Flat Spot On: Rainy Atlanta Sets Up Sunny Vegas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, February 28 2018

Drivers love Atlanta Motor Speedway. The racing is usually good, too. So why just one Cup date? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer

NASCAR in 280 characters (or less):

It’s eternally amazing that Atlanta Motor Speedway, one of NASCAR’s greatest tracks, lost one of its two dates. (The veteran drivers love the high-speed AMS events where they can better control their own destiny due to the wide and worn surface.)

Many in social media were dissed off by strategy talk on TV about Denny Hamlin’s attempt to beat winner Kevin Harvick’s dominant Ford by doing one less pit stop. (But the race was won on a strategy call by Crew Chief Rodney Childers, putting Harvick back in front & clean air.)

Harvick came into pits early on lap 212, then emerged in front after former leader Brad Keselowski’s stop. Harvick’s car was out of balance and “I also felt like he was running the car hard and had burned the right rear tire off of it,” said Childers, who resorted to old-school short pitting.

Better luck next time for NASCAR’s youth movement. (A stickier Las Vegas surface, where Kyle Larson & William Byron were fastest in a two-day pre-season test, will help youngsters return to their ballyhooed performances. Larson, Chase Elliott finished second, third in Lost Wages in ’17.)

Had Keselowski’s Penske’s team brought him in first and retained the lead in the final stage, the outcome might have been very much in doubt. (Credit AMS with so many potential outcomes – except young guys winning.)

Do not cry for AMS, which drew an estimated 30k on a rainy Sunday. The track is busy with events as many as 175 days a year. (AMS hosts one of the most competitive Legends Car Series anywhere; 19 of the starters in the Daytona 500 once raced Legends Cars at AMS.)

The paid off mortgage at AMS made it easy for Speedway Motorsports, Inc. to move one date from AMS to Kentucky. (Ownership of a flagship track in relatively nearby Charlotte was another big incentive.)  

For the want of a shoe, a kingdom was lost, which is silly/stupid. (Martin Truex, Jr. and his team’s mandated air guns cost them any chance of contending for a win due to botched tire changes on pit stops. Winner Harvick’s crew also had a problem.)

It’s no shame for NASCAR to re-think it’s approach to the pit guns, i.e. allow teams to use their own. (The goals of a lottery, or “gun pool”, are good – saving money, equitable competition – but the execution means multi-million-dollar teams are dependent on, well, a lottery.)

Darrell Waltrip was the mouth that roared when he arrived in NASCAR, lo these many years ago. (These days, he’s the mouth that says not-so-bright stuff like “boogity,” and describes a conversation with Ryan Blaney as a “dial tone”. He meant it as a compliment?)

It brought a tear to at least one cynical media maven’s eye when Harvick reprised his 2001 Atlanta win — Richard Childress Racing’s first race after the death of Dale Earnhardt – by raising three fingers aloft on his victory lap. (A single tear – there’s no crying in the media center.)

Harvick was once an Earnhardt-like firebrand, only more verbal. “I said and did a lot of dumb things. I guess you could call them building blocks and now we can laugh about them, but it was entertaining at the time. Got me a couple of vacations.” (It’s nice to see Harvick actually Happy these days.)

“We need more of Mike Helton in today’s NASCAR, just because he was the guy that could just look at you and you knew you were in big trouble when he would just give you that look and you’d sit there in awkward silence.” (Harvick on NASCAR’s longtime – and physically biggest – official.) 

The Fords discovered they were short on unrestricted horsepower last year after the Toyota teams dialed in the handling of their new Camry. (Better unrestricted horsepower is why Fords have now caught back up, enabling them to run more downforce, hence drag. One man’s opinion.)

A slow start by Chevy’s new Camaro in Atlanta may not mean much if they do well in Las Vegas. (If they don’t, see the introduction of the Camry last year, which eventually went quite well.)

Is this a crap table? Who wins how much money and where does it come from? Money matters. Why not announce a total purse broken down by all sources – TV, the track, NASCAR plans, contingency, etc. (The less said about $$, ironically, the more Cup looks like a private club for the rich.)

Will much hyped rookie William Byron become the Dansby Swanson of NASCAR? (The Braves shortstop was brought up too early from AA and soon began struggling mightily.)

Did the failure to pass inspection on NASCAR’s new electronic Hawkeye system mean Truex, Jr. and his Furniture Row Racing team might have been doing something fishy last year in route to the championship? (No, it means Crew Chief Cole Pearn is one aggressive s.o.b.)

The late Bud Moore used to flat-out say he had 10 or 15 illegal things on his car when it started inspection. (Instead of incentive to “experiment”, the current approach means an incentive to hug the boundaries and not exceed them – putting even more emphasis on driving skill and… strategy.)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, February 28 2018
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