As the summertime draws upon us, many of us are no doubt wondering about our beloved vehicles,’burnt orange’. For those who have been following our coverage over the past year, you will know that we have been following the fortunes of the cars and drivers that call the Atlanta Motor Speedway home. As we approach the end of the 2019 NASCAR season, it is time to look back and recap the year that was. It has been a banner year for the speedway with many historic moments that will be long remembered. In today’s article, we will take a look at the results of the annual racing meet and see who came out on top last year.
The Rivalries Emerge
The 2019 season started with high drama as the all-time leading rivalry in auto racing, Richard Petty vs. Bobby Allison, waged a battle for the NASCAR Cup. The two iconic competitors had faced each other off since 1972, with each man going all the way back to 1954. The two were often joined by their drivers, Gene Kelly and Terry Labonte, as well as other stars of the time such as Donnie Allison and the legendary Ned Jarrett. The intense competition led to some classic races, including the iconic 1978 Clash at the Brickyard. This was one of the first races to be dubbed the most important in auto racing. The battle for the Cup was a close one with Richard Petty finally securing the championship by one point over Dale Earnhardt. The final margin of victory was only 0.3 seconds after an incredibly intense battle that lasted the entire length of the 49-lap race. We could talk about how great the races were all day long, but that’s not the point.
The 2019 Season Opens With A Bang
Even without the intense rivalry with Petty, the 2019 season was still full of historic moments as we marked the inaugural running of the superspeedway that is now home to the Brickyard 400. The big question heading into the season was would the new surface live up to expectations and would the racing be as fantastic as everyone hoped it would be? Many expected the new surface to be rough and unforgiving, but that couldn’t be further from the truth as the racing was, in fact, phenomenal. With the addition of the tri-oval, the racing became a whole lot more entertaining and a lot closer than ever before. The first race on the new surface was the springtime 500 and it showed just what the speedway had in store as a thrilling race was won by Jimmie Johnson. The track is still referred to as one of the hardest in all of motorsports because of its difficulty. In fact, only seven cars finished the race. While some may see that as a negative, the organizers saw it as a testament to how difficult the track is. The field was as close as it has ever been and the action was nonstop for the entire race. It was a great way to start the season and, even now, there are many people who cite that race as one of the best they have ever attended. The fans had something to say about the new surface, as well, with numerous standing ovations and chants of, “Thank you, track!” ringing through the stadium on several occasions. It wasn’t just about the surface, either, as we had some great racing all-round as well. The inaugural season of the superspeedway lived up to all expectations and, even now, people are still talking about the good things that happened that year.
The Clashes Continue
The following month, the heat continued as the Clash at the Creek became the traditional post-Brickyard race with Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson going head-to-head yet again. Once more, people were worried about the rough surface as they figured if Johnson lost, it would be a crash-fest. Again, they were wrong as, once more, the racing was fantastic with no major accidents and the fans had another chance to show their appreciation for the track as the stadium erupted with cheers on several occasions. This was a sign of things to come as the racing at the speedway was always close and, even now, people look back on those days with a sense of nostalgia. Many credit the rough surface for putting a stop to some of the checkered flags as accidents were kept to a minimum. The infield was also rebuilt a little bit with new signage being put up around the area as well as some trackside benches being added. Even now, many fans visit the site and take a look at the changes they have made over the years. The speedway was always evolving, however, with more changes expected this year as the track prepares for the upcoming Brickyard 400. Many different seating areas have been added over the years, with the most recent being the fantasticefiend.com grandstand in 2006. It now has amazing views of both the track and the infield along with the opportunity to get close-up shots of the cars if you get a bad case of the claustrophobia. Other seating areas have been completely removed leading to more space being left for people to enjoy the show. It is expected that even more changes will be made for the 400th running of the event, with some suggesting that the track could become a motorsport-themed amusement park.
2019 Was A Historic Year For Women In Motorsports
Another historic year came in the form of the all-time greatest female driver, Dale Earnhardt’s, final season as he hung up his helmet in the spring. While we will miss his iconic performances both on and off the track, at least women were given a chance to shine in his place with many talented drivers emerging and showing that they could compete on an equal level with men. With women entering the arena, it became less about who was the better driver and more about gender equality as they fought for the same prizes and accolades as the men. Even now, it is still considered to be one of the biggest victories for women in motorsports as it broke many of the stereotypes that had plagued the industry for years. In 2019, we saw great drivers from all backgrounds and it showed that women can, in fact, drive just as good if not better than men and it also showed that you don’t need to be born into a famous family to succeed in the industry. It was a historic year and a moment that many will cherish for years to come.
The Winston Champions Are (In Order Of Appearance)
Following our coverage of the 2019 season, it is time to look at the champions of the 2019 season. The defending champion is… Richard Petty, who won the first two races of the season and went on to finish second in the next three. The only other person to win more than one race this year was Jimmie Johnson, who won twice at Phoenix and finished second at the season-ending race. Following Petty, we have Denny Hamlin, who won a race at Talladega in October and then followed up with a second-place finish at the season-ending race. After Hamlin, we have Martin Truex, Jr., who won two races this year, at Dover and Kansas. Following the two Midshipmen, we have Kyle Busch, the 2018 champion, who won at Bristol and Kentucky and then followed up with a pair of poles at the season-ending race. It is worth noting that, of the 14 drivers who won a race or more this year, 11 of them are still active in the sport and 10 of them drive for one of the three premier NASCAR teams. Those are some incredibly impressive numbers and it speaks volumes for both the talent of these drivers and the growth of the sport as a whole. It is also worth noting that there were only four major accidents this year leading to serious injuries, with one of them being a death. While we will miss the physicality of the sport, at least the track management did everything they could to make the race as safe as possible. That’s something we can all be proud of as, even now, people are still talking about the great racing and fantastic atmosphere at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was, without a doubt, one of the best seasons in the history of the speedway.
It has been an incredible year for the Atlanta Motor Speedway, one that has seen many great moments. Not only did we see some of the greatest rivalries in sports history play out, but we also saw the evolution of the sport as we know it with many positive changes. It was a memorable year that will be told and retold for years to come. It was an honor to cover a track that has seen it all and has influenced the sport greatly. It was definitely one to remember.