Many NASCAR drivers will tell you that they look forward to racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This despite them knowing it is a track so abrasive that saving tires is as essential as saving gas on it.
Kyle Larson's words will tell you a little bit about the reasons for the love the track gets":
"I enjoy surfaces that are wore out. You can move around. I hope this place doesn't ever get repaved. I feel like each year we talk about it more and more. We'll see what they do. I enjoy it how it is. I mean, if it's not repaved, it's a totally different style of race. It's kind of whatever you're into. For me, as a driver, I'm into this style.”
Tire wear was on full display down the stretch of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. On the NASCAR on Fox broadcast, the line of the day was Larson ‘euthanizing the field’ until he wasn’t. The No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Camaro blew away the competition through the first two stages, winning each by six seconds or better.
As the laps clicked off down the stretch, Larson still had the dominant car, but Ryan Blaney was inching closer and closer with each trip around the track. Then it happened. Blaney made a pass with eight to go and pulled away for the upset victory.
Larson might as well have been driving on flat tires as quickly as they went away. He was doing what most drivers do in the latter stages, pulling out all the stops to stay in front. In the process, he used up his tires, and the rest is history.
“I was definitely hoping for a caution just to get some new tires on it and hopefully come out the leader, control the restart and try and win that way,” Larson said. “I knew I was in trouble. But it didn't play out that way.”
But with NASCAR returning to the track in July, the first time AMS has seen two events in the same year since 2010, Larson gets a mulligan.
A NASCAR six pack
There are sixteen available spots for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, but the way things have started this season, will the field be expanded?
The first six races of the 2021 campaign have resulted in six different winners, and some of the usual suspects are still looking for their first victory. Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Auston Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, and Chase Elliott are just some of the names having bad luck, or no luck at all.
If you put a W next to their names, 15 of the 16 NASCAR Cup Series playoff slots are now taken. Twenty races remain in the regular season, and there are sure to be repeat winners. Still, if the early results are any indication, another Michael McDowell or Christopher Bell are likely to stick their noses into the championship picture.
Stay tuned. The NASCAR season is just getting started.