In just the third race of the season, there were a plethora of firsts and lasts, from Jeff Gordon running his last ever race at Vegas to Brian Vickers starting his first race since open heart surgery and Kevin Harvick standing in Victory Lane for the first time ever at LVMS.
With several of the sport’s biggest names starting from the back of the field, from missing qualifying sessions to missing driver introductions, here is what else was surprising and not surprising from the 56th annual Folds of Honor Quicktrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Over the course of the season, Jeff Gordon was the top driver of 2014. However, NASCAR has not determined its champion using the results of the entire campaign for more than a decade. They want excitement, drama, unpredictability. They want what the other big boy sports have, and when they waved the flag to start the season finale, four drivers had an even shot to claim the prize. Unfortunately, 39 we knew who would not, also were out there.
As I peer out my window, I see cloudy skies and snow upon the ground. Even for us in the Great White North, this sucks. Yet, for many NASCAR fans, the skies are blue, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and even that fat little mouse is eager to help Cinderelli build her dress. Life is perfect. Well, almost perfect. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his fourth of the season at Martinsville, but just one race too late to keep his title hopes alive.