NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2009 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

It’s no small feat to finish in the top 10 in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. But to do it less than 24 hours after being rushed to the hospital for a painful kidney stone is even tougher. Yet that’s exactly what Martin Truex Jr. did. Unsure late Saturday if he’d be able to race at all, Truex did pass the stone (an extremely painful process by all counts) and took the green flag. He also battled battery issues during the race but managed a solid 10th-place finish.

What… is going on with the reigning champion’s team?

At Daytona, Jimmie Johnson was the innocent victim of Brian Vickers’s and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s real-estate battle and wound up 31st. That happens. But Johnson followed that one up with an uninspired ninth at Fontana and a messy 24th at Las Vegas after a pit-road mistake and a late spin couldn’t be erased despite Johnson having the fastest car for much of the race. Johnson led a few laps at Atlanta but wound up ninth. Even with a speeding penalty, the team should have been able to pick up more late, but the car just wasn’t there, and Johnson sits an ugly 13th in points. It’s not panic time quite yet (Johnson also had a slow start in 2008 and still won the title), but this is the team that has stood to be hurt the most by the testing ban. Heading to Bristol, Johnson and Co. need to turn it around at their toughest track. If they can’t, panic time is here.

Where… did the defending race winner wind up?

A week ago, Kyle Busch was in victory lane, but this week, the defending race champ watched his big brother Kurt Busch win from 18th place, three laps down. The younger Busch was trapped two laps down early, then lost another

When… will I be loved?

This week it wasn’t so much a driver singing the blues, but the No. 47 crewman who lost hold of a tire and brought out the yellow flag which trapped several cars laps down during a cycle of pit stops. Many were not able to recover, and finished far worse than they might otherwise have done. Sometimes things happen, but I sure wouldn’t want to be that guy this week.

Why… the two-week break for the Nationwide Series?

With everyone off next week, wouldn’t it have made sense to run the Nationwide cars this weekend? Personally, I’d have liked to see them at Atlanta, with the trucks running under the lights on Friday, but they should have been somewhere. Two weeks off is a momentum killer if ever there was one. Why not race now and take a week off during the hot summer months when the teams are feeling the burnout of the heat and the grind? I’m glad they took Mexico off, but the two-week break is silly.

How… many starts does it take to have the most ever?

If you’re Rick Crawford, 300. Crawford, a former Frontstretch driver diarist and current Camping World Truck Series driver, made his 300th start at Atlanta, and has now run more CWTS races than anyone else. All of them have been with just one team, Circle Bar Racing, and Crawford has remained true to the trucks, having never made a single start in either the Nationwide or Sprint Cup series. Congratulations to a true series hero!

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