A First Time Perspective; Covering NASCAR in Atlanta
Saturday, February 24th, I attended my first ever NASCAR race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The NASCAR Xfinity series and the NASCAR CWTS (Camping World Truck Series) were both ran Saturday providing me, as well as the many spectators to an amazing display of skill, teamwork, power and speed. Having never viewed a NASCAR race before, I was initially unsure of how or what to write however, watching Kevin Harvick pull into victory lane after winning the Xfinity Series race, in what could only be described as a display of skill and tenacity has provided me with ample lines which I hope you will enjoy.
With only one crash just ten (10) laps into the race I thought the stage was set for a long day. The caution laps that followed created the opportunity for Harvick to time his release from the pack and claim his front running position that he held for a majority of the rest of the race. While the days competition provided me with a newfound appreciation of a sport I had never envisioned watching, I can’t help but think of everything that goes into making a race day successful. Having a military background I naturally wonder about the logistics of an event or action; wondering how efficient the teams move, how the organizers progress the schedule, and how any adversity is dealt with. It is in understanding or acknowledging the skillset and ability to prepare for an event as big as todays race that for me, provides an understanding followed by a completely enjoyable day.
While touring the area I was again pleasantly reminded of how amazing America is. Due to not knowing what or how to do what I was supposed to do, I thought to just talk with people and see if they had an idea. With every question from “where’s the restroom?” to “ why are you poking holes in those tires”, I was delighted with the informative (restrooms are by the big blue signs that say “restrooms”), and courteous (measuring wear on the tire) information I was seeking. There was no political talk, or worries of recent incidents, just focusing on the task of winning a race, enjoying time with friends and family, and relaxing in the mostly sunny day with cars tearing by you at 180+ miles per hour with a screaming noise that reminded me of being below decks during flight operations while Harrier Jump jets practiced taking off from whichever LHA ship I happened to be on at the time.
I have found in my first days adventure that NASCAR is about competition and sport. It’s about power, skill, technology, and critical instant decision-making; all of which are found in many other sports, but here, those skill sets are being implemented at almost 200 miles per hour with thirty other cars striving for the same goal, victory.
Race Weekend Recap
Kevin Harvick closed out Sunday with wins in both the Xfinity Series and the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. Brad Keselowski (#2), Clint Bowyer (#14), Denny Hamilton (#11), and Martin Truex (#78) rounded out the top 5 finishers. Harvick led 181 out of 325 laps ran in the Monster Energy Drink series race on Sunday, with the number 2 driver Keselowski leading 38 laps. Sunday’s race started at 3:30 pm EST after a rain delay caused many to question if the race was going to be ran. Atlanta Motor Speedway and NASCAR were able to use jet blowers and other equipment to get the track dry for the race that ended with Harvick pulling into victory lane after displaying a “3” tribute to the late Dale Earnhardt.
Saturday showed Harvick, with what would be his first win of the weekend, dominating 141 of 163 laps in the Xfinity Series. A well-planned and executed pass coming out of caution laps enabled Harvick to assume the lead in the race. Joey Logano, Christopher Bell, John Hunter Nemchek, and Elliott Sadler filled out the top 5. Saturday’s race showed the lead position being shared among the top three finishers with Harvick controlling the majority of the laps.
As exciting as the Xfinity Series race was, it brings up a question again that Heroes Media Group has pondered over the last few years. Should Monster Energy Series racers be driving in the Xfinity Series? Again, it creates excitement, and it gives race fans opportunity to see some of their favorite NASCAR drivers, a day earlier. But it also causes veterans in the sport, like Mike Harmon, to be booted on points, even though he qualified 39th, just because the elite chose to race on Saturday. That debate will continue through the season. Harmon debuted the new-look Chevy Camaro this weekend (after spending years with Dodge), and has also landed a new partnership with the Shadow Warriors Project. But again, he was unable to compete due to being dropped on points to make room for the Monster Energy drivers in the field.
Brett Moffitt screamed to victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Active Pest Control 200 while leading only the last two laps. Noah Gragson, Johnny Sauter, Ben Rhodes, and Matt Crafton rounded out the top five spots. Despite Kyle Bush leading sixty seven laps he was unable to finish the race following a faulty pit stop that led to the rear right wheel coming off before exiting the pits.
Heroes Media Group
Photos by John Fitzmayer and Richard Escher