So the 2016 Atlanta 500 has been run. A look at the race's winners and losers -
Hendrick Motorsports - After taking it on the chin at Daytona by JGR's Toyotas, Hendrick's honchos roared back to finish 1-2 and also eighth thanks to a nice rebound by Chase Elliott. Kasey Kahnre remains the black sheep of the Hendrick fleet.
Half of Stewart-Haas Racing - Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick combined to lead 193 laps and finish fourth and sixth. Harvick's gag on the final restart was the killer of the race.
Young guns - The young guns had zero ammo at Daytona. At Atlanta Elliott, Ricky Stenhouse, and Austin Dillon made a respectable effort and result.
Martin Truex - He led 34 laps and it's obvious that team fits better with Toyota than it did with Chevrolet.
The list of winners is pretty slim; the list of losers isn't -
The short field - Striking was the high incidence of reportage critical of NASCAR for the shortness of the field, with blame given the new Charter system. For a media that has been easily the most lapdog of all the sports medias, the NASCAR media's shots at NASCAR's Charter system was surprising - and very refreshing. Lower car counts is never a good thing; it is a sign of declining value. It's certainly not irreversible - but NASCAR needs to work to reverse this trend.
NASCAR's Retro 5&5 Rule - Drivers after the race kept saying "it was fun, it was fun." But the most fun rules package remains the one where they can blast into the lead and they can fight back and retake it when someone else blasts into the lead - the more lead changes, the better for everyone. This Atlanta 500 had a couple of spots of dicing up front, notably the two-lap dice between Harvick and Martin Truex, but other than that there wasn't much - certainly nothing like the apex of the track's history as a 1.54-mile quad-oval - 1999-2002 with four of its most competitive races, notably the 2001-2 Atlanta 500s contested with high downforce and a much-harder tire than used today.
With this low-downforce package we also saw a return of the dirtiest words in racing, the condition from which nothing good can ever arrive - aero tight. The biggest surprise was the lack of yellows in the 500, doubly surprising given the tire mini-fiascos endured in the Xfinity-Truck doubleheader on Saturday.
People oversold low downforce at Kentucky and Darlington last year and it showed again it's not the way to go, no matter how much fun drivers professed to have with it.
Matt Kenseth - The pit penalty after leading 47 laps left him 19th at the end.
Ganassi Racing - Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson were on milk cartons the whole race long.
Penske Racing - Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano did salvage productive finishes - ninth for Brad and twelfth for Logano - but they're hardly the power they were last season so far.
RCR and Roush-Fenway - Six cars, one top-ten in this race between them. Even with that Roush's bunch did show some notable improvement.