Column By: JOHN DOUGLAS / RPW – HAMPTON, GA – Atlanta Motor Speedway’s pavement might be worn out but the beating Kevin Harvick put on both the NASCAR XFINITY Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series fields this past weekend are surely fresh in everyone’s mind.
Is it the track’s fault? Does NASCAR need to do something? Well that’s an answer you can only get by looking at The Good, The bad and the Ugly.
The term “wheelman” was invented for tracks like Atlanta. When you can see a driver wrestling his machine around a speedway at 170mph like he’s on a very angry bull, you have the potential to showcase the talent of the men who pilot these machines.
With the need to gain recognition for this new generation of drivers, tracks that challenge the skills of these drivers will play a critical role in their development and the development of NASCAR’s future.
There is no easier way to showcase talent than to challenge that talent. Atlanta, Darlington and Auto Club Speedway just to name a few do just that. Others with fresher pavement? Not so much.
Kevin Harvick has Atlanta figured out. No one else does and that is the only thing holding Sunday’s race back from being absolutely amazing. Mother nature decided it was time to help fans out and make things interesting with pit strategy. However, if not for that, who knows how big Harvick’s lead would have been.
That’s not anyone’s fault but the other 35 teams that showed up to compete. Their job was to bring the best car possible to the track and no one’s ‘best’ was even close.
Harvick spoke during the pre-race rain delay of finding something at a Goodyear test in 2008 that allows him to drive that track in a way no one else can figure out. That’s good for Harvick as he has led over 1,000 laps in the last five races there. It’s not good for the sport or the show to have one car that much better.
With the fact Harvick has Atlanta figured out in mind, the track’s owners have been threatening to pave the track again amid fears of weepers, pot holes and other factors. The one thing that will put them over the top is if no one is getting closer to what Harvick has.
If teams do not figure something out, NASCAR and Atlanta Motor Speedway might be more inclined to take that advantage away. Even if it means losing some side-by-side racing.
The other teams in the garage area need to get to work on their Atlanta package for next year or we won’t be enjoying one of the best track surfaces on the circuit very much longer. No matter how many drivers beg for it, tracks won’t care what a driver prefers when one man is this much faster than everyone else and there’s no sign of that changing.
If the teams essentially make NASCAR and the Speedway do the job of equalizing the advantage, we’re in for a long wait before we get the possibility of some of the finest racing NASCAR’s entire calendar has to offer.