For a driver who has never had Bristol figured out in the past, Jimmie Johnson looked like he hit on something this time around. Johnson led 88 laps and looked comfortable with the Bristol confines even though a late-race pit miscue cost him a chance at the win. To Johnson and the No. 48 team, it must have felt like one anyway.
After a re-energizing weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Cup Series heads to its fastest track for a 500-miler, driving on asphalt that rivals even Darlington in terms of abrasiveness. Atlanta Motor Speedway is a unique intermediate circuit, one that is largely dependent on handling and a driver willing to move all over the racetrack. With differing characteristics than Las Vegas and Fontana, it’s a quad-oval quagmire that forces you to make some major changes to your 1.5-mile lineup. But players, don’t despair – Frontstretch’s Fantasy Insiders are going to give you the lowdown on who to choose and who to chastise, avoiding those pesky engine woes in the process to help you rim-ride to a fantasy W this weekend.
The first few weeks of the 2009 Sprint Cup season have done much to fuel speculation of whether some different teams and new faces that are currently in the top 12 in points can stay there. The next few weeks will prove pivotal in determining whether teams that were once thought a lock to make the Chase can do so, or if they will continue to flail and flounder, while other opportunistic new comers – and some long dormant veterans – can make a charge to contend for races and a title in 2009. While the mighty have fallen more than once so far this year, there have been more than a few standing by, willing, ready, and able to take advantage of the situation. Let’s take a look at a few of the big surprises so far this year.
NASCAR had an up and down weekend in Las Vegas. There were three red flags during the Nationwide race, but none in the Sprint Cup Series event the following day despite several late crashes. Should NASCAR have thrown the red when Paul Menard pounded the wall with 17 laps to go, or was keeping the cars under caution the right thing to do?
The Jewel in the Desert offered up some fast and furious competition on Sunday, with the Shelby 427 perhaps taking its place as the most competitive racing yet out in Las Vegas. In the end, the 1.5-mile oval took a rather unexpected toll on some motors, a more expected one on some nerves, and turned the Power Rankings into chaos with a ton of late-race wrecks and pit strategy. Once the smoke cleared and the gambling stopped, our experts had clearly finished major surgery just three weeks into our Power Rankings season. Matt Kenseth’s last-place finish was enough to catapult him from the top spot in the poll; but was Kyle Busch’s victory enough to put him number one? Or, did Jeff Gordon’s consistency allow him to swipe the top spot along with the Sprint Cup points lead? Read on to find out these answers and more, as the experts sort out if your driver hit the jackpot or rolled snake eyes in this week’s Top 15 rankings.
Today’s Question: Looks like the old guys are making a comeback in NASCAR these days, as two 40-something drivers have cracked the Sprint Cup top 12 three races in. Which one has the best chance of maintaining their solid start – Bobby Labonte or Michael Waltrip?
The first three races of 2009 have yielded surprising results at the top of the bottom of the points standings. Some drivers, like Mark Martin, are left scratching their head after having fast cars at each race, but no finishes to show for that. Likewise, teams like Michael Waltrip Racing in the top 12 and some of the startup teams near the brink of emergence in the Top 35 are among other early surprises in the points. That being said, here are the best of both this week.
Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Sprint Cup race, capturing the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find: the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members and car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
On lap 269, Kyle Busch nudged aside Clint Bowyer to take the lead. Busch, who had won the pole for the race, was forced to start out back after blowing an engine in practice – so the accomplishment is much more impressive than it will appear in the record books.
After being relegated to the back of the field after an engine change, Kyle Busch found victory lane anyway. Busch had a fast car and ran a smart, clean race until he shoved Clint Bowyer out of the way to take the lead with 17 laps to go. It was a perfectly executed bump-and-run that would have been textbook perfect on the last lap, but was unnecessary when Busch clearly had a faster car and plenty of time to pass Bowyer cleanly. He got great restarts when it counted to take the checkers.