Published March 08, 2010
ATLANTA – 5 things we learned
You asked for it ... The 2010 NASCAR season started with a simple mandate from Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition: "Have at it, boys."
Carl Edwards did just that Sunday in Atlanta, and now there's uproar of biblical proportion on TV, radio and the internet.
"My options: Considering that Brad wrecks me with no regard for anyones safety or hard work, should I: A-Keep letting him wreck me? B-Confront him after the race? C-Wait til bristol and collect other cars? or D-Take care of it now?" Edwards wrote in a message on his Facebook fan page. "I want to be clear that I was surprised at his flight and very relieved when he walked away. Every person has to decide what code they want to live by and hopefully this explains mine."
Translation: You asked for it ... I delivered.
There's going to be a lot of criticism and pleas for NASCAR to punish Edwards severely for his actions in the next few days. But let's be honest, this is exactly what the sport needed. Think about it -- the day after the Oscars, video of the incident is being played and debated on news stations and around watercoolers throughout the country.
Was Edwards' wreck of Brad Keselowski Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway the smartest thing he's ever done? No, but he felt he was wronged and did what fans and media have been yearning for.
With three short tracks next on the Sprint Cup schedule, there's one thing we know for sure: The boys are having at it.
Another NASCAR change works - It's not often that NASCAR gets this much praise, but another preseason fix proved very successful as the updated green/white/checker rule added excitement and resulted in a deserving winner. Yes, three attempts at a green-flag finish create the potential for many multi-car wrecks at the end of a race, but it also captivates fans all the way to the finish -- and will do so the rest of the season.
Happy is for real - You judge a champion not by how he runs when everything goes right, but rather how he reacts when things go wrong. Sunday, anything and everything seemed to go wrong for Kevin Harvick. Although the frustration was evident in his many radio communications with the crew, Harvick and his No. 29 team did all the right things to salvage points on the day - and when the chaotic finale happened they catapulted to ninth in the scoreboard despite running an average of 22.795. That type of performance proves Harvick is a title contender in 2010.
Things a little bit different this time around - Take a look at the standings . Notice anything different? Sure, your top drivers are still the head of the class, but there's plenty of fresh faces worth applauding toward the top of the charts. Paul Menard in ninth? Scott Speed in 12th? And look who's 13th!? Yes, we'll see a return to form for some veterans in the coming weeks, particularly with the new spoiler coming soon, but it's nice to see more than just the "same old-same old" getting good results on a weekly basis.
Plenty of good seats still available - Atlanta Motor Speedway had a little bit of everything - great racing, drama, solid finish. The one thing it was missing? Packed grandstands. Just like Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., AMS had trouble with attendance this year, begging the question: Does it deserve two races a year? Kentucky Speedway deserves a Sprint Cup date, Kansas Speedway has been promised a second date, Las Vegas Motor Speedway has proven it can sell out races - isn't it time to change things up a bit?
4 things you may have missed
Idea man - O. Bruton Smith, the always candid chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., has a few thoughts on how to make NASCAR better ... and not all of them are self serving (like giving his Kentucky track a Cup date or his Las Vegas a second date).
A new milestone - Jack Roush Jr. wrote a new chapter in the legacy that is his father's career.
Life is a drag - Some go to Disney World after a big win, Kurt Busch is going drag racing .
Fitting tribute - The NASCAR Foundation helped lay the groundwork on Friday for a new honor to former Sprint boss Tom Murphy.
3 on top
Kurt Busch - Had one of the most dominant cars all day alongside Juan Pablo Montoya and Kasey Kahne. Turned it on when it counted most, and most importantly kept it on through all the late-race chaos to keep the win. Now if only he could find consistency week-to-week ...
Matt Kenseth - Has improved every week since getting new crew chief Todd Parrott (seventh, fifth, second). Only one more spot left to earn - and fittingly Bristol is next on the schedule. Don't bet against him getting career win No. 3 at Thunder Valley.
Juan Pablo Montoya - Finally got a finish that matches his performance this season, but that big oval victory still eludes him.
2 quotes heard around the garage
"Noooo i will not comment on (Brad Keselowski/Carl Edwards) ... the last thing i need on a week off is to have to be in trouble for running my trap! :) - Outspoken Denny Hamlin , via his Twitter, decides to stay quiet about his rival Keselowski.
"I think if I denied that, I would be lying. You know, it feels good. It honestly feels good to be with this race team, with Kurt as the driver, and come back and win before the 18 car [of Kyle Busch] got a chance to win." - Steve Addington , crew chief of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge.
1 last thing
A rare off weekend is here, but that doesn't mean you can't feed your need for speed.
Watch: Tune in to the season-opening races for the IZOD IndyCar Series (Sao Paulo Indy 300, Sunday) and Formula One (Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday on SPEED).
Play: Let your inner child roam free (as well as your children too if you have any roaming around) and get in the game. The popular choice in the garage is the online simulation iRacing, but there are plenty of options for consoles: NASCAR Kart Racing (Wii) and NASCAR 2009 (Xbox 360, Playstation 2 and 3) are just some of the popular options out there.
Read: For those looking for a quiet way to feed the need, a new book worth picking up is "The Weekend Starts on Wednesday." Written by NASCAR PR man Andrew Giangola, the title offers an inside look at the fans of the sport - from the zany (Tire Man) to the inspirational (Wessa Miller, the young lady who gave Dale Earnhardt a lucky penny before he won the Daytona 500).
If you want a little more "inside baseball" type of reading, check out Humpy Wheeler's book "Growing up NASCAR." Co-written with Peter Golenbock, the book offers first-hand stories that give an insider's perspective.