The Frontstretch: Five Points To Ponder: Atlanta Payback, Unusual Suspects Up Front, And Jimmie Didn't Win (Shocker) by Danny Peters -- Tuesday March 9, 2010

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For my money – what little of it I have – the Kobalt Tools 500 at the venerable old Atlanta Motor Speedway was a pretty solid race. It wasn’t an instant classic, sure, but then again it wasn’t bad either, and after a couple of predictable weeks at Fontana and Las Vegas it was terrific to see someone not named “Johnson” head to Victory Lane. Okay, Kurt Busch is marginally more popular than a severe case of swine flu but change, as they say, is always a good thing and it was nice to see Dodge break up the Chevy dominance we’ve seen in these early weeks of 2010. It’s a shame, then, that we’re headed into an off-week so soon, but such are the quirks of the scheduling gurus. At least we’ve got Bristol and Martinsville to look forward to in the coming weeks. Although I realize this topic will be covered in more extensive detail elsewhere on the site I’ll start with the marquee incident of the weekend:

Payback’s a (insert your own inappropriate word here)

Sunday was a big day for Cousin Carl. Running the retro-Scotts paint scheme (isn’t it amazing how five years on it already looked so dated) to commemorate his first win at the Sprint Cup level and returning to a track at which he excels, the signs pointed to a great day for Edwards. But an early Keselowski-induced spin, subsequent collision with Joey Logano’s Home Depot machine and the unforgiving outer wall saw the No. 99 Ford Fusion retired to the garage for extensive repairs.

Returning to the track, some 150 laps down, it was clear that Edwards intended to get some good old fashioned payback and I think it’s fair to say he managed just that. Now there will be much bleating from many sources suggesting Carl should be suspended for his supposed transgressions but the fact is had the car not flipped so dramatically we probably wouldn’t even be talking about this incident. What’s clear is that in his early foray into big boy racing, Keselowski has managed to ruffle plenty of feathers in the garage. At some point, he’ll need to start playing nice because talent (of which he has bucket loads) can only take you so far. Perhaps this will be the incident from which he learns a little more respect for his fellow competitors – and fair play to him for his measured interview post crash – but somehow I doubt it. Still, it makes for a good show, doesn’t it? And no-one got hurt which really is the most important thing.

Battle of the Beers

How many more six-packs will be consumed before Kahne makes it back to Victory Lane? Not too many…

Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch were the two best cars for much of the day with the Bud pitchman leading 144 laps and the Miller Lite driver besting the field for a further 129 circuits, including that all important last lap. In a post-race interview Busch mentioned his pleasure at beating the No. 9 car — notice how assiduously he avoided calling it the Bud machine, which is probably a contractual obligation to be fair. With such a strong element of sponsorship at Sprint Cup level, it’s definitely fun to watch the different competing brands, if you will, going head to head on the track. Think about it: UPS vs. Fedex, Amp vs. Red Bull, Lowes vs. Home Depot and the list goes on. But I digress, for which apologies. Chalk one up for Miller Lite this past Sunday but don’t rule out that Bud car – Kahne will be in Victory Lane soon enough this year.

Jimmie J in No Win Shocker

Big news, folks! Jimmie Johnson failed to win the race.

He didn’t even break the top 10. What’s that all about? Regardless, it was good for the sport not to see Johnson head back to Victory Lane for a third straight week. I’m not denying Johnson is a quite brilliant driver with the best crew chief in the business (if not ever) but too much domination is never good. As I said on the Carey and Coffey show this past Sunday, the problem with Jimmie is that he doesn’t really engender strong emotions. Yeah we’re all “bored” that he wins all the time, but notice how the comments on the No. 48’s monotonous success tend to surround him being “vanilla, “boring” and/or “dull”. The fact is, double J is the overwhelming favorite to win it all again. So, in the odd race where he looks vaguely mortal, it does at least throw out a tiny olive branch to the chasing pack. Don’t get too excited, though, Martinsville is Johnson’s best track. He’s won five of the last seven races and with the exception of his first race at the lil ol’ paperclip, Johnson has never finished lower than ninth in 16 attempts: Incredible – even by his very lofty standards.

Two Big Atta Boys for Paul Menard and AJ Allmendinger

Good old DW opined before the race that we might see some “surprises” in the finishing order and for once the three-time champion was spot on. First up is the ‘Dinger who secured just his ninth top 10 in 84 Sprint Cup races. He finished third at the 2009 Daytona 500-his highest ever finish- but his sixth place run at Atlanta was his best finish on a non-restrictor plate track.

We’ve heard for a few years that AJ was the real deal and he’s finally starting to show it. I was, however, amused by the ludicrously awkward hug he shared with the King post race. It looked to all the world like the ‘Dinger was a recalcitrant child as Richard Petty congratulated him once he stepped out of the car. Very sweet. All this, too, in a green colored car that DW described as “chartreuse green.” Surely, that must the very first time in six decades of NASCAR that the word “chartreuse” has been used in a race broadcast.

Also receiving an “atta boy” is Paul Menard who picked up just his third top 10 and second top 5 in 115 previous races. Often the butt of jokes about his father’s company sponsorship, Menard has, at times, looked over-matched. On Sunday, albeit for one rare weekend, Menard looked super racy. For his sake, let’s hope this bodes well for his future at Cup level.

Harvick, Kenseth and Biffle All Consistently, well, Consistent

Only three drivers have top ten finishes in all four races run so far and it’s hardly surprising that these wheelmen occupy the top three positions in the Sprint Cup standings. Now as some will tell you, it’s awful early to be looking at the standings. But for Harvick and Kenseth, in particular, it’s a tremendous bounce-back from a dire 2009. As the legendary former Yankees catcher, Lawrence Peter Berra – better known as Yogi – once said, “It gets late early out there.” And that’s a quote a number of drivers already mired in the lower reaches of the standings know only too well.

One final point to note (since it won’t last): None of the above three drive for Rick Hendrick.

Roll on Thunder Valley. Can’t come soon enough for me.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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03/09/2010 08:37 AM

Wow about that. Jimmie Johnson didn’t win and the racing still sucked, and ratings were still down. Who can we blame now…?

03/09/2010 08:59 AM

We can and will blame poor little mis-understood Jimmie….now does that make you feel better..If Jimmy had take out Brad you would have wanted to give him a medal, but unlike Jimmy, Carl does it and the world hates him…me I think it was great!!…Now again all the rating and attendance problems ARE Jimmy’s fault!!

03/09/2010 09:35 AM

Johnboy60, how can you blame JJ for attendance? When Gordon was winning 1/3 the races, attendance was at an all time high.

I think the biggest problem is lack of testing when it comes to an entire race being exciting. Key example of this was last year’s Nationwide race at Iowa. The teams were given an extra day to practice, and it turned out to be one the best all-around races of the season last year.

This ban on testing, even though it may save money, leads to only a few cars really having a good setup at the start of the race. So if they aren’t put laps down early, you may end up with some good racing in the final 1/3 or so of the race… but that usually isn’t the case due to a few cars being dialed in from the start.

And as far as Edwards is concerned, I’m all for payback. But first, don’t do it with 2 laps to go, especially when he plenty of time to do it sooner. Also, be prepared for the consequences. The “I meant to shoot him, but not kill him” argument doesn’t fly. I have no doubt that he intended to just spin Keselowski out, but he ended up almost putting him into the stands… whether he meant to or not. What if BK had cleared the catch fence? How many people would be dead and injured? Carl’s actions ended up with a lot larger result than he intended, but he is still to blame. He deserves to be parked.

03/09/2010 10:44 AM

Can some one finally settle this question once and for all?! How the heck to you pronounce Brad K’s last name?!

03/09/2010 11:34 AM

I’d hate to see Kes “learn a little more respect for his fellow competitors.” The only thing he did wrong was win every game of chicken Carl Edwards has ever challenged him to. What’s more unfortunate is that I doubt Edwards will ever stop being a coward and a sore loser.

The racing was good, it would likely have been great if it weren’t for the last couple of cautions, and the ratings were up from last year according to jayski.

03/09/2010 11:55 AM


Chris Meyers pronounces it “Brauhd Kasolowschki”

Larry Mac prnounces it “Breaad Keeees lOOOOWWski”


and Jeff Hammond pronounces it “more tanning oil please”

03/09/2010 11:58 AM

I was also going to mention that ratings were in fact up—and WAY up in many of the southeastern markets. That was very good news indeed!

Paul Menard has run well all season, which is why he’s currently 9th in points. Scott Speed also deserves a lot of credit; he is currently tied for 11th with Jeff Gordon.

03/09/2010 12:44 PM

It’s not just JJ dominating races that’s the problem. He’s a great driver, make no mistake. And I’m not a fan of his. The problem is the state of nas$car itself. It lends itself to boring races, boring drivers in general. What you end up with is a bunch of spoiled millionaires acting entitled. Add arrogent leadership and the real losers are the fans. Give the fans real racing and they will return. I hope they DO NOT suspend Edwards. Although I don’t condone taking a driver out at 190 mph, part of the problem was the rear wing. If the car had not gone airborne, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. It would have been simple retaliation and stopped at that. I like a return to the drivers policing themselves. They just have to re-learn to do it the right way.

03/09/2010 12:47 PM

Here is one thing that has bothered me about the BK / Edwards dust up.

If BK had died as a result of that wreck, or a fan.

What do you think Carl Edwards would be facing given his obvious, intentional, turn of the wheel?

There but by the grace of God.

03/09/2010 07:57 PM

Bet Nascar would never say but the “free pub” from Carl sure is looking good right now. When PTI talks about it everyday. And to Kyle Petty WTF? Victory Lane come on man! Bring back Spencer. Carl’s hand is hurtin right now from all the hi fives.

03/09/2010 10:08 PM

Hey Brent you’re still an idiot
Look forward to punching you out at Michigan….hell I’ll just hand you a beer instead…..
Kasey Kahne said it best today…“Airborne is biggest and only issue. I like Helton’s call.”

03/10/2010 12:34 PM

All this talk is good for NASCAR and they are lovin’ every minute of it. Nobody is talking about all the people that showed up at Atlanta dressed up as seats. And I didn’t hear a word about it during race coverage. I guess that’s only reserved for California Speedway.

Kevin in SoCal
03/10/2010 01:24 PM

gopapa – Yes there was talk about the lack of attendance, particularly in Matt M’s column on Monday. But thank you, I completely agree with your last sentence.

03/10/2010 04:05 PM

@Kevin in SoCal – Thanks – I just read the article and blogs. I’m not going to go around and hammer the subject, but it bugs me how quickly it gets forgotten. I didn’t hear the race broadcasters mention the attendance at all, and I don’t remember the cameras doing that much grandstand panning. Oh well, Like some other people have said, the biggest uproar is from people that lost the Southern 500 and want it back. And I don’t think TV isn’t going to bag on any venue in the south, half-empty seats or not.

03/10/2010 07:13 PM

wow!!! what a big pentley, for nearly, killing someone on purpose!!! I would have been ashamed, if I WERE MIKE H. TO EVEN SAID WHAT HE SAID. s o, brad, now has permission from nascar to do the same to carl or denny…. GO GET THEM , BRAD!!!! THAT PENTLEY, WAS A JOKE!Thosen drivers are, so jelouse , because they know, brad can out drive them!nascar, has just, gave the drivers ,the o. to do , whatever, they want to do. And payback, is going to be a BITCH!!!! JEFF H. AND RUSTY W. COMMENTS, ARE BEON WORDS TO EXPRESS!!!

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