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It is not often that NASCAR fans are treated to great last lap duels for the win. Add in the finish to the Craftsman Truck series on Friday night and the daring late race passes in the Busch series, and you will get perhaps one of the greatest race weekends in NASCAR’s modern era.
After scoring his first ever Busch and Cup wins at Atlanta, Carl Edwards looks to be a viable competitor for both the Nextel Cup and Busch Grand National Championship. With much of the NASCAR world abuzz about Edward’s amazing feats, it becomes very easy to lose track of other events in the Golden Corral 500. It was a fast, exciting race with more than a fair share of surprising twists.
The top mistake of the day occurred before the drivers even managed to complete a single lap. Drivers were already slapping themselves in the forehead after a wreck on the back stretch that ruined the day for several top competitors. Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Burton, and Casey Mears were only four of the several drivers involved in the big oops on Sunday. This wreck was especially hard for Labonte and Gordon. Labonte fell even further from making the Chase, and Gordon fell outside the top 10 in points for the first time this season.
Ricky Rudd had the top disappointment of the day. Rudd, who was involved in the scuffle on lap one, rebounded and managed to race inside the top 10 all day. However, after suffering mechanical failures, Ricky Rudd and the 21 team lost all chances of a victory. Rudd finished 33rd on Sunday, 25 laps behind the leader.
Jimmie Johnson had the privilege of racing with the top team in the Golden Corral 500. Johnson and the 48 Lowe’s racing team managed to win several races off pit road throughout the day. If they were not the first off of pit road, Johnson managed to take the lead shortly after nearly every restart. The team led the most laps in the race, however took second after being passed on the last lap by race winner Carl Edwards.
Michael Waltrip, who has not found much success in 2005, became the top driver in Sunday’s race. Waltrip earned a seventh place finish, his first top ten finish in 2005. DEI continues to struggle, and has yet to find the formula that put them near championship glory in 2004, however Waltrip’s run at Atlanta shows that they can still find success, but still need to discover how to find success consistently.
On a side note, I’d like to send an attaboy to Brian Vickers. The 2003 Busch series champion earned his best finish in the Golden Corral 500, piloting his No. 25 Monte Carlo to a 6th place finish.
With Easter Sunday only a week away, the Nextel Cup stars will be given a second off weekend of the season. In two weeks the teams arrive at Bristol, a track where virtually everything is possible. I’m looking for Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon to run up front in that race, as both drivers could use a win at the short track and have found success their before.
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