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Ahhh, where to begin with NASCAR‘s Folds of Honor Quick Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway broadcast on Fox? The race was completely unremarkable with Jimmy Johnson winning his 71st race on a 1.5 mile oval. Like a football game in the fog, it had way too many needless flags. However, the race weekend had a little bit of everything when it came to the extraneous. Stolen race car? Check. Amateurish qualifying session? Check. New rules, new track bar adjusters, new spoilers? Check, check and check. Entertaining racing on Sunday? Uh, not so much. Johnson’s little son sure was cute, though.
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After a looong delay due to morning rains, the race appropriately enough began under yellow. This turned out to be foreshadowing of the entire afternoon. After only twenty five laps and just as a racing rhythm set in a planned “competition caution” was thrown right on cue. For the record, we’re strongly opposed to these disruptions. Before the race was over, there were a total of ten caution periods and another red flag thrown in for good measure with about twenty laps to go. There wasn’t a short caution among them and as usual several were thrown for “debris” in highly subjective calls. Shockingly and despite NASCAR’s best efforts, the race did eventually end under green. Frankly even that didn’t help our waning interest level. Too many flags!
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With no manufactured yellow/red/green/white/checkered NASCAR finish, Johnson won going away by a margin of nearly two seconds over 2014 series champ Kevin Harvick. In other words it wasn’t really close, nor was it very compelling racing. Judging by the sparse crowd, many fans agreed and stayed away in droves. At four hours not counting the delay, the 500 mile race seemingly took an eternity to run, in large part because it did. The last seventy five miles or fifty laps took nearly an hour with the cautions and race stoppage, so at the end the NASCAR boys were doing interstate speeds. Fascinating stuff.
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Ever the crazy uncle at the reunion, Darrell Waltrip deserves an entire article for his race reportage on Sunday. In classic Darrell-ese, he aptly described tire temps as “they’re cold, guys!” and then insightfully observed of the blimp, “it’s up in the sky!” During the final forty eight laps he even unintentionally swerved into the truth, saying “I think we’re about right back where we were” in the race. Out of the mouths of the senile. Another witty bit of commentary had DW quip, “It depends on your situation, ya know.”
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Our absolute favorite minute of the entire day’s coverage was DW’s epic fail during the red flag when he began talking with Matt Kenseth. “Hey Matt Kenseth, ya got a copy?” Clearly unenthused, thinking he’s talking to his crew and not knowing he’s on live television, Kenseth dejectedly said “Yes, I guess.” He sounded exactly like a teenager when asked if he’s ready for school, and Darrell was totally oblivious. At that point an unidentified and obviously embarrassed crew member chimed in,” “Uh, don’t think Matt was expecting to hear from ya today!” Now that’s entertaining television.
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Another highlight had a safety crew member falling down on track while on camera as he ran to pick up race waste. But that’s about it for exciting moments. Danica‘s car was reportedly “on fire” at one point, but her race result again ended up being far from en fuego, as predicted. With another low light of a race, her record sunk to one win in 211 major league starts. Mike Joy made up somewhat for Darrell’s dim wittedness, as he often must. A “Joy-ism” we enjoyed was the “hospital pain chart” reference, which by that point in the race broadcast was highly fitting.
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With two races of wall to wall coverage after years of ignoring NASCAR, we’re finally starting to understand the series’ appeal. It isn’t the racing, the cars, the drivers, the speeds or even the technology that draws fans like flies. It’s the laughing at and making fun of and tweeting about NASCAR during the race that’s the best part, by far. At least it is for us.