When this new low-downforce package was introduced in two races just a year ago, the intention was to put more driver emphasis into racing, rather than focus on aerodynamics and horsepower. When Goodyear brought in a softer compound tire to complement the new rules, it was to have a tire give up over the long run, making the drivers find a way to conserve the rubber, and still keep speed.
The Atlanta Motor Speedway is a perfect place to show what the new package would do. The track has not been repaved since it was reconfigured in 1997, meaning there has been 19 years of racing on this one surface. Tires would give up, times would drop, and the cars would slip around like late models at Eldora.
When the race was over, it seemed that even with only one race in, the drivers were pleased with what they had. The entire race saw only three cautions, and two of them came in the late going to set up overtime.
The first half of the race went caution-free, something that was never heard of in recent years. But, the racing on the track made up for the lack-of wrecks, or blown engines, on the day. Drivers had to choose different lines, and conserve what they had. It was a reminder of racing in the 1980’s and 1990’s because the drivers had so much influence on how the cars handled, and how to conserve when it mattered.
It was exactly what one would expect from a track that has been around for a long while, and wasn’t touched. Drivers don’t want the surface to change one bit, because it gave everyone a race that was fun to watch, and fun to drive.
In the end, conserving tires was the name of the game, and short-pitting is what gave the opportunity for victory. No one thought going beyond 40 laps on tires that were wearing down to the cords would be possible, but one team made it work. Who else could hold off the fastest car on the track than possibly the best strategic crew chief in the garage, and the one who helped his driver match the win total of one Dale Earnhardt.
In the end, last year’s winner would see victory as Jimmie Johnson got his fifth win in Atlanta, and locked himself into another Chase, the only driver to make every Chase since 2004.
That victory gave three writers this week a victory, including one that went back-to-back to start out the season, a first for the League. Here’s where everyone now stands after the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500:
Ashley Hull (89) Jimmie Johnson WON – 2
Sal Sigala Jr (78) Kyle Busch finished 3rd – 0
Dustin Parks (76) Carl Edwards finished 5th – 0
Rob Tiongson (74) Joey Logano finished 12th – 1
Misan Akuya (68) Jimmie Johnson WON – 1
Ashley McCubbin (65) Kyle Busch finished 3rd – 0
Ashley Hobbs (50) Jimmie Johnson WON – 1
Klarissa Mitchell (44) Martin Truex Jr. finished 7th – 0
Mary Jo Buchanan (43) Carl Edwards finished 5th – 0
Stephen Conley (43) Carl Edwards finished 5th – 0
Billy Fellin (43) Kevin Harvick finished 6th – 0
Kara Martin (43) Kevin Harvick finished 6th – 0
Patti Rodisch (43) Kevin Harvick finished 6th – 0
Rob Blount (35) Joey Logano finished 12th – 0
Next Race: To start out the season, we’ve seen one writer have great luck in picking a winner each of the first two weeks, and overall there have been four wins to start the year among the League. Writers seem to be playing the odds more than relying on a gamble to get points or a victory.
Seems oddly appropriate because up next is a place where gambling seems to be a way of life, and can be found at many locations in the city. From casinos, to places that sell many “adult beverages”, and even locations where you’d likely get a bag of chips while filling up the fuel tank. It’s time to put some money in the pot and head out to Las Vegas.
Writers, don’t waste away your life savings when you are sitting at the table. Hold or fold, but either way your picks for the Kobalt 400 are due by Thursday, March 3, at 10 p.m. ET.
On Wednesday, NASCAR announced penalties in regards to inspection violations at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The RCR teams of Austin Dillon, Paul Menard, and Ryan Newman each lost 10 driver points, Richard Childress lost 10 owner points each for the violations, and all crew chiefs were fined.
Written warnings were given to the No. 32, 88, 83 and 98 for failing inspection on multiple occasions.
However, the most severe penalty that was announced was for Martin Truex Jr. NASCAR found issues with the roof flap(s) during pre-race inspection. Crew chief Cole Pearn has been suspended one race, and fined $50,000 for the infraction. Owner Barney Visser, along with Truex Jr, have each been docked 15 championship points.
The P3-level infraction is planning to be appealed, so the fine for Pearn and the suspension are temporarily on hold. However, the points have been deducted.
As such, as is stated in the rules for the League, the writer that picked Truex to win on Sunday was also docked the 15 points. Should the appeal from the No. 78 team be successful, and any or all points are rewarded back, they will be added in once again.