Summer Bedgood · Sunday September 1, 2013
To call Sunday night’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway “crazy” might be a little bit of an understatement. None of the evening’s fastest cars won the race, several dominant drivers had problems, and many Chase hopeful saw their chances either go up in flames or dramatically decrease.
Despite Kyle Busch’s win and subsequent addition of bonus points to his regular season total, it was Joey Logano who led the most laps with 78. Some off sequence pit stops and some poor late race restarts had Logano falling just short of the win by just a little over a second.
Meanwhile, third place Martin Truex Jr. not only had to fight through a broken wrist that was sustained during last week’s race at Bristol, but his cast began to crumble as the race wound down. Truex admittedly suffered through it and had quite an astounding finish to show for it.
Several intriguing finishes are marked throughout the rest of the field. Lame duck drivers Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman both finished in the top five, and Kurt even made a run at the win in the waning laps of the race. Jeff Gordon’s rollercoaster night left him with a finish just outside the top five. Juan Pablo Montoya came from a lap down to finish seventh. And so on and so forth.
However, from there, it get more interesting and slightly more confusing. Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, and Carl Edwards came into the points first, second, and third, respectively, and had absolutely nothing to lose heading into the race and everything to gain in terms of bonus points. Yet they all faced obstacles that would prove insurmountable. For Johnson, just about everything that could go wrong did. Around lap 32, a slow restart by the 24 bunched everyone up behind him and Johnson rear sustained front end damage after rear-ending teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. Later than night, he wound up running over a tire carcass from another car. And, later, Johnson would spin while trying to avoid Jeff Burton as Burton slowed at the entrance to pit road. Johnson would finish 28th at the end of the night.
Bowyer, meanwhile, looked dead set on winning, leading 48 laps and was virtually unstoppable as far as he was concerned. However, for the second week in a row, Bowyer would run into problems while running away with the lead. While last week it was off the bumper of a lapped car, this week it would be the failure of an engine designed as a trial run before the real test of the Chase began. Bowyer would retire early from the race and finish 39th.
Finally, Edwards also led a handful of laps, with 68 to his credit. A call by his crew chief to stay out in an attempt to maintain track position may have been to his detriment. Edwards was never able to get it back and ultimately finished 18th.
What everyone will really be watching this weekend in Richmond, though, is the Chase and there is no telling what will happen with that.
Kasey Kahne fell out of the top 10, which makes him the first wild card. This means that, despite Gordon’s sixth place finish, he is on the outside looking in as he sits 11th, six spots back of 10th place Kurt Busch.
Third place Truex has the second wild card spot, but only has a five point advantage over Ryan Newman who also has a win to use in case of a wild card.
Brad Keselowski, meanwhile, retired early from the race due to a blown engine and it may have been the final blow to Keselowski’s chances of defending his championship.
Now we head into the Chase with Busch equal to Johnson in terms of points, Kenseth only slightly higher, and several drivers with nothing to lose heading into Richmond.
Simply put, the night was as unpredictable and changing as a race at Talladega and it dragged on to the point that I was waiting for NASCAR to break-in and say it was actually a 600-mile event.
However, the race was incredibly exciting, eventful, and gave fans their money’s worth whether they were watching from home or the grandstands. The tires seemed to have worked well, passing wasn’t as limited as it has been at other mile-and-a-half racetracks, and the whole night was exciting.
If Richmond is even half as exciting as Atlanta was, we’re in for one heck of a battle to the Chase.
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