The race-deciding moment unquestionably transpired when Kevin Harvick exceeded the 45 miles per hour speed limit (and the 5 miles per hour tolerance) as he came down pit road for his final stop during Sunday's Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The good part about it is our Ford has been really fast. But unbeknownst to Harvick at the time, his clinic wasn't going to stay open all day. With the uncertainty of plate racing behind them, look for at least one rookie to impress at Atlanta. Speedway Motorsports Inc. also owns the tracks at Atlanta (one race this season), Bristol (two), Charlotte (two plus the Showdown and All-Star exhibitions), Texas (two), New Hampshire (two), Sonoma (one) and Kentucky (one). Photo by Christian Espinoza.
Despite finishing ninth, Harvick ended the race with 48 points; the third-most of any driver in the race.
After running in the top-five for most of the race, Elliott was caught speeding on Lap 212. So watch the first 30 laps pretty closely Sunday, and if the drivers on fresher tires make significant moves, expect more sandbagging come qualifying at Auto Club Speedway next month, another track where tire wear is significant.
And that's exactly what happened.
"The cars are going to be a handful", said Kevin Harvick, who will start from the pole Sunday. The No.4 was sent to the tail end of the field, handing the lead over to fellow CA native, Kyle Larson. The only time Harvick lost the lead all day until his unfathomable pit-road gaffe came during a mid-race pit cycle when Keselowski grabbed the point for a handful of laps.
"That was good", said Newman, who is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2016 season.
From Brad Keselowski's perspective, it was just a matter of things evening out. Photo by Zach Darrow. Now, with his 29th and biggest win to his credit, there's no question about his validity as one of the sport's greats. I know how it goes. A great winning percentage at this level is one out of every 10 races, and one out of every 10 races, if you can pull that off, you're a Hall of Famer. I think he just did a little better job driving, managing the bottom of the race track and keeping his tires on his auto and still going fast at the same time.
Harvick was able to battle his way back into the top-10 throughout the last few laps, bringing home a decent 9th-place finish.
Keselowski could understood how it happened, especially on a day when a number of top drivers - including two-time defending race victor Jimmie Johnson - ran afoul of the 45-mph speed limit. Apparently, I wasn't. I want to thank everyone on our Jimmy John's Ford for everything they did this weekend. I think most of us are concerned about tires than the lower aero package right now. Given the seeming closeness of the penalties, he could be on to something. I just didn't have enough grip - or not as much as I'd hoped.
The hope is that the lack in downforce requires drivers to be off the throttle longer in the turns and a driver who can get a good balance on the auto will have a better ability to pass.
There are bumps that chatter the teeth of drivers in the long, sweeping corners, and the pavement is so abrasive most pit stops in today's Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 will be predicated by tire wear, not fuel mileage.
"I'm just going down and hooking the corner just like Mesa Marin", Harvick said over the radio during his domination.
"Yeah, this place, for whatever reason, I just feel like I'm snake-bitten", said Harvick, who won his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the Georgia track in 2001 and hasn't won here since.