Any more global warming and a guy could freeze to death. Last week, we had temperatures higher than Sunday at Atlanta. It is actually snowing where I am, a ten hour drive north of the Montana border, so seeing somewhere warm at this time of year is a good thing. Atlanta did not provide that good thing, unless you happened to be a fan of one of four drivers.
Joey Logano took the pole, led early, and finished fourth. Kevin Harvick then led a bunch, the most of anyone, and wound up second. Dale Earnhardt Jr. led for a moment, a brief moment, but was near the point the entire day, finishing third. Then there was Jimmie Johnson, who closed the door on the Closer, after he got caught up in traffic, to claim his 71st Cup victory.
Johnson started beyond 30th, as did 13 others who failed to even make it through tech inspection, never mind even attempting to qualify. Jeff Gordon failed four times. We are left to wonder if all these teams became that dumb that quick, or have the lasers used for measuring become that precise that quick, or is there another explanation? Only 15 of 49 cars made it through on their first attempt, with Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth among those who failed to get in a qualifying run.
Okay, Travis Kvapil did not either, but he had better reason. Among the many reasons the cars get taken to the track in a majestically painted hauler apparently is to warn thieves that this is something too hot for them to handle. Put the car in a plain white trailer towed behind a pick-up truck, park it outside a hotel, and a thief could wind up with the surprise of his life. They found the car left parked in a rural area after the thieves unloaded it, but the tools, and spare engine are as gone as the trailer they were in at the moment. You can see the No. 44 car at Las Vegas this weekend.
Winning or being in the Top 16 is the goal in order to make the Chase. Logano and Johnson are pretty much locked in. A.J. Allmendinger (seventh on Sunday), Carl Edwards (12th), and Danica Patrick (16th) are now in, while Denny Hamlin (38th), Michael Annett (29th), and Austin Dillon (39th) have slipped to the outside. Others heading to Las Vegas seeking to move up are such veterans as Kenseth (18th in the standings), Ryan Newman (21st), Brad Keselowski (23rd), Jamie McMurray (32nd), Gordon (35th) and Stewart (36th).
Brian Vickers returns to the No. 55 Toyota this weekend after mending from a heart issue. His stand-in at Atlanta was 22-year old Brett Moffitt, who finished eighth in just his eighth Cup event. Interestingly enough, that one result has him just 14 points out, 24th in the rankings, and just two behind Keselowski. I hope somebody has the kid’s phone number.
There is no excuse to have a bad announcer who was a former driver. Keselowski did a good job during his Xfinity broadcast stint. Harvick was great during his. I still love Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach. There is a lot of talent out there. While announcing is a very important component to keeping fans watching and listening, I have noticed some other components.
There is the visual excitement, like a tight battle for the lead, a formation of drivers only inches apart, or charging at break neck speed down city streets, as they do at Monte Carlo. Atlanta was not like that, at least it wasn’t until Hamlin or Greg Biffle went sideways. Then it became exciting, in a video game kind of way.
There is the leader of the race. You like that driver, it is entertaining. If you do not, it is not as enjoyable. I found my own enjoyment factor went up when Kevin and Jimmie replaced Joey on point. I am sure the new Mrs. Logano saw this differently, as she should.
There was a time when we were made to feel like we were part of a fraternity, with promos and commercials geared to fans just like you. When was the last time we were asked “how bad have you got it?” Do you look at a big brown truck any differently? NAPA was not just car parts, it was about teammates and being at the wrong track. Is anyone still sorry about what happened to Tony’s little car? In the words of Hank Williams, why doesn’t NASCAR and its sponsors love us like they used to do?
I loved being in Las Vegas 14 months ago. It got so cool there I damn near had to put a jacket over my T-shirt, shorts, and sandals. What a wonderful way to experience winter. Yet, the Deep South was almost a deep freeze Sunday at Atlanta, and when I was at Daytona one February a few years ago. If that is how things are now in the south, there is no way I am visiting Boston until the Red Sox are playing in front of a short-sleeve crowd at Fenway. I will risk a sun burn over frost bite any day.