NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2010 Atlanta Spring Race Recap

The Key Moment: Kurt Busch held off Matt Kenseth and Juan Pablo Montoya on the final restart to score his second consecutive spring Atlanta race win.

In a Nutshell: Where were the elephants and the clowns? If you’re going to have a parade you need to have elephants and clowns.

Dramatic Moment: You’d have thought that double-wide restarts with two laps to go would have spiced things up. Not so much as it turns out.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

OK, we may now officially have a feud on our hands. Having been put into the fence at Talladega last year and wrecked earlier in this weekend’s event, Carl Edwards apparently leapt to the head of the line and finally gave Brad Keselowski a little payback, landing Bad Brad, who has pissed off numerous drivers during his short tenure as a Cup driver, on his lid. Edwards was a mere 156 laps down when he wrecked Keselowski, leading to the first major challenge of NASCAR’s new “Let Boys Be Boys” rules initiative. For my part, I saw the impact as surgical despite the rollover. Bad Brad had a lesson coming to him given his take no prisoners attitude on the track. Perhaps a change in latitude learned him some manners. I will say that having recently brought a life onto this mortal plane, Edwards should have been a bit more circumspect about risking taking one off of the playing field in a pine box.

A race that ends by 5:00 with over an hour and half of sunlight left before sundown. I’m down with that.

Remember the uproar at the Daytona 500 when FOX started covering the Cup series and they showed the cars in the starting lineup shorn of their decals if they weren’t sponsors of the broadcast? Has anyone else noticed that the entire pre-race broadcast seems to be devoted to drivers who buy ad minutes during the race itself? When forced to show drivers who are not race sponsors, like Kevin Harvick this week, the still shots of the driver were shorn of their patches. If you want to see a bigger bunch of whores, you’ll have to be in Shanghai when the fleet comes in.

With the grand opening scheduled for May, all of a sudden NASCAR is heavily promoting the new Hall of Fame in Charlotte, offering something called Charter Memberships. (Which doubtless offers 50 cents off a hot dog at future NASCAR races.) Long-term readers know I am a huge fan of the history of our sport, but right now I’d like to see a little less emphasis on the Hall of Fame and a little more on getting the cars Haulin’ the Same as they did in the 1980s.

Sometimes I get questions on why any sponsor would back a team that’s going to run in the back or even start-and-park. According to Jayski.com, Joe Nemechek’s last-minute Daytona 500 deal with England Stove Works resulted in $500,000 in unexpected business and the traffic crashed their website. Long-time readers know I do sponsor plugs about as often as I compliment Brian France but after the winter from hell here in eastern Pennsylvania, it was my England stove that kept me warm through the worst of circumstances without going broke paying for fossil fuels. What’s more, when my first stove died just out of warranty, these folks replaced it free of charge and paid for the shipping of my old stove to figure out what went wrong. American products benefiting Americans to break their addiction to foreign oil? Yeah, I am so down with that.

Does anyone else find it suspect that Olympic athletes are eating McDonald’s high fat, high sodium food prior to competing?

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Polesitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. never managed to lead a lap and wound up 15th in the final standings. But as our old friend Kenny Mayne might say, he remains popular.

Jimmie Johnson’s bid for a third straight win was upended by a slow pit stop (not characteristic of the robotic No. 48 team) and subsequent right front fender damage. For one day, at least, they looked merely mortal.

Tony Stewart struggled all weekend and a flat tire with 18 to go left him 13th in the final standings.

Denny Hamlin had a competitive car most of the afternoon but an equalized tire left him 21st when the checks were written at the end of the race.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Greg Biffle wrecked in practice and had to start out back but fought back to an eighth-place finish in the race.

Kasey Kahne had to overcome a horrifically slow pit stop to finish fourth.

Worth Noting

  • Kurt Busch, Kahne, Brian Vickers and Harvick finished in the top 10 in last winter’s Atlanta race and again this year.
  • Harvick, Kenseth and Biffle all have top-10 finishes in the season’s first four races. Guess who’s leading the points? Go figure.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya’s third-place finish equaled his best finish since Martinsville last fall.
  • Kahne’s fourth-place finish was his best since Talladega last fall.
  • Paul Menard’s fifth-place finish was easily his best result on a non-plate track.
  • AJ Allmendinger’s sixth-place finish was his best since the 2009 Daytona 500.
  • Scott Speed’s 10th-place finish was his best ever on a non-plate track.

What’s the Points?

Seriously, why are we even talking about points four races into the season?

Oh, OK, Harvick is still leading the standings, now 26 points ahead of Kenseth who moved up two spots to second. Biffle moved up three spots to third.

Johnson moved up a spot to fourth. Why is the driver who won two points paying races out the first four fourth in the standings? Because NASCAR’s points system is retarded.

Kurt Busch’s win propelled him up nine spots to 10th in the standings. Menard’s strong run Sunday moved him up eight spots to ninth in the standings.

Mark Martin’s struggles dropped him four places to seventh in the standings.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): I’ll give this one two cans. I expect more of Atlanta than I got today.

Next Up: The Cup Series takes a week off. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe they’re concerned the shift to Daylight Savings Time would be too tough for today’s drivers? Racing returns at Bristol in two weeks’ time.

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