Kevin Harvick won the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in dominating fashion. Here are four things we learned following the second race of the NASCAR season.
Kevin Harvick is really good at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Kevin Harvick dominated the field on Sunday, like he’s done in the previous four races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Except this time, he finally found victory lane.
“Just really happy to come back to Victory Lane,” said Harvick after the race. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to drive into Victory Lane here on Sunday.”
Harvick led a total of 181 laps on Sunday and had the race in control the entire time, despite any alternative pit strategies other drivers would take. Harvick led a combined total of 66% of laps between the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series races over the weekend.
Just two races into the season and Harvick has already clinched his spot in the playoffs, eliminating any pressure and making the rest of the season more fun.
“But it just takes a ton of pressure off. If you can go out and win more races, that’s what makes winning early more fun, if you can go out and gather some points and pull into Victory Lane some more. And we’re going to have fun either way.”
The racing surface at Atlanta is good for the drivers and the fans
With tire wear actually playing a factor in the outcome of the race, Atlanta Motor Speedway provided fans and drivers alike with 500 miles of entertainment.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s a good track,” Brad Keselowski said after finishing second. “A lot of fun to race on. Of course we ran up front so we’re a little biased, but I had a blast today, and just really, really working your tail off inside the car, and it feels kind of old school, which I like.”
Clint Bowyer, who finished third, had the same thoughts on the racing surface at Atlanta.
“What a good racetrack for me, and I don’t think you’ll find a driver that doesn’t enjoy this place, doesn’t really matter where you finish,” said Bowyer. “It’s a challenging racetrack. You can over-attack it, and you can under-drive it. It’s such a hard thing to find a good rhythm here, and once you do, one run it feels really good and you think you’re in that same rhythm the next run, and you’re probably two seconds slower over the course of runs.”
As of writing this, the Jeff Gluck “Was it a good race?” poll had nearly 60% of voters in favor of the race on Sunday. That seems a little bit lower than average for a 1.5-mile track and that could be due to Harvick’s dominating performance. Either way, it’s hard to get 60% of NASCAR fans to agree on something positive.
Martin Truex Jr. is really good on 1.5-mile tracks
Yes, we already knew this from last year as evident by Truex’s seven wins on the tracks 1.5 miles in length. However, Atlanta isn’t the same as the other 1.5-mile tracks and Truex climbed his way from the 35th starting position to the top 15 in the first twenty laps.
Truex would end up finishing in fifth and that would be after some pit road miscues caused by NASCAR’s new mandated pit gun. (See the next talking point below for more details.)
Showing that much speed in the second race of the season on a track that is known for wearing out tires is impressive. The defending series champion is picking up where he left off.
Some teams are not happy with the new pit guns
Shortly after the race ended, Nate Ryan from NBC Sports wrote about the troubles Martin Truex Jr. and his Furniture Row Racing team had with pit guns during the race at Atlanta.
— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) February 26, 2018
Truex’s No. 78 team weren’t the only teams to face trouble either. It’s still early in the season to know just how much of an impact the new mandated pit guns that NASCAR is providing could have.
Follow Matt on Twitter @mattlovisa.