MONTE DUTTON: ATLANTA IS AS NORMAL AS THIS IS GOING TO GET
I don’t know what to make of the new NASCAR rules. If you’re basing your judgment on the Daytona 500 alone, you don’t, either.
The Daytona 500 does not a season make. On the contrary, it has little, historically, to do with the rest of the season, and it’s no mystery why. It’s a plate race for which all the teams have been diligently preparing since the jet engines cooled after the flight back from Homestead.
Everyone is as ready as their resources allow. This will not always be the case. Teams will have to preserve their equipment. Some will run out of it.
At the moment, many observers seem to want to have their cake and eat it, too. On the one hand, they say, bearing charts and graphs, the format had nothing to do with all the crashes. On the other, they add later, with more charts and graphs (not to mention graphics), those rules made the racing more exciting. It bears all the credit and none of the blame.
Now it’s on to Atlanta, or thereabouts, actually, where one of the flagships of NASCAR’s decline hosts the season’s first real race, meaning, by “real,” that the path to the path to the championship runs right through all the similarly configured speed palaces like Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Daytona was long – and the segmented format is going to ensure that – but action-filled. The test race two must pass is whether NASCAR America’s attention span can withstand a race that doesn’t feature bump-drafting, huge coveys of streaking road runners, and the occasional cataclysmic crash. Daytona was a long, exciting day turned night. Atlanta might just be long.
But … Atlanta could be long already. Regardless of whether fans love them or not, they will grow accustomed to all these mandatory cautions, bonus points for the season but not the Chase (oops, playoffs), bonus points for the playoffs, stage winners (by the way, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick have already surpassed the great Richard Petty in career stage victories) and a lovely brigade of women dressed by Monster to look good on motorcycles.
For those of us who have followed this circus for a while, it’s all we’ve got. We’ll put up, if not shut up, just like we did with the all the other godforsaken aberrations.
Maybe a few newbies will tag along and, eventually, learn enough to be dangerous.