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