Previous to Saturday night, Cale Yarborough was the only driver in the history of the Cup Series to win a race on his birthday (he pulled off the feat twice, at two different racetracks, North Wilkesboro and Bristol). Well, after Saturday night, Cale has some company. Kyle Busch started in 14th, but immediately made great …
Talladega had an unlikely hero on Sunday. Brad Keselowski braved a block from Carl Edwards, whose car went airborne and across Ryan Newman’s car, to win his first Sprint Cup race at Talladega in only his fifth career start. Edwards’s car, meanwhile, went flying into the catchfence, ripping into it and sending parts into the grandstands. There have been reports of eight with minor injuries, one of them airlifted to the University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital with a minor laceration of her lip and a “possible broken jaw.” A second fan, sitting in the same section of the grandstands, was airlifted to Brookwood Hospital complaining of chest pains after the incident.
Starting on the front row this season had been a mixed bag for Mark Martin. At Bristol, he ran up front for most of the race and finished sixth. At Daytona, he got caught back in traffic and the rains prohibited him from moving up higher than 16th before the rains came and ended the festivities. And at Atlanta, Martin blew a tire and spun out, eventually finishing 31st. Saturday night was a different story all together.
Coming into Sunday’s Samsung 500, Jeff Gordon had not been to victory lane since the Bank of America 500 on October 13, 2007, a streak of 47 races. That is a thing of the past now. Gordon’s pit crew was quick enough during the final pit stop on lap 307 to get Gordon the lead. From there, Gordon had to hold off resurgent teammate Jimmie Johnson to win the Samsung 500.
On Sunday, Hendrick Motorsports celebrated the 25th Anniversary of their first victory in the then-Winston Cup Series. Back then, the team, then known as All-Star Racing, fielded the winning No. 5 for Geoff Bodine. Today, Jimmie Johnson capped off the anniversary celebration in the best way possible for Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson, who had early issues on pit road, charged up through the field, and then used his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet in the manner of a battering ram in order to move Denny Hamlin out of the way on lap 430. After winning the race off pit road under a late caution, Hamlin passed on Johnson on the restart.
Once again, the Busch family has staked their claim to victory lane, reducing the act of winning a Sprint Cup race to a simple activity where the brothers take turns, like the game of Memory. At Las Vegas, Kyle Busch claimed the victory. Two weeks ago at Atlanta, older brother Kurt Busch dominated on his way to victory. This week, it was Kyle’s turn again. Kyle Busch started 19th and immediately started coming up through the field. Busch first took the lead on lap 69 from Jimmie Johnson, and from that point on, Kyle was in near complete control.
Kurt Busch must have been watching his brother Kyle Busch drive Saturday, because Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway resembled the prior day’s Truck race in many ways. Many cars went down a lap early, there was a big wreck, the few competitive cars put on a good show at the end of the race, pit strategy played a role in the finish, and a Busch overcame troubles and stormed to victory. In the Cup race, the older sibling Kurt came out far on top.
Many drivers seemed to downplay the current engine dilemma. Kyle Busch said that “Mark Cronquist does such a good job at Joe Gibbs Racing that I don’t believe we’ll have engine failures – that’s never in the back of your mind.” Ryan Newman attributed the current upswing in failures to simply being “just the way things cycle.” Where concern is shifting to yet again in Atlanta is to the tires that will be run this weekend. Expectations were high after Greg Biffle and Juan Pablo Montoya both provided rave reviews of Goodyear’s newest Eagle following a preseason tire test, but so far they do not seem to be living up to the hype.
When Kyle Busch passed Jeff Burton for the lead late in the going, he cued his radio and said “Goodnight, Gracie” to his crew, a signal that it was all over and that no one was going to defeat him. Those words from Kyle held true.
For years, it seems, Matt Kenseth’s pit crew, affectionately known as the “Killer Bees,” has been considered to be the best pit crew in the Sprint Cup Series. Tonight, they proved it. Kenseth greatly benefitted from the speed of the Killer Bees on pit road to gain the lead back on the final round of pit stops under the caution at lap 210. From there, Kenseth held off the advances of Jeff Gordon to win the Auto Club 500.