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MARGOLIS: NASCAR Goes Back to the Future

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By Bob Margolis

Congratulations to Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus on win number 76, putting the driver alongside the legendary Dale Earnhardt on the wins list. I’m comfortable saying that Johnson is among a handful of drivers to be considered the best of all time and you should be too.
I know that you can’t please everyone. It’s why they make vanilla and chocolate. But if you truly are an auto racing fan of the NASCAR variety, then you have to agree that Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 was one of the most entertaining Sprint Cup regular season races in recent memory.
It did, however, remind me of how different a perspective you get when you see the race in person rather than rely upon the visual and verbal descriptions offered by both television and radio. While there was apparently quite a bit of racing going on in the field, the FOX Sports television broadcast saddled viewers at home with the same monotonous shots of the same cars. The PRN broadcast, heard via Raceview, wasn’t much better although radio did talk about some of the midfield racing action.
The long green flag runs may be a harbinger of things to come this season, especially on the 1.5-mile tracks. That 20-minute clock idea doesn’t look so silly now, does it?
Goodyear brought a tire combination to Atlanta that was good enough to have forced teams to manage their tires. Compounding that issue was that the race was dictated by long, green flag runs. Kudos to Jeff Gordon in the television broadcast booth for pointing out the tire management issue.
Gordon’s insight, even two races into the season, has been invaluable. Especially if you’ve been a Gordon fan. You can draw pleasure in that with everything observation he makes, you get to further appreciate why he was so good a driver for so many years.
I also like the role that Larry McReynolds now plays on the FOX Sports broadcasts.
There were times during the long green flag runs when you literally thought some of the cars were having trouble because they appeared to be going much slower than before. That’s the magic of Atlanta. Its coarse and aged surface wreaks havoc on tires and setups and causes tremendous fall off just laps into a run.
Back to the future. Even though the new, low down force setup was motivated initially by the drivers, you have to give a tip of the hat to NASCAR competition execs for following through with the idea, providing the first competitive 1.5-mile race in many years. Yes, I know, the car out front always will benefit from clean air, but the race leader was challenged several times. The real test will be if we see similar racing next week at Las Vegas. I expect we will.
It was easy to see by the results on Sunday which teams have their 1.5-mile setups figured out and which ones have more work to do. I remember when Kasey Kahne was the man to beat at Atlanta. Of course, he was driving a Dodge in those days. Those were also the days when he appeared in those funny Allstate commercials.
I can’t believe so much time and energy was spent on Matt Kenseth’s penalty. The replay showed an obvious violation of pit road regulations. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff either doesn’t know the rule book or he was showboating to cover his ass. No matter the reason, the kerfuffle put Kenseth two laps down to the leaders and out of contention. I mean, did team owner Gibbs really need to get involved?
I think the Sunoco commercial with the drivers making engine noises is stupid.
Ford was MIA once again with Brad Keselowski the highest finishing blue oval entry (ninth). Maybe we should we say a small hurrah for Roush Fenway with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s top-10 finish. Don’t expect the anemic showing for Ford to continue for much longer.
I never could understand what all the excitement has been over Clint Bowyer. I’ve always felt he belongs back in the field alongside the McDowells, the Cassills and the Annetts of the world. That’s where he’s racing now.
Were you one of those people who were predicting such a great season for Kyle Larson? What happened to him and Ganassi teammate Jamie McMurray on race day? If you also thought that this group would slide in to fill the void with Chevrolet when Stewart-Haas leaves for Ford, think again.
Was it me or did Dale Earnhardt Jr. appear in just about every NASCAR oriented television commercial? I’m not disputing his being the most popular driver, but I can remember when Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson got their fair share of commercial exposure. And where are all the commercials featuring the current champion?
After the race, a disappointed Kevin Harvick, who led the most laps and was burned in the final restart when he spun his tires was asked by FOX Sports pit reporter Jamie Little what he thought of the new 1.5-mile package. His answer was very revealing. “I know now it’s not how fast you are in practice. It’s how (well) does your car handle?”
Don’t bet against “The Closer” over the next two races (Las Vegas and Phoenix). He may win both.

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The caution clock still sounds silly.
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They always play favorites that's what's annoying, hell Logano climbed from the back all the way to 5th before he got barely a mention from anyone on tv, even when they occasionally showed him

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Geez, this article goes all over the place. But, I stopped giving it too much thought when he said that the caution clock didn't sound so silly.
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