But when those who did were engaged in the battle, it proved worthy of the race fan’s attention.
Try to ride comfortably? You risk getting blown away by the rest of the field. Mash the gas, risk losing your tires a lot sooner in a race run.
In the end, Jimmie Johnson made history in a wild finish, coming away with his 76th career victory to tie Dale Earnhardt for seventh on the all-time career list. And in the most appropriate moment of the season so far, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the runner-up.
Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports tweeted: “Congrats to my friend and teammate @JimmieJohnson on tying my father today in Cup wins. Proud to have ran 2nd on this momentous occasion.”
Not only was Johnson’s win momentous, but the racing was pretty darn awesome, too.
Although only eight drivers led laps at Atlanta, there were 28 lead changes among them. Passing was plentiful and caution flags were few, requiring pit crews to be on their quickest with the stops and crew chiefs to pay close attention to tire wear.
No yellow flags came out until lap 211. The second caution wasn’t until lap 324 for a Ryan Newman spinout, one lap short of the official distance.
Enter NASCAR’s new overtime rule. Once Johnson got past the official overtime line off the final restart, the race was over.
And the field didn’t get to the checkered flag before Johnson could take the white flag due to a four-car accident back in the pack. It left some fans up in arms, but the rule had to be put in place mainly because of the controversy surrounding restart issues on the green-white-checkered attempts of last season.
With Johnson’s win putting him in more elite company than ever before, it begs for truly legitimate questions. Will he get a seventh championship? Will he reach 100 wins?
Under the new Chase format, winning titles is the most difficult it’s been in NASCAR history. It’s not about riding around for maximum points anymore. Winning is rewarded handsomely, as Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick can certainly attest with their Sprint Cup crowns of the last two seasons.
There’s also good news and bad news about Johnson’s quest for 100 wins. The good: He got to No. 76 in his 509th career start, and that averages out to a win every 6.6 times Johnson gets in a race car.
The bad: Johnson is 40 years old and will hit 41 in September.
While the native of El Cajon, Calif., hasn’t gone winless in any of his 15 seasons as a Sprint Cup driver, time and normal wear and tear have a way of catching up to everyone.
Look no further than now-retired Jeff Gordon. Gordon may have 93 career wins, but he was shut out of the win column three times in his 23 seasons (1993, 2008, 2010) and was 44 when he stepped out of the car for the final time in 2015.
There haven’t been any rumblings about Johnson’s future yet or any signs he’s slowed his competitive pace. He led the fewest laps (558) of his career since 2005, but still won five races last season.
But none of us know what will really happen. As long as Johnson keeps winning, what’s to stop him from reaching for the highest heights possible?
Only Johnson himself – not fans, not social media, not media who cover the sport – will determine his place in the history of the sport.
Right now, Johnson’s place is heading toward the stratosphere. Let’s sit back, watch and enjoy it.
Tom Zulewski will be at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the 12th consecutive year starting Friday for the Boyd Gaming 300 and Kobalt 400. Follow him on Twitter @Tomzsports.
NEXT WEEK'S RACES
Las Vegas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile D-shaped oval).
-SPRINT CUP: Kobalt 400, Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT, Fox (check local listings). Radio: SiriusXM Channel 90 or your local PRN affiliate.
Race distance: 400.5 miles, 267 laps.
2015 champion: Kevin Harvick
-XFINITY SERIES: Boyd Gaming 300, Saturday, 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT, Fox Sports 1 (check local listings). Radio: SiriusXM Channel 90 or your local PRN affiliate.
Race distance: 300 miles, 200 laps.
2015 champion: Austin Dillon
-CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES: Off until April 2 at Martinsville Speedway.