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Spoiler Alert: New Look Cup Answers Few Q’s

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 24 2019
The NASCAR Cup Series’ new rules produced different reactions among those driving the new cars with bigger spoilers and less horsepower. (RacinToday/HHP photo Harold Hinson)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

HAMPTON, Ga. – “It’s just different.”

When asked twice, those were the only words fifth-place finisher Clint Bowyer could muster at the conclusion of today’s NASCAR stop at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

In the minds of some, the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 was a measuring stick to gauge the success of NASCAR’s new rules package, designed to create more close-quarters racing on intermediate-sized tracks.  

But doing so would be the equivalent of turning the clock back to 1977 and watching horse racing Triple Crown-winner Seattle Slew in competition while slipping and sliding on a muddy surface.

While many drivers appeared to be indifferent following Sunday’s 500-miler over the reduction in horsepower and newly-mandated aerodynamic ducts, NASCAR’s lone race this season at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and its worn-out racing surface, appeared to produce an entertaining show.

“I’d give (the new rules package) a good grade,” winning car owner Roger Penske said. “You could come up and you could pass. But it was still hard to pass (for the lead).

“Overall, I felt today was a solid B. Nobody gets an A on their first exam.”

Race winner Brad Keselowski, one of nine drivers that swapped the lead 26 times, admitted that Atlanta’s abrasive asphalt only offered a partial glimpse into what the new package might produce at tracks with a smoother racing surface.

“Atlanta is not typical of what we’re going to see,” he said, pointing to the notorious tire wear and reduction in speed here during the course of a run.  

“Good or bad, I wouldn’t guarantee what you saw today is what you’ll see moving forward like next week at Las Vegas.’

When asked if it’s time for Atlanta to repave the 22-year-old surface, Keselowski grinned and said “I still haven’t seen a good reason to do that yet.”

Much of Sunday’s two and three-wide racing came following each of the day’s five caution periods, after pit crews bolted on four sticker tires. The cars typically fanned back into single file formation within two laps once speeds began to slow and grip became a precious commodity on the 1.5-mile oval. 

Predictions of a crash-filled race on Sunday never came to fruition. There were only two competition-related cautions, both minor incidents.

“The cars seemed to be more in control and you didn’t see any accidents,” Penske said. “I thought, overall, it wasn’t a crash-fest, which everyone said it was going to be.

“It seemed like there were a lot of equal cars out there. We’ll see what happens in the coming weeks.”

If the race had been run 24 hours earlier, Keselowski claims he wouldn’t have competed due to a serious bout of flu.

Overcoming the illness and ushering in a new era of racing was an admitted landmark moment in the Michigan native’s driving career. 

“Winning the first race whenever there’s a major rules change means a lot to me personally,” said Keselowski, whose win on Sunday was the first for the Ford Mustang nameplate in the Cup Series.

“Being able to win in multiple disciplines is what sets drivers apart. And to be able to win under those terms and kind of leave that mark is big for me and our team.” 

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – 60th Annual Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

Atlanta Motor Speedway

Hampton, Georgia

Sunday, February 24, 2019

               1. (19)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 325.

               2. (9)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 325.

               3. (8)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 325.

               4. (18)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 325.

               5. (3)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, 325.

               6. (6)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 325.

               7. (15)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 325.

               8. (1)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 325.

               9. (30)  Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 325.

               10. (5)  Daniel Suarez, Ford, 325.

               11. (4)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 325.

               12. (7)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 325.

               13. (13)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 325.

               14. (14)  Paul Menard, Ford, 325.

               15. (16)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 325.

               16. (23)  David Ragan, Ford, 325.

               17. (17)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 325.

               18. (2)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 324.

               19. (22)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 324.

               20. (28)  Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 324.

               21. (10)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 324.

               22. (26)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 324.

               23. (27)  Joey Logano, Ford, 324.

               24. (11)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 323.

               25. (21)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 323.

               26. (20)  Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 322.

               27. (29)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 322.

               28. (31)  Matt Tifft #, Ford, 319.

               29. (24)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, 319.

               30. (34)  Parker Kligerman(i), Toyota, 318.

               31. (32)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 313.

               32. (37)  BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 313.

               33. (36)  Cody Ware #, Ford, 303.

               34. (33)  Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 284.

               35. (25)  Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, Accident, 271.

               36. (35)  Garrett Smithley(i), Chevrolet, 254.

               37. (12)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 222.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  142.626 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 30 Mins, 33 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .218 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 30 laps.

Lead Changes:  26 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Almirola 0;R. Stenhouse Jr. 1;A. Almirola 2-37;K. Larson 38-87;M. Truex Jr. 88;K. Harvick 89-91;K. Larson 92;K. Harvick 93-111;K. Larson 112-125;K. Harvick 126;J. Logano 127-128;K. Larson 129-152;K. Harvick 153;K. Larson 154-161;K. Harvick 162-172;M. Truex Jr. 173;K. Harvick 174-177;K. Larson 178-220;M. Truex Jr. 221;K. Larson 222-223;M. Truex Jr. 224;K. Harvick 225-230;R. Blaney 231-271;J. Logano 272-282;K. Busch 283;J. Logano 284-292;B. Keselowski 293-325.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Larson 7 times for 142 laps; Kevin Harvick 7 times for 45 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 41 laps; Aric Almirola 1 time for 36 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 33 laps; Joey Logano 3 times for 22 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 4 times for 4 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 1 lap; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 42,4,10,1,19,12,22,11,17,14

Stage #2 Top Ten: 4,42,19,12,11,22,1,20,18,14

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 24 2019
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