25th – #21 Blaney, ran decent, lost laps with a loose wheel though
- 37th – #98 Whitt, managed to lead a lap during early green flag pit stops
- 39th – #30 Wise, first qualified race for that team, finished last
Wait, Wise finished last in 39th? Yup. NASCAR ran without a full field. Happened at Kentucky a couple years ago. Before that, it’s going back to the epic 2001 Thanksgiving at Loudon (Robby Gordon for the win!). The last time NASCAR ran a race with less than 40 was in the mid 90s at North Wilksboro because that track didn’t have enough pit stalls. This is part of the mixed bag that comes with the charters that we’re going to have to watch. The Daytona 500 only have 44 entries which was the least in decades. NASCAR has lost a lot of teams this year, and not just among the part timers. MWR is completely gone now. Levine and Circle Sport merged. Team Xtreme dropped off the face of the earth a couple races after having their car stolen last year. Hillman’s #40 missed a charter, exists only as a sort of extension of Premium. Phil Parsons Racing, famous for Wise’s Dogecar, got bought out by Premium last year and then condensed down to one car, with the aforementioned Hillman assets. BK Racing dropped one full time team. Front Row did the same. Tommy Baldwin did a couple years ago. That’s eight teams which aren’t around anymore from Daytona 2015, ten if you go back a couple years.
This is the reality of what NASCAR has now. ‘Course, we still got a great race this week, but I still feel that the long term health of the sport can be represented by the little teams and how they’re surviving. Two races into the season is not enough to judge the whole charter system by. I think the real test for the system is going to come when someone wants to expand and get into the guaranteed show. That might be a ways off though.
Almirola’s Fiery Wreck
I had this picture ready to go and needed to use it. Nothing more. Carry on with your day.