The 2016 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 was a long one. With only two cautions in the first 500 miles, the most thrilling part of the race was the overtime crash on the backstretch that ended the race, handing Jimmie Johnson his 76th career Cup victory. In this post, I want to highlight three things we learned during the race Sunday. These tid-bits are chosen since they could have an impact on the series down the road. Much can be said about the new aero package, but I will not comment on this issue yet, considering we need more than one race to justify whether the package will provide the racing action wanted by fans. Before I get started I want to congratulate Jimmie Johnson on tying Dale Earnhardt Sr. with 76 career wins, now placing him 7th/8th (tie) on the all-time win's list. Well let's get to it!
1. Hendrick Motorsports is NOT struggling.
While Kevin Harvick dominated the day, Hendrick Motorsports prevailed in the end. While Jimmie Johnson drove his way to victory lane, his teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Chase Elliott also walked away with top-10 finishes. Earnhardt Jr., beat Kyle Busch to the line to finish 2nd, while Elliott quietly raced inside the top-10 most of the day with a final finishing position of 8th. The #5 team still needs some help, but this organization will be just fine without 4-time champion Jeff Gordon. Penske and Gibbs are gaining, but keep your eye on the #48 and #88 this year, no doubt they have speed.
2. Kyle Busch is no fluke.
Fans will argue Busch's title run for years to come, but one thing is for sure, he isn't backing down in 2016. Busch now has back-to-back 3rd place finishes to start off the season, which is nothing to look over. The scary part of Busch's success early on is his method of doing it. Busch started in the back of the field in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, and by the end of the day found himself up front. Working his way through the field, Busch didn't over use his equipment, he simply let the race come to him. All I can say is a patient Kyle Busch should have the field on their toes. This team has started off just like Harvick did last season, so watch for the #18 to be up front all year long.
3. Goodyear has things together.
I want to applaud Goodyear on a durable tire at Atlanta. Tires were an issue all day long, but for the most part blown tires never became a problem. Atlanta was hungry for that Goodyear rubber, but drivers never faced race ending issues until Ryan Newman had one blow out with 2-laps left in the race (Newman still finished). Goodyear has had plenty of failures over the last few years, but this weekend was a confidence booster. Atlanta is one of the worst tracks on tires, but for Goodyear to walk away without any issues is a great sign for the future. Time will tell if Goodyear has got their stuff together, but I will say progress has been made.
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