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The Freshies: Excitement, Close Finishes and Piñatas in Atlanta

Photo Credit: Alex Slitz/Getty Images

By Adam Carabine

Best Finish (...ever?)

I mean, can we talk about that finish? We’ve seen close finishes before, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen a three-wide photo finish.  I’m not going to lie, I haven’t been a NASCAR fan long enough to remember anything similar.  

While the margin of victory at Atlanta wasn’t the closest in history, it might’ve been the most exciting.  

It’s funny, there was some trepidation coming into this race, from fans and drivers alike.  There are the old-school people who are sad that Atlanta got reconfigured into this SuperSpeedway Lite a few years ago.  There are the ‘racing traditionalists’ who believe that there are too many plate-style drafting tracks on the schedule already.  There are even those who prefer Daytona and Talladega, and feel Atlanta doesn’t measure up because it’s an entire mile shorter.

All of those haters?  Silent after Sunday’s race.

Worst Impression of a Duck

Joey Logano’s glove-related penalty was a strange one.  In case you missed it, he was dinged for using gloves that were not up to safety code.  They showed him on the broadcast during qualifying with this weird extra webbing between his fingers, almost like one of those wingsuit things but for your hands.  Not only was it safety related, there was speculation that this could actually be an aerodynamic advantage.  

Technically the gloves were illegal because once they were modified, they were no longer up to the strict safety code.  NASCAR easily could have just sent Logano to the rear for modifying equipment, but I get the sense that they were pissed when they discovered it and decided that the heftier safety penalty (including a pass-through pit road to start the race) might serve as a warning to others looking for even the slightest advantage.

I suppose we shouldn’t knock the idea - he did wind up on the front row next to pole-sitter Michael McDowell.

Best Off-Season Plan

When I spoke with Daniel Suarez at the championship race in Phoenix last November, he tried to downplay that ‘24 was going to be an important season for him.  He stressed that some years go better than others, and that it was important to learn from the years that don’t go as well.

He also mentioned that he cancelled his vacation plans over the off-season, with the goal of getting back to the shop in Charlotte sooner to start working on things.  

While I’m sure that wasn’t as fun as a sunny beach destination might’ve been, it looks like Suarez got the last laugh in this one.  Hard work pays off - could this be the first of many piñata smashes for Suarez this year?

Most Egg on Faces

Sometimes it’s fun to go back and dunk on people who had bad takes on the Atlanta schedule change.  Sure, it was one great race, but hey - I’ve been wrong before, so this is all meant in good fun!

Best Stats

Austin Cindric had the best average running position through the race - P8.  

Kyle Larson had the best pass differential of any driver, he was +33.

Ryan Blaney was your stage point king, earning 17 of a possible 20.

Todd Gilliland led the most laps on the day with 58 (another new career high for him).

The number of drivers who have run every lap (another way to say finished on the lead lap each race) has already dwindled down to just 10.

Most Pressure

When the 2024 schedule was released last year, Atlanta was a hot topic of discussion.  Not only was the second Atlanta date being moved into the first round of the playoffs, but NASCAR pushed the spring race to slot number two, ensuring two SuperSpeedway races in a row.

This effectively was seen as a move to carry forward momentum, in multiple senses.  Viewership of the Daytona 500 is always comparatively quite high, and the hope was that a product similar to Daytona immediately following it might be enough to grab new fans.  And let’s not forget “The Netflix Effect,” which was another attempt to collect these new casual fans.  

All of this to say, Las Vegas has some hefty pressure on its shoulders now to carry this momentum even further.  Many drivers have said that the real season starts at Las Vegas, the first true intermediate track of the season.  Atlanta delivered to the casual fans - what will Vegas have in store?

Biggest Callout

Jeff Gluck with the mic drop:


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