CRANDALL: Atlanta was new, and sure as hell different

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CRANDALL: Atlanta was new, and sure as hell different

Insights & Analysis

CRANDALL: Atlanta was new, and sure as hell different


The first thing Ross Chastain said to the media after Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway was the most fitting.

“That was a day”.

Chastain could have been describing two different things: First, there was his day – Chastain led 42 laps, blew a right-rear tire while leading, fell two laps down, and then came back to finish second.

Second, there was the day overall – which is what everyone was talking about after 325 laps, 500 miles around the new Atlanta.

And new it was. New, and sure as hell different.

It sounds silly, but Atlanta did indeed go from another mile-and-a-half on the schedule to a mile-and-a-half superspeedway. Well, a mini superspeedway at least. But it had all the same ingredients to what makes Daytona and Talladega so unique.

Passing, crashing, and plenty of pack racing.

If Speedway Motorsports officials were indeed looking to bring closer racing (i.e., pack racing) to Atlanta, they certainly accomplished that with the repave and reprofile.

Honestly, we’ve never seen so much crashing at Atlanta either. Twenty-seven drivers were involved in accidents Sunday, not counting those who crashed coming to the finish. There were 37 drivers entered in the race.

Forty-six lead changes broke the track record and the 141 green flag passes for the lead were more than the last six Atlanta races combined. Granted, it is an apples to oranges comparison considering the track and the race car are completely different. Still, it goes to the larger point that executives felt the need to do something different to produce more action, and it worked.

Matthew T. Thacker/NKP/Motorsport Images

It wasn’t completely unexpected. From the beginning, NASCAR predicted Atlanta would race like a superspeedway and implemented the same rules (out-of-bounds) seen at Daytona and Talladega and the same aero package (510 horsepower, seven-inch spoiler).

But even as the weekend began, there was still some small doubt it would be exactly like superspeedway races. Then practice started, and all the questions about what kind of racing would be seen were quickly answered.

Cup Series drivers used the word “chaos” after practice to describe what they experienced, and that was before a single car was torn up. And it was after only 50 minutes of on-track time.

Superspeedway races are an acquired taste. What took place Sunday won’t be for everyone, just like the racing at Daytona and Talladega usually isn’t. Atlanta will now be in that category as well.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said he had fun. Kyle Busch clearly did not, which was not only evident through his trouble on the track but his words off it.

Busch replied “yup” when asked if he felt more like than entertainer than a driver.

He said “nope” when asked if he liked the changes to the track and then walked away.

Race winner William Byron described it as a “pretty crazy race.” His teammate Chase Elliott also used the “crazy” word and said it was wild from the driver’s seat.

Reactions will be mixed, as they usually are after a superspeedway race. But there can be no denying it was an Atlanta race like no other.

That was a day, indeed.