Lost in the Wreckage: What We Overlooked at Atlanta Motor Speedway
A driver went to victory lane on Sunday afternoon. A team got to celebrate taking a checkered flag.
Trophies were presented, photos were taken, and post-race interviews were conducted. On Sunday, there was a 500-mile race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway that saw Kurt Busch take his first win of the season.
But, is anyone talking about the victory? Is anyone discussing the final pit stops where Busch had to pass three cars to get ahead?
No, they are not.
On lap 323 of the scheduled 325 laps, the story happened. Carl Edwards hits Brad Keselowski, Busch's teammate, and the No. 12 Dodge takes flight. In that moment, the previous 322 laps disappeared.
The pit stops, the passes, the lead changes; everything else disappeared when that car hit the wall.
Why is that?
The answer is simple: it was THE moment. It's the part of the race that we as the media wait for every time the green flag flies. Unfortunately, it's also the moment that makes us all look past what happened before and after it happened.
It's not the first time this has happened. When Dale Earnhardt passed away in 2001, did anyone talk about Michael Waltrip winning his first race? Of course not, the icon of the sport was no longer with us.
Go forward a couple years to Michigan, 2003. It was a day where Ryan Newman took a fuel-mileage gamble to win the race.
What did people talk about after that? It was Jimmy Spencer giving Busch a swift right hook in the garage area. Media swarmed that story like a group of linebackers gang-tackling a running back.
The track that seems to always have this happen is Talladega because of it's history. Last fall, it was Jamie McMurray taking what would then become his last win with Roush-Fenway on a green-white-checkered finish.
But, no one talks about that win. The story was Ryan Newman doing a front flip in his U.S. Army Chevy and having to wait nearly five minutes to get cut out.
McMurray had a similar situation this year at Daytona. Everyone was talking about his win in the "Great American Race." However, the topic of conversation 24 hours later was the pothole that developed in the racing surface.
It's a vicious cycle that we can't seem to get away from, but it's the trend of the media today.
When I look at the Kobalt Tools 500 from 2010, yes I will remember the wreck. But, at the same time, what I remember also is the domination of Busch and Kasey Kahne. Those two had the best cars all day long, and it was going to be one of those two going to victory lane.
Combined, the beer-sponsored cars led 75 percent of the laps. It was a battle of which beverage would be cracked open in victory lane.
I also look at the two green-white-checkered attempts, with the first having a multiple-car pile up, taking out a lot of good cars. Busch had to survive both restarts, plus pass some drivers who went with right-side tires only, hoping to gain a surprising victory.
I remember the struggles of Hendrick Motorsports, with each one having tire issues. Very few teams outside of the Hendrick stable had tire issues with the compound Goodyear brought to the track.
There was Earnhardt Jr. getting his first pole in over a year, giving Junior Nation something to cheer for come race day.
There are many headlines that could have been written about what happened at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, but one story has taken center stage.
We can't help it, because we all have an interest in what NASCAR was going to do after the fact. Even then, the story continues. Was the punishment fitting for the act, was it too lenient, is this a trend the sport is going in? There's more questions than answers coming from an incident that occurred in just a few seconds.
Many of those questions will not get answered until next week when racing returns at Bristol.
Have we beaten the Edwards-Keselowski incident to death? It's highly possible. We all have a take on it, and we've all voiced it at one point. Maybe it is time to simply let it rest and move on to the next headline.
The race in Atlanta was an excellent event from flag-to-flag, and one that will be talked about all the way to the end of the season.
But, much like many other great races in years past, a lot of things got lost in the wreckage.
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