OBSERVATIONS: Xfinity Series-Gander Outdoor Truck Series Double Header

Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of the best tracks for any of NASCAR’s three divisions to race at, and they doubled the fans pleasure on Saturday with back-to-back events.

While known for it’s three-wide, across the whole surface racing, both the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rinnai 250 and NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series Ultimate Tailgating 200 were dominated by a single driver. However, it was not simple for either to reach victory lane, though.

Christopher Bell was quick from the drop of the green flag in the Rinnai 250, taking the lead early and not ready to look back. Though after dominating the first two stages, a hang-up with the right rear on pit road under green would cause him to lose valuable track position. It didn’t deter the sophomore driver, as he quickly rallied and made the pass three-wide to ultimately put himself back on top. A quick restart at the end, and he took the Toyota Supera to victory lane for the first time.

It’s no secret the level of talent that Bell has behind the wheel, as many believe it’s just a matter of time before we see him in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Actually, it’s really about waiting for a seat to open up for him. Though after leading the Xfinity series in victories last year, he failed to win the championship. Given his chase for perfection, that’s certainly fueling him to perform this year.

His determination, though, can sometimes shine a negative light. While you’re expecting a driver to purely happy in victory lane, Bell is the type to look at what he did wrong right in that moment. At the Chili Bowl after winning on preliminary night, he critiqued his restarts; on Saturday, he spoke of how he wasn’t able to run the bottom line like he should have. Although some may be confused by hearing these types of comments on a celebratory moment, it showcases the desire, and how badly he wants to make it to the top – a fire that honestly could be something of admiration.

Kyle Busch dominated the Ultimate Tailgating 200, but wasn’t able to just hang in the top-five and have fun all day long. A vibration brought forth an unscheduled pit stop, sending him back to 24th in the running order. Busch did not waste time making his way back to the front, returning to the lead before the stage’s conclusion. He then held off Johnny Sauter‘s charge on a late-race restart to take the victory, a record 52nd in the series.

Although criticized by many for his attitude at times, there is denying Busch’s talent, or the fact that he will be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame one day.

Sauter, meanwhile, may feel the wrath of fans given his comments post-race in how he was trying to wreck Busch on the ensuing final restart.

“Honestly, I was kind of trying to wreck him,” Sauter said. “I just couldn’t get there. I was locked on to him and I was hoping he would spin out but he did a great job of blocking.” 

Sauter is known for his no brash attitude, and it’s certainly created a divide in the stands. Given the fact he was almost without a ride for this season, you have to wonder if comments like these are really necessary. Thank you for the honesty, though. 

The double header proved successful for Atlanta Motor Speedway as both races were great to watch from the seats.

Although at times it seemed the Xfinity Series was spread out in parts, there was always a battle somewhere to watch throughout the field, with multiple cars mixing it up at a time. Whether you chose to run the high lane, the middle, or conserve your tires with the low line, you never totally felt bored. The joy of worn out tracks with multiple grooves.

The Gander Outdoor Truck Series is known for their jaw-dropping intermediate action, with the runs that they’re able to get on each other with the current aero package. Saturday was no exception, with drivers battling throughout the whole night as evidenced by a three-wide battle for the lead at one point, along with Busch and Sauter swapping back and forth through the middle of the race.

If there’s any negative to say about the track, you could say that restarts can be torture if you start in the outside lane. No matter who seems to start second, they spin the tires and lose track position to those on the inside. Harrison Burton felt that in the truck race, going from second to seventh on the final restart. But Atlanta isn’t the only track with this problem, and if that’s the only downfall, then we can live with that. Once again, please don’t repave this track.


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By Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.