The Twenty-Four Hours of Atlanta

March 21, 2022 | Blog

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That was supposed to be a pun.

Yes, William Byron, driving the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, won on Sunday at the “new” Atlanta Motor Speedway.

And yes, the race took four hours to complete (technically 3 hours, 57 minutes, 14 Seconds but you get my point.)

So I guess my pun worked. Use your imagination.

Atlanta Race Results | Season Standings

I honestly don’t know what to think of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 on the revamped 1.54-mile Georgia track. Since last Summer’s race, the track underwent a major renovation that saw the banking in the turns increased to 28 degrees, the front stretch widened, backstretch narrowed, and the turn turns were also narrowed as well. What we saw on Sunday was the Daytona 500 on an intermediate track.

I love the plate tracks, excuse me, downforce tracks of Daytona International Speedway (2.5 miles) and Talladega Superspeedway (2.66 miles.) These tracks are so big and so fast that cars (and trucks) have different rules than other tracks to reduce speeds which causes the entire field to run in one large pack. At Daytona and Talladega, I love watching 40 cars run in one pack while holding my breath constantly waiting for the “big one” to break out.

But yesterday, that was weird.

Now, I didn’t watch the entire race. I listened to the majority of it while we were heading too and from and at my stepson’s baseball practice (I must say the folks at the Performance Racing Network had a tremendous call.) But the parts I did see… I really don’t know what to say.

That’s a long way to get to a non-answer on what I thought of the race, but honestly I have no idea what to think of yesterday. I didn’t not like the race if that’s what you’re wondering. I simply don’t know what to think about it.

The Clock Is Running…

I think we’re at the point where we all agree that 500 miles was too long yesterday. 4 hours to run a race is too long. Far too long. But, part of that was also caused by 11 cautions, the most at AMS since the spring race in 2010.

I feel like we’re at the point where there’s a diminishing returns thing going on here. I think 500 mile races used to be important when equipment and drivers had a hard time going the distance without breaking. Now, 500 miles is a breeze on a motor and the drivers are in such good shape they can easily do the distance without any physical implications.

NASCAR and tracks have done a good job of reducing race lengths in recent years to make these shows not seem unending. But I think somewhere like Atlanta (or Texas) could benefit from having their 500 mile races reduced to 400 miles.

Honestly, it makes the race better.

For The Better…

Youtube screenshot of the ESPN broadcast of the start of the 1996 Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

During my…. hiatus I’ve had over the last month from working (I start a new job next week which I’ll talk about later on), I’ve done a rewatch of the entire 1996 NASCAR Cup Series season on Youtube. Every race from that year is available to watch (for free by the way) and I’ve been keeping it on as background noise while I do work around the house.

These races are 26 years old. But I can remember watching every single one of them. 1996 was the first year my dad and I started regularly going to races at Darlington so that season has always been special to me. Anyway, what I’m taking away from these broadcasts is how simple they were but how much better (in some aspects) they were than today’s shows.

The majority of the time there was a lap counter (on ESPN broadcasts anyway) and usually the top-10 rundown on screen so we knew where (some) of the drivers were throughout the race.

But the simplicity made it so refreshing to watch. No arts and crafts. No bells and whistles. Just Bob, Benny, and Ned identifying drivers BY NAME, calling what they saw on track, appropriate camera angles to tell the story and building up each race by talking about storylines from the weekend and throughout the season to report what was happening. They had conversations while broadcasting these races. And they did it to make it feel like they were having the conversations while sitting in your living room with you.

Even in a 4×3, SD world that’s mostly pixelated and had horrible audio, these broadcasts in many ways are better than what’s on television now. I miss the simplicity the legacy television partners presented each week.

I miss storytelling.

I don’t want arts and crafts, b-roll of people square dancing in the infield, or people yelling car numbers at me.

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