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It really doesn’t matter who won the 2017 Daytona 500 anymore; that’s all in the past and each race is a new chapter in the 2017 NASCAR Cup Season. Well… that is except for the team that won it. Admittedly, winning the Daytona 500 is a big deal but the story doesn’t last all that long as a headline even though many of the talking heads generally bring it up throughout the season. For this fan and many NASCAR fans, we are ready to move on. This week was another challenge for all to face including the one that won the Daytona 500 and to be quite honest… he and his team didn’t fair all that well at the Folds of Honor/QuickTrip 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Brad Keselowski ended up winning this one at the Atlanta Motor Speedway even though Kevin Harvick and his #4 Stewart/Haas Racing Ford team absolutely dominated the weekend right up to the last pit stop. Harvick won the poll and the first two stages but was clocked speeding on his last pit stop and had to start at the tail end of the longest line which was around 35th with only 11 laps to go. Much like last weekend at Daytona, the person expected to win didn’t cross the finish line first. From my view, racing luck played about as large a role in Keselowski’s win as did his crew chief and team doing more right than they did wrong. Actually, I do have to admit he drove a great race also.
So far this season, the Fords are looking pretty tough and have won the first two races of the new season. From this fan’s view, the move to Ford didn’t hurt the Stewart/Haas Racing teams at all and they do look extremely strong so far in the first two races of 2017. Had it not been for the speeding penalty late in the race by Harvick, it would have been two in a row for SHR and there haven’t been that many in the first two weeks looking to challenge them. Well… that is unless you consider the way Chase Elliot has been running in these first two races. Yeah, I know he only finished fifth this weekend but that makes two top fives for the first two races. Not too shabby for the 21 year old from Georgia if you ask me.
Atlanta didn’t really show us very much about the new five minute clock rule simply because there wasn’t that much to compare it with compared to Daytona. As a fan, I haven’t really decided one way or the other on it but I will say it definitely needs to be re-evaluated. I am of the opinion it should be changed by adding more time or by the way they are timed on the clock. Don’t misunderstand me; I do understand why they want to do it and I actually do somewhat agree. My problem is when the pit road is so long and pit road speed is so slow, it really doesn’t even give them time to evaluate the problems, let alone fix them. I do think they will add more time to the clock in the future but for now, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. As I said, Atlanta wasn’t a good test for it because we didn’t see many examples for it to be used.
That brings me to my opinion of the stages… Well… so far it does seem to add a little something to the racing in the first half of the race and I know the drivers like being able to accumulate points for their performance instead of their end result. Kevin Harvick has won three of the four stages so far in the two races but has yet to take a win. As I mentioned earlier in this article/podcast, he dominated the weekend by winning the pole position and then pretty much leading almost all of the laps until his final pit stop. He was caught speeding but he wasn’t alone. There were many speeders on pit road and it cost all of them in some fashion or other. For most, it didn’t make that much of a difference because they were struggling anyway. For Harvick it was devastating just like running out of fuel was for Chase Elliot last weekend at Daytona.
It is my opinion (and I am sure many agree with me) Kevin Harvick would have won except for that one glaring mistake on pit road. The difference this time compared to others is that the mistake was his and his alone and he couldn’t blame it on his crew. He owned up to it and apologized to his crew and they will move on but remember, his is in first place in the points after two races even though he has no wins… yet.
From this fan’s view, the #4 team was almost perfect on each and every stop and their times were exemplary. Oh well… this wasn’t the first time Harvick led the most laps and didn’t win. In fact, he has been making a habit of it in recent times.
The Toyotas are experiencing some difficulties and in particular the Joe Gibbs Toyotas. Nothing really outstanding and it could just be bad “racing luck.” To this fan it all started with their strategy for running Daytona. From the first stop it all fell apart and they just haven’t gained that momentum they were carrying a lot through last year. They aren’t running all that bad but they do seem to be out of sync at least through these first two races. I expect that their luck will change soon but we all know how the Hendrick teams struggled up to the middle of the season last year.
Speaking of the Hendrick teams, Jimmie Johnson is having a relatively weak start to the year considering he is the reigning Cup Champ. We all know they have their ups and downs in the #48 camp but we also know their race results can turn on a dime and be the ones everyone else is chasing week in and week out. I’m interested in seeing how the next three weeks go in the NASCAR West Coast jaunt. I think a lot of things can change by the end of March.
And then, there’s Dale Jr… He just hasn’t had any luck at all so far this year since returning to the #88 HMS Chevy. Well… I just can’t say I expect that to continue but it does make things interesting in the short term. Honestly, I do kind of expect he will come back from the next three races with at least one win but, then again… well… you know…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© March 7, 2017 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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All music TwoBuckThemes from Mike Stewart unless otherwise stated