Here at the sports desk located somewhere below decks of the Good Pirate Ship RedState, we apologize for the lengthy absence. First, we had to find the desk; it was buried underneath mounds of blue and gold glitter from the Golden State Warriors championship parade. Then, just as we were progressing on that front, Sammy the Shark and Karl the Kraken had a fish cracker fight to celebrate the NHL season’s conclusion, with the Colorado Avalanche hoisting the Stanley Cup. Took forever to get all those things out from in-between the couch cushions. But we’re back, and watching some excellent NASCAR action to boot.
In what was easily the best start-to-finish race of the year, Chase Elliott held off a hard-charging field to win the Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart in front of a sparse but rabid crowd at his home track, Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 10th. The victory makes Elliott the first, three-time winner in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series.
Atlanta’s recent reconfiguration, adding more banking, has turned it into a miniature superspeedway. Cars can run in tight packs, and proper drafting technique is critical. Elliott, comfortable driving any track configuration, did a masterful job of manipulating the draft, knowing when to push and be pushed en route to the victory.
The race developed multiple plot lines throughout its course, not the least of which was an escalation of Denny Hamlin’s on-track beef with Ross Chastain. The issue started a few weeks back at World Wide Technology Raceway, which neighbors St. Louis. Chastain wrecked Hamlin during the facilities’ inaugural NASCAR Cup race, and although he said all the right words following the incident, apparently learned little if anything, as a piece of sloppy, over-aggressive driving at Atlanta sent Hamlin’s car into a spin, after Chastain clipped him in the left rear. Hamlin measured his post-race words carefully, but henceforth heightened attention will arise whenever Hamlin and Chastain are next to each other on any track.
A more positive note was the strong run by Corey Lajoie, whose 21st place finish in no way indicates how good he was. Lajoie spent much of the day running up front, coming up short when a final-lap attempt to squeeze by Elliott on the outside fell short, as Elliott threw a block and Lajoie hit the outside wall leading to a multi-car crash that ended the race under caution.
As noted, superb action from green flag to checkered flag was the day’s mainstay. Lead changes were frequent, and Elliott winning the first two race stages was a sign of how well he did and not a lack of on-track competitiveness. The disappointing crowd will doubtless be firmly in the rear view mirror next year, as even the most casual NASCAR fan will want to catch this kind of pure racing excitement in person.
The race also showcased how, despite occasional attempts by NASCAR management to play the woke game, it remains the people’s sport. Although there is nothing truly stock about today’s stock cars, they still bear a passable resemblance to what we see in dealer showrooms. The drivers remain down to earth, uniformly approachable by fans. On the racing side, the current car introduced this year has shown it is the four-wheel equivalent of old Timex watch commercials, in that it can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. This is as opposed to a Formula One car which disintegrates if a butterfly sneezes in its general direction. You want action and excitement? Look up clips of this race, and you’ll be richly satisfied.
NASCAR has been undeniably down the past few years. Races such as the 2022 Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart at Atlanta Motor Speedway will bring it back faster than you can say “boogity boogity boogity.”