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Toby's Take: Sunday's Race at Atlanta Was the Greatest NASCAR Race Ever

Sunday's Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was a race that truly had it all. And it has now cemented itself as the greatest NASCAR race of all time, according to Racing America Editor-in-Chief Toby Christie.


hero image for Toby's Take: Sunday's Race at Atlanta Was the Greatest NASCAR Race Ever

By trade, I'm a writer. I'm supposed to be able to figure out an interesting angle for a column, and then be able to articulate my thoughts about why I feel the way that I do about a topic through my words.

In this instance, the angle part is easy.

Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was the greatest NASCAR race ever. Hands down.

It's the words that are the problem.

The ability to describe my thoughts about the masterpiece that was that 400-mile race in Hampton, GA is what is escaping me at the moment. You'll have to bear with me, because the reason I have no words is probably because, in all of the years that NASCAR has been holding races, we have never seen what took place on Sunday night.

I have never sat on pit road as a race unfolded at the end and felt the euphoric sensations that I felt standing on pit road as Sunday night's race concluded. When you feel the hair stand up on the back of your neck, and you can noticeably see goosebumps forming on your arms, you know it's a special moment.

And I have seen some truly special moments take place in person at NASCAR races over the years.

I attended the 2001 July race at Daytona International Speedway, where Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in the first race at the track since his father's passing. I would regard that race as the most emotional race in NASCAR history. But that race pales in comparison to Sunday's race from a pure action standpoint.

The 2016 NASCAR Cup Series championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway also comes to mind as one of those goosebumps-inducing races that I have attended.

After Carl Edwards and Joey Logano crashed while battling for the win and championship in the closing laps of that race, Jimmie Johnson went to the front of the field and secured his seventh championship. It was an electric atmosphere. But again, even with how wild that race was, and the added historical significance of a seventh championship for Johnson, it doesn't hold a candle to this race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The Ambetter Health 400 is a race that truly had it all.

If you love lead changes, there were 48 of them (an Atlanta Motor Speedway track record).

Do you want a big crash? Well, there was a 19-car melee on Lap 2.

Do you like edge-of-your-seat moments? The drivers were literally running four-wide for several laps while battling for the lead at a track where running more than two-wide has been sketchy at best since the reconfiguration.

And who doesn't like a good finish? Sunday's race had the best one of them all as Daniel Suarez knifed to the outside of Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney to make it a three-wide drag race to the finish line off of Turn 4 on the final lap. What ensued was a photo finish, where nobody truly knew who had won (including me. Full disclosure: I thought Blaney had won the race), until the freeze frame of the start-finish line cam was shown.

And to top it all off, you had a driver (Daniel Suarez) take the win, who has had his future questioned by many within the industry after he went winless and missed the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs a season ago. Worry no more. Suarez's place is safe.

"Yes, this is a contract year for Daniel. Does that mean that this is Daniel's audition? No," Trackhouse Racing team owner Justin Marks said in his post-race press conference. "It means that basically, we are working on growing this company and making Trackhouse one of the powerhouse perennial championship-contending companies in this sport.

"On the hot seat? He just didn't have the year that he wanted last year. But we know that he can get it done, and he's a guy that can get it done. I don't envision necessarily a situation where Daniel is not a driver for Trackhouse Racing."

Even if you dislike superspeedway racing because drivers just have to hold their foot down on the gas pedal all night, you have nothing to be upset with. Thanks to the track surface at Atlanta aging quickly, the drivers had to put in some hard work in during this race.

"I cannot explain to you guys. I hope that everyone at home and you guys were actually able to see how much movement our cars had," Daniel Suarez said. "We were not comfortable — I don’t think there were many cars going wide open besides the front row cars. Everyone was driving the cars. It was not easy, not easy at all. This racetrack is fairly new, and it already has some bumps, so it wasn’t easy. But it was great racing. It was great racing."

Truly, there was nothing to dislike about Sunday's race at Atlanta. And that is the crux of why this race is the sport's greatest race of all time.

"I think from an entertainment value standpoint, I don't know what more you could want from a race like tonight," Marks explained. "It was incredible. My heart rate was 150 just watching. All race long, I talked to my wife about this, the calmest people here are the guys driving the cars because we're all just watching this just holding our breath. This is one of the most compelling races I think that you could want for a sport. It was an incredible thing to watch."

Before the pitchforks come out, the 1979 Daytona 500 will forever be the most important race in the sport's history, in my eyes, but Sunday's thriller takes the top spot as the best race to ever be contested from green flag to checkered flag. There was never a lull. There was never a moment in the race where it felt like drivers were simply riding it out to get to the end of the race.

It was an epic adrenaline-filled marathon from the drop of the green flag, and just when you expected there was no way the race could get any better, it ratcheted up a notch. Every. single. time.

Atlanta Motor Speedway is officially the track that has produced the best NASCAR race that anyone has ever seen.

Photo Credit: Andrew Coppley / HHP for Chevy Racing

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