The signs didn't look promising for an interesting race in the Sprint Cup Series Sunday long before the cars had even taken to the track, due to the entry list showing that only 39 cars had been entered to race in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
This was the smallest starting grid for a Cup Series race, since 1993 at Martinsville Speedway when just 34 cars took the green flag, and has led many people to blame the new charter system from NASCAR as a negative move from the sport as Sprint Cup fields are now milited to 40 instead of 43 cars.
The On Track Action
As the racing got underway it looked like any doubts that the fans at the track and watching at home may have had would be washed away as from the drop of the green flag there was side-by-side action throughout the pack, largely due to the new downforce package that NASCAR brought in to effect this week.
Less downforce on the cars should result in them being less stable and harder to drive, and this is exactly what fans were treated to as shortly into a tire run drivers were struggling to keep their machines going forward and keeping it from spinning out.
With the new tire package from Goodyear also in effect at the speedway, as just a few laps after getting fresh rubber the times had dropped by up to three seconds from the start of a run.
But this didn't hamper the action, if anything it took it up a gear, and this was highlighted by the three car battle for fourth between Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and fans favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr.
They traded places and used all of the race track whilst going nearly 200mph in a three wide battle.
Battle for The Lead
For the early part of the race it was Stewart Haas Racing driver Kurt Busch who controlled the race after he had started in pole position in his Monster Energy Chevrolet, until his team mate Kevin Harvick and Front Row Motorsports driver Martin Truex Jr worked their way towards the front.
Then it became a two car battle between the Jimmy Johns Chevrolet and the Denver Mattress Toyota for a number of the 325 laps around the 1.5-mile venue.
The trading places between Harvick and Truex Jr, the runner-up to Denny Hamlin last week during the Daytona 500, was made even harder due to the fact that the race began with a 210 lap green flag run which meant none of them could let off and recover until two thirds of the race were complete.
From lap 155 to the halfway point the pair exchanged the lead five times as they both looked for the best line around the racetrack and fought tire wear and the new downforce package.
Overall A Success For The Race
After fans had seen the finish, Jimmie Johnson taking the victory after NASCAR's new Overtime Rule had come into effect on the last restart, the majority of them would have been satisfied with action they had witnessed.
The new downforce package was successful as Earnhardt Jr told FoxSports 1 after the race: "I post pictures all the time of the old races from the 80's and 90's and people say 'That's when racing was good, get back to that' well that's what you've just seen here today."
Third place finisher Kyle Busch was also singing the praises of the race and the new package in his pre-race comments: "During the race I think it was me, Dale and Brad who were battling three wide for a time, so I hope you got some good shots of that on TV."
With drivers and fans alike satisfied with the race as a whole and the new rules package, tire wear and lack of nonsense cautions making for a better viewing spectacle it looks like NASCAR has managed to get another thing right to improve the sport in the coming seasons.
Stay tuned to VAVEL USA and the @NASCARonVAVEL twitter page for more reaction to Atlanta and a look ahead to this weeks racing from Las Vegas Motor Speedway.