NASCAR’s Real Season Begins at Atlanta

The pomp and circumstance of The Great American Race is in our rearview mirror. Now we get down to the business of the “real” NASCAR season. On to Atlanta Motor Speedway and its 1.5 miles and its big sweeping corners and old beaten and weathered pavement.

NASCAR’s Real Season Begins at Atlanta

The only thing we learnt at Daytona is, we didn’t learn a gosh dang thing. Atlanta, much like most other tracks, poses completely different issues for drivers and teams alike than what kept them up at night at Daytona. The weather (rain in the forecast) won’t be the only thing different in Atlanta. Here’s a few things to look for.

The new 5 men over the wall rule

What’s the big deal you might be thinking. It was hardly noticed last weekend in sunny Florida. It might be a major understatement but someone will likely lose the race on pit road. Last season, pit stops of under 12 seconds were what teams strived for. Forget that! The consensus in the garage the past couple of weeks is a good pit stop might very well be under 17 seconds.

Teams have yet to figure this out. Chad Knaus, Crew Chief for the 48 Chevrolet driven by Jimmie Johnson, told the media that teams are using several different methods with their 4 tire changes. Factor in that the gas can man cannot do anything but put fuel in the vehicle, adjustment to the cars will cost even further time.

Brad Keselowski, speaking about the additional time expected for adjustments, “I think I’ll be asking for fewer and fewer changes given the extra time needed on pit road.”

Four tires every time

The old beaten down pavement is tough on tires. That 25-seconds here won’t be anybody gaining track position by just taking 2 tires. Not gonna happen here. Given the new pit crew manpower rules and the tracks abrasive racing surface and it’s a sure bet that the guy taking home the trophy is the team who avoids that 25+ seconds pit stop.

Atlanta Motor Speedway President Ed Clark did say that they did do maintenance to the track surface last fall. The track had planned on a repave after last season but the drivers all criticized the track for those plans, preferring the old aging surface. The track acquiesced to the drivers.

“The strategy is we’ll review things after that and see how it goes. Is it time to repave this year or put it off for another year?”, Clark said this week.
Repaves in recent times have too often led to single file groves so from a fans standpoint its probably a good thing repaving has been postponed. It’s also a good thing for tire salesman.

Who’s hot

Austin Dillon: Like Kurt Busch of last season, winning NASCAR’s biggest race to start the season make a season.

Bubba Wallace: It wasn’t just his second place finish that he makes my list, but his huge smile and even bigger personality won over a lot of fans.

Chris Buescher: Look, this guy can drive and he’s a good dude as well. The driver of the #37 JTG Chevrolet can drive the wheels off the car.

Who’s not

Jimmie Johnson: The only person more disappointed in his Daytona week than Jimmie Johnson is the car builders. Restrictor plate races and Jimmie Johnson are no longer friends.

Kyle Busch: Kyle got caught up in a early race wreck at Daytona and was never really a factor after that.

Brad Keselowski: You’ve got to be kidding me? Johnson, Kyle Busch and Brad all on my list of “Who’s not”? I bet that never happens again this season.

Denny Hamlin: Denny had a great finish (3rd) at Daytona. He makes the list for his off-track remarks. First by saying 70% of drivers are on Adderall (He later said that his remarks were meant as a joke) and than insulting fans on social media by calling them “idiots”. Not the way you’d want to start the season.

Notes:

Weather forecast for Sunday does not look favorable for the Atlanta area, thus NASCAR has moved the starting time of the race up 1 hour……. David Ragan is set to make his 400th career start on Sunday……..Southern Gospel quartet, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound will perform our National Anthem prior to the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500……. Atlanta native and “Saturday Night Live” star, Kenan Thompson will serve as the Grand Marshall for Sundays race……..Atlanta Motor Speedway features some unique food items. My favorite? The peanut butter and jelly milk shake.

Thanks for reading.  Listen to WTBQ Radio on Monday and Friday mornings as I john Frank, Taylor and the Morning Show gang to discuss the current happenings in NASCAR.  1110AM, 93.5FM, or online at WTBQ.com.  Follow me on twitter @JimLaplante

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