The #18 car that was so successful at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the past, when Bobby Labonte earned six victories for Joe Gibbs Racing, has once again found Victory Lane. This time it was the youngest driver ever to win a Cup race at AMS, and the first time a "foreign" nameplate has won a Cup level race since 1954. Pick your headline.
It would be nice to be able to celebrate Toyota's first Cup points victory with a glowing review of the race. It would be great to report that the race lived up to the expectations we had after the first three races of the season. We honestly can't do that.
There may have been an exciting race for the finish, if something hadn't happened to Carl Edwards' engine. Watching Kyle Busch putting out everything he had to maintain his domination of the race was much like watching Michael Schumacher running by himself in his prime. It was thrilling, but not the kind of thrill for which we watch NASCAR.
"(Racing Clint Bowyer) was the only time I had any fun," said Jeff Gordon. Watching that part of the race was the only fun part for the fans, as well.
There were the butterflies in the stomach we always feel during the last ten laps. Fear that something might happen to Kyle Busch's car, or that he might blow a tire, trepidation that one or more of the three cars racing for second place might wreck in the last few laps, but there was no doubt, at that point, that we wouldn't be seeing any side by side racing.
"The car was sliding all over the track. It was all we could do to hold (the car) on the track. There was no way we could race anybody," said Dale Earnhardt, Jr, who finished third. He added that the right-side tires showed no wear at all, after fifty laps, a bad sign that those tires, that Goodyear had designed to be safe and prevent blow-outs, could not have had enough traction to cause wear.
We thought we had had our rant about the tires, and were done with it, but, considering the snooze fest the race turned out to be, there is more to be said. There is no need to go into Tony Stewart's tirade; everybody has heard that by now, Stewart is known for telling it like it is, and what he tells may often hurt. And, as always, there is some truth in his words.
We don't advocate switching tire manufacturers at this point, that wouldn't happen anyway. What we would like to see is that Goodyear considers that they are supposed to be leasing the teams tires that are good for competition, as well as safety. A competition tire means that the cars can race with it, not just drive around the track and hope that the car doesn't slide into the wall. To go from tires that had wear issues to tires that didn't wear at all is an extreme remedy, and misses a lot of conditions in between, ultimately resulting in the same dangerous situation.
It is no surprise that the top four finishers were the drivers best known for their ability to drive a loose racecar, and in fifth place was the driver who is considered to be one of the best all around drivers in the history of NASCAR. Nobody else even had a chance, with the exception of Carl Edwards, and if his engine hadn't blown up, he would have faded because of tire issues as well.
If Goodyear were giving the tires to the teams, as part of the sponsorship, it would be a different story, but since the teams pay for the tires, they had a legitimate gripe. But Goodyear's involvement is with NASCAR, not the drivers or the teams. They pay for the exclusive rights as the tire NASCAR uses, and to be able to fly their blimp over certain races. In return they can use racing conditions for research and development on sidwall engineering and tire compounds for consumer use. They are not in racing to produce a competitive racing tire, or, at least, that's what it seems.
In Goodyear's defense, they are having the same trouble with the Sprint Cup car that many of the crew chiefs are having. It is a difficult beast on which to get a handle. Perhaps, now that they have figured out how to produce a sidewall and a compound that will make tires last forever on the road, they can try some things that might work for racing.
But, when all is said and done, Goodyear, as part of the NASCAR team, has a responsibility help the sanctioning body present a product the fans can enjoy. Or, at least, they should see that responsibility. Though I am happy for JGR's 1-2 finish, the race could have been a lot better with just a little more responsibility from the tire manufacturer.
Other Takes on This Subject:
From Full Throttle:
Rowdy Stays Inflated--Wins at Atlanta
"And for those longing for the Good Old Days, with only 13 cars on the same lap as Busch, you got it."
From NASCAR Ranting and Raving Blog:
Atlanta: My Observations
"The pace set early was fierce and put a lot of cars down fast, and kept them down - also made the race a little less exciting too."
From Trouble in Turn Two:
View from the couch: Atlanta
"Striking the balance between safety and competition is vital for Goodyear."
From Restricter Plate This:
2008 Kobalt Tools 500 from Atlanta Motor Speedway:
"That Juan Pablo Montoya ad for Big Red is awesome!!!"
" Once in a great while there's actually a flicker of racing action... no, wait, that's just someone wiggling coming off of the turn. Never mind."