The Frontstretch: Chasing The Chase Contenders After Atlanta: The Good, Bad, And The Ugly by Summer Bedgood -- Sunday September 1, 2013

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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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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


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09/02/2013 10:20 AM

Carl Edwards is rapidly becoming a joke. It was because of him that Kenseth bolted from Roush, and now, he is thumbing his nose at Jack, and with good reason. Edwards got this huge contract, and now, he is not competitive, makes stupid decisions that blatantly throw race wins away, and he is just satisfied to ride around and finish 20th. If I was Fastenal, Aflac, Subway, and UPS, I would be paying a visit to RFR tomorrow morning, and announcing a total withdrawal of all sponsorship funds, effective immediately. Then see how happy Edwards will be with a white car, and finishing down with his lame-duck Rookie teammate and his bimbo girlfriend.

I am a diehard Ford fan, but Roush either needs to step aside and get someone in there that can kick everyone’s butt and get them off their behinds, or just sell his organization to someone with a more competitive drive. Saying that, I really hope Joey can pull off the shock of the century and hand Roger his second Sprint Cup in a row. Then Joey can thumb his nose at Coach Joe-The-Phoney”! Go Joey!

Bill B
09/02/2013 10:35 AM

Tires that wear out. Awesome idea!

Brian France Sucks
09/02/2013 11:39 AM

So it was Edwards nd not Fennig who made the call to stay out? Funny, TV didn’t show it that way. As for edwards V Gordon, Jeff raced Edwards very hard, and promptly got back what he gave. Don’t see anything wrong with that at all. The Rousch camp as a whole has been off this year, same as last year. I don’t see how that falls squarely on Carl’s shoulders. That, compadre, is an engineering and R&D problem. The guy’s made tbe best out of what he’s been given. In other words, he’s had better results than every other Ford team.

Carl D.
09/02/2013 12:09 PM

Ah, but this is where the best teams need to be peaking right now, and Edwards seems to be going backwards. I don’t blame Edwards… Biffle is just as mediocre and Stenhouse has been a disappointment in his rookie year. It’s a RFR thing, not a Carl Edwards thing.

The best Ford going into the chase may well be Logano. And with Keselowski out of the picture, Penske can focus on making the #22 car as competive as Brad was last year.

IMO, the biggest disappointment going into the chase has to be Kasey Kahne. His season is in the advanced stages of terminal freefall, but his team has the ability to right the ship next weekend. Still, the way his luck has been, it doesn’t look promising.

09/02/2013 09:44 PM

Not a Ford fan and I don’t like Carl at all considering he can be,what was it Tony called him, Eddie Haskell?

Thought the race was a lot of fun to watch. Passing during the race, what a concept!

I’d rather see Logano win it all just because there’s no way I have any interest in Johnson taking another 10 race trophy.