HAMPTON, GA (Parlay Game) – The verdict is still not known for NASCAR's new set of competitions after its innocuous debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The race was not the best in NASCAR history, and it was not unassailable.
It was better than nothing better than last year's race in Atlanta and it's a win for NASCAR at the moment. The series officials finally recognized that the product on track was not attracting new fans and needed a complete overhaul.
The result has been a package that has reduced power and increased strength of support, efforts to bring cars closer and present more overtaking opportunities. What that really meant on the track was a mystery before Sunday's race in Atlanta, won by Brad Keselowski following his brief fight with a stomach virus.
The problem with the beginnings is that Atlanta is unlike any other intermediate track in NASCAR and that the 1.54 mile quadrilateral asphalt is the oldest in the series. The track is rough and bumpy, overtaking is always difficult and the race will probably not be repeated this season.
Atlanta was just a preview of what NASCAR was hoping to see dramatically improve over the next three weeks on its west coast swing.
"I would not need a solid B – no one gets an A on their first exam, I do not think so," said owner of the winning team, Roger Penske.
From his vantage point located above the runway on the booth of the observer, Penske said, he watched Joey Logano twice fight his way through the traffic at the front of the pack. He saw drivers who used the preferred top lane slide down before corner 2 and stay there right away, and the cars generally seemed under control.
"You did not see any accidents, which may have been a hit with the fans, but I think that overall, the package showed well," Penske said. "It was not a crash party, what everyone was saying would be potentially. It looks like there are a lot of equal cars driving there. It will come to the drivers and the strategy, what we want. "
The Atlanta race has been better than in recent years because the leader has not deviated from a huge and elusive gap.
The 25 lead changes were more than the last three races in Atlanta and Martin Truex Jr. was in a legitimate run for the lead in the closing laps. Truex lost to Keselowski by 0.21 seconds, but even Keselowski admitted he would not have been able to hold Truex if the race had been longer.
The restarts gathered the peloton and led the drivers to spread out three and four wide as they contested the position. Eventually, they found themselves in a single line, as is the norm in Atlanta and many other intermediate tracks, but Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick managed to swap his head several times in an animated battle halfway through.
NASCAR was satisfied with Sunday's show. Steve O'Donnell said it was a "pretty entertaining race".
But everyone understands that this weekend's race in Las Vegas will be a more accurate indicator of what the race will be like this year.
"When you saw the race unfold, I think for us it was the biggest question mark as to how it went," O'Donnell said. "In the end, we wanted the cars to be closer to each other, we wanted to fight for the head sometimes, which we saw during the race. There are certainly things to work on, but in the end, I think that was the direction we wanted to go.
NASCAR will use a full version of the rules package in Las Vegas, where the proposed air ducts will likely encourage writing. This could give the impression that Las Vegas is a bit like the Daytona 500, where pack races result in spectacular car accidents, which always change the dynamics of a race.
For weeks, the teams will have no clear idea of how to attack this set of rules, as the next three races will take place on extremely different sites that present their own challenges. Drivers adapt to different maneuvers and lower power while team leaders tinker with tweaks.
NASCAR remains optimistic, the fans will be the ultimate winners.