The Frontstretch: Five Points to Ponder: Kobalt Tools 500 Edition by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday March 9, 2009

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Five Points to Ponder: Kobalt Tools 500 Edition

Mike Lovecchio · Monday March 9, 2009


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Kyle may be the Busch making headlines early — with wins across NASCAR’s three national series in the first month — but it was big brother Kurt who made a statement Sunday afternoon in Atlanta. Kurt led more laps Sunday (234) than he did in all of 2007 (164) and made it back-to-back wins for the Busch brothers. It was the first time brothers won consecutive races since…well… the Buschs did it in 2008. But unlike last summer — where Kurt’s win at New Hampshire was an anomaly in a miserable season — both appear to be on solid ground in 2009. Kyle may be the one with more publicity, but after four races it is Kurt leading him in the standings by 74 points. And that’s making me wonder – taking Nationwide and truck races out of the equation, which brother will have the better 2009 Sprint Cup season? It’s a tougher question than many would think.

Kyle pulled out the win on Saturday, but it was brother Kurt that got the best of him (and the rest of the field) on Sunday. Are we in for a battle of the Busch brothers this year?

More bad luck for Mark

I’m not sure if Mark Martin haters even exist, but if they did, not even they would have thought Martin would sit 34th in driver points after four races. The popular pick for the 2009 championship is now in danger of falling out of the top 35 in owner points after Sunday’s tire failure… but don’t expect that worst-case scenario to happen. Not only is Martin one of the 50 greatest NASCAR drivers of all time, but Alan Gustafson is also one of the top young crew chiefs in the sport. They’ve run well enough to know good finishes are on the horizon; but odds are starting to stack up against them making a Chase berth this season.


I won’t rip into Marcos Ambrose’s crew member, who felt it necessary to run onto the quad-oval grass to retrieve a lost tire, as much as I’m sure most columnists will today — but let me just say it was very poor judgment on his part. I don’t know if any sort of punishment will come out of it, but anyone who’s grown up around any track knows better than to be that close to a green racetrack. It’s common sense. Crew members are as much in the public eye as ever, and anyone who makes a mistake like that should be held accountable for his actions.

Truex braves out a top 10

It’s no secret Martin Truex, Jr. is a diehard Philadelphia football fan, and this week, he raced through pain with intensity that would make former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins proud. Truex made an unexpected trip to the regional hospital Saturday where he was diagnosed with a kidney stone; but after passing the stone overnight, on Sunday he raced his way from a 23rd starting spot to a 10th place finish. Kurt Busch and the Ambrose crew member will be the main stories from this weekend, but Truex’s determination should deserve the same recognition.

4-for-4 for 44

A.J. Allmendinger continues to surprise fans in his new ride with RPM. Driving the No. 44 Dodge, he and Tony Stewart are now the only drivers on the outside of the top 35 in owner points to make all four races this season. With his 17th place finish Sunday, the ‘Dinger moves up to 20th in driver points, and is in a comfortable enough position in owner points that all he has to do is make the Bristol field in two weeks to be safe for both Martinsville and beyond.

Five Notes to Ponder:

Safety, safety, safety: NASCAR has put a premium on safety this decade, which is what makes the whole runaway crew member fiasco such a shame. A 2008 decision by the sanctioning body to put soft walls on inside walls prevented a possible injury to Colin Braun in Saturday’s Truck Series race. The SAFER barrier absorbed the major head on collision, and Braun wound up walking away without a scratch.

Speed struggling: Joey Logano has gotten off to a rough start in ’09, there’s no doubt; but don’t forget it’s fellow rookie Scott Speed who is currently 30 points out of the top 35 in owner points.

Good day gone bad for Elliott: Dawsonville, GA native Bill Elliott had a solid run going before being collected in an accident with Sam Hornish, Jr. Up to 17th at one point, Elliott wound up finishing 36th.

Unlucky 13: Bobby Labonte spun twice and succumbed to engine failure, resulting in a 13 spot drop in points from 10th to 23rd. The struggles were all the more surprising seeing as Labonte leads all drivers with five wins at AMS since the track was reconfigured in 1997.

Five with 3 top 10s: Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, and Brian Vickers are the lone drivers with three top 10s this season.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
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03/09/2009 11:06 AM

Nicely written, accurate, and positive article; thank you!

I watch the race on TV with the scoring link open on the computer to “watch” what the TV crew doesn’t show. During the Atlanta race, after the loose tire incident that put all but ten cars down one or two laps (talk about a game changer!), I noticed Allmendinger ripping off laps as fast as the top ten but he was stuck in no-man’s land, two laps down. There were other fast cars moored back in the mess, but Allmendinger could never do what Stewart did… get out of the pits first of the lapped cars and unlap himself the old fashioned way.
Allemndinger is 143 points ahead of 36th in points… so it could be that even if he misses Bristol, and all the teams behind him scored maximum points (highly improbable) he’d still be well within the top 35.
Joey Logano is having a heck of a time this season but at least Joe Gibbs Racing won’t be adding to the national unemeployment figures laying off fab/body workers!
When asked what Gibbs’ goal for Logano is in 2009, Gibbs has none! Gibbs has made a career out of picking talent and developing it and done quite well. Thus far, Loganao hasn’t made any critical errors and like any rookie, needs seat time.
Only Mark Martin can endure the crazy season he’s having. The scary thing is that he comes back week after week with a stronger car! The team must be taking it all in stride well.

Kevin in SoCal
03/09/2009 12:32 PM

I dont know why people are mad at the crew member for retrieving the tire and causing the caution. Even if that guy had not run out onto the track, the caution still would have been waved as the tire was “debris” that needed to be cleaned up.

03/09/2009 02:06 PM

Kevin… I’m not mad at him. As you said, it was going to prompt a yellow flag.
I’m sure when he first took off after the tire, he never imagined it rolling as far as it did.
Did you hear the comment by one of the Fox clowns about the area the tire ended up? It was something to the effect of,
‘In the old days, photographers used to stand out there”.
In the old days, Atlanta was a symmetrical oval and there wasn’t a tri-oval area to stand in! Just about where the tire ended up used to be the old back straight grandstands!

03/09/2009 08:22 PM

Maybe Martin is the ‘test’ car for the other 2 or ‘3’ Hendrick cars. Give him a gernade for qualifying to get him a pole and maybe the engine will hold together. I still can’t believe all of them are getting the same equipment and I NEVER will. The same thing goes on at Roush/Fenway. Without testing what better way to test.

Kevin in SoCal
03/09/2009 08:53 PM

That’s a good idea Paul, but I cant see Hendrick doing that to Mark Martin, nor Martin agreeing to it. But at 50 years old, who knows what Martin is thinking. He sure fooled us though if that’s what he’s doing. We all expected Mark to run up front and challenge for wins right away. Instead it looks like his bad luck is continuing.

03/09/2009 09:29 PM

Too true the crew member shouldn’t have run out to retrieve it. That having been said anyone who hasn’t had a “what was I thinking” moment. Probably hasn’t done much. As for saying that NA$CAR would have thrown a caution even if he hadn’t gone to get it. We’ll never know, will we? My thoughts are that they would have waited until the stops had cycled through. I’ve seen cases where they didn’t throw a flag for debris on track. Saying it was out of the racing groove. Bottom line NA$CAR uses the yellow flag when they want one. Debris or not, & they can ignore it when they don’t want one. In this case they almost certainly didn’t want one, but the crewman forced their hand.

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