Time to reduce length of Sprint Cup races

If truth be known, the tall foreheads who run NASCAR’s on-track product would prefer to have only one 500 mile on the 36-race schedule — the Daytona 500.

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Those other 500-plus races like Sunday’s Sprint Cup Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the races at Texas Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway as well as the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, should all be cut to 400 miles.

It is only the track owners who love those long races — the longer the race the more beer and hot dogs they can sell.

They have to start realizing, however, it is hurting the sport in its crucial television numbers and Sunday’s Atlanta race was an example.

Not that it wasn’t good racing, it was.

Any concerns that a two inch reduction on the rear spoiler and 75 less horsepower from the engine might adversely affect the racing at Atlanta were quickly dispelled as average lap speeds were up over 180 mph with door-to-door racing right from the green flag.

So take a bow, Oshawa native Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR’s senior vice-president, innovation and racing development, who was in charge of the year long project to make racing better on the so-called Intermediate (1.5-mile) ovals.

But, and it is a big but, the average sports fan’s attention span circa 2015 is about two and a half hours — tops — and Sunday’s race ran more than three hours.

All of the major stick and ball sports — baseball, hockey, football and basketball — are looking at ways to get their games done within the 21/2-hour time frame.

This is not to take away from Jimmie Johnson’s win on Sunday or the racing we have seen starting with last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship — it has been good.

Of course everyone could have done without the crashfest with 20 laps to go at Atlanta when Joe Nemechek and Greg Biffle caused a massive wreck to bring out a red flag.

In any event Johnson and the No. 48 team certainly looked like they are taking real aim at that seventh Sprint Cup championship.

LEARNING CURVE

Rookie NASCAR Camping World Series driver Cameron Hayley had his hands full on Saturday driving the No. 15 ThorSports Cabinets by Hayley Toyota at Atlanta.

The 18-year-old Calgary native finished 14th after qualifying third for the Hyundai Construction Equipment 200.

“It was a really tough night for me and this entire No. 13 ThorSport Racing team,” Hayley said. “We just fought the handling in our Toyota Tundra, and it multiplied it by a 100 on a worn-out track like Atlanta.

“I got a ton better on my pit stops and learned a lot about the truck in traffic. There is a lot to learn.”

Next up for Hayley is the short track half mile oval at Martinsville March 28.

FINISH LINES

It was not the way Jeff Gordon wanted to finish his final Sprint Cup race at Atlanta in the No. 24 Chevrolet with a wreck with less than 70 laps to go. ... Over in the rarified air of Formula 1 the winter testing season is over with Valtteri Bottas the fastest on the final day at Circuit de Catalunya in Spain on Sunday for Williams/Mercedes with a quick lap of 1:23.063. The Ferrari team continued its impressive pre-season performance with four-time champion Sebastian Vettel notching the second fastest time of the day at 1:23.469. ... Staying with F-1, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg: “We have a great team now. We’re keeping a close eye on the opposition, because we’ve seen some quite strong times from other teams, so it’s not clear-cut at the moment, but still I think we’re in a good position.” ... Was it just me or did the 3-M paint scheme on Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet just not look right? ... When Fernando Alonso moved over to McLaren for this F-1 season it meant 22-year-old Kevin Magnussen was out of a job. The younger Magnussen had hoped to get a ride with Corvette Racing to join his dad at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but he was too late as the third driver slot for that team had already been filled by IndyCar veteran Ryan Briscoe.

NUTS AND BOLTS

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Jimmie Johnson showed flashes of his six NASCAR Sprint Cup championship form on Sunday winning the Folds of Honor Quick Trip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

It was Johnson’s 71st Cup win.

Kevin Harvick was second in the No. 2 Chevrolet with Dale Earnhardt Jr. third in the No 88 Chevrolet, making it a 1-2-3 for the Bow Tie crew.

Joey Logano in the No. 22 Ford and Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 Toyota rounded out the top five.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Kevin Harvick won Saturday’s Hisense 250 NASCAR XFINITY Series race in the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.

It was Harvick’s third consecutive Xfinity win at Atlanta and fourth overall.

Harvick took control of the race on the final restart on lap 140 when he surged in front of second place finisher Logano in the No. 22 Ford Mustang

Ty Dillon came home third in the No. 3 Chevrolet, followed by Chris Buescher in the No. 60 Ford with defending series champion Chase Elliott fifth in the No. 9 Chevrolet.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Matt Crafton ran away from the rest of the field in Saturday’s Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the No. 88 Toyota Tundra.

The race saw a record 74-lap green flag run leading up to Crafton finishing an astonishing 8.752 seconds ahead of runner-up Dillon in the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado.

Polesitter Ben Kennedy was third in the No. 11 Toyota with Daniel Suarez fourth in the No. 51 Toyota, followed by Tyler Reddick in the No. 19 Ford 150.?



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