The latest “new” Bristol is still not the Bristol of old. But between the buzz, the wrecks and a decent crowd, the August night race resembled its former self for the first time since the pre-Chase era.
Two races into the season is hardly enough time to make a lasting prediction for the remainder of a long regular season that will stretch till September. But no matter how early in the season, Sunday was a very big day for the No. 11 team and driver Denny Hamlin. Two races in, Hamlin sits atop the point standings; in six previous full-time seasons, he’s averaged 20th in points by now. It was a second straight convincing showing that had the No. 11 among the class of the field, demonstrating that the learning curve between driver and new crew chief Darian Grubb may well be a short one.
Coming off a strong 2010 campaign that saw him score his first career ARCA win and finish top 5 in points, Mikey Kile certainly wasn’t planning to all but take the 2011 season off. Sponsorship troubles kept the Louisiana native off track for all but five Nationwide Series starts, his last coming during the summer stretch at Iowa.
That being said, he may as well have from an ARCA standpoint. With a double-edged assault of Tim George Jr. and eventual 2011 champion Ty Dillon, Richard Childress Racing combined to win seven poles and eight of the 19 ARCA Racing Series events run last year, utterly dominating the series in a display that was the polar opposite of 2010, where three competitors entered the final race at Rockingham with a shot at the title.
Despite the best efforts of Kyle Busch to run him down, Carl Edwards topped a dominant evening with his 35th career Nationwide Series win Saturday night in front of a stellar crowd at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top 5.
Though Edwards led 101 of the 195 laps led en route to victory, side-by-side racing at the front of the field proved plentiful, with each of the drivers in the top 5 taking turns at the front. Goodyear seemed to get the tire situation under control after fielding rocks at Bristol a week ago, with the rubber proving to wear on the abrasive Atlanta service. Drivers throughout the field were seen visibly wrestling with loose race cars throughout the 300 miles.
On the first green-white-checker restart, Kyle Busch overdrove turn 1, was unable to keep his car in the preferred groove on exit, and opened the door for Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose to slip by. That left the two of them to settle the win amongst themselves; through the bus stop, Ambrose pounced, making the pass and riding off into the sunset for his first career Cup win.
Ryan Newman managed to clear Clint Bowyer on fresher tires immediately following a lap 229 restart and never looked back, scoring his third career victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with ease.
Kurt Busch started Sunday’s race in the 11th position. By lap 13, the elder Busch dove under Denny Hamlin in turn 7 and took the lead. Short of pit stops cycling through, the lead was not a position Busch relinquished for long.
Matt Kenseth took two tires and Mark Martin stayed out while leaders Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer all took four during pit stops under caution on lap 364 after Juan Pablo Montoya backed into the turn 4 wall. Hey, being on probation and unable to hit other drivers, he needed to hit something.
The Brickyard 400 started out like a historic nightmare on repeat, on the verge of a second debacle in three years – only this time, the culprit was going to be poorly manicured grass. But Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing had no such issues, avoiding overheating from the “lawn” as the race settled in while Juan Pablo Montoya …
Apparently, probation does make a difference. As the laps wound down Saturday night at O’Reilly Raceway Park, Carl Edwards was within striking distance of Kyle Busch, easily in position to pull a bump and run for the lead and the victory. This weekend, however, despite racing with another driver that he’s had history with, Edwards …
Throw Danica Patrick and her marketing machine from the train. This should have been the weekend for the NASCAR Nationwide Series to bask in the spotlight, to sell itself to fans new and old alike. This weekend marks the return to O’Reilly Raceway Park, one of the most underrated venues that NASCAR’s national series travels …
After seeing Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick dominate yet another weekend that was supposed to highlight the Nationwide Series and its own regulars, SceneDaily.com has again brought to our attention remarks made by Brian France that NASCAR is exploring means to discourage what has, for years, been a case of Cup Series superiority in the sanctioning body’s AAA division. Options apparently on the table include cutting points and money for Cup drivers in the field, limiting the number of starts a Cup full-timer can make and taking measures to ensure they cannot win the Nationwide title – as has been the case since Harvick annihilated the competition to jumpstart this mess four years ago.