Both NASCAR and a crewman from the No. 47 team, Jimmy Watts, took a lot of flack for the yellow flag that flew in the midst of a pit cycle as a result of the crewman chasing a tire, causing several good cars to be trapped a lap or more down. But was either one really wrong in their decision?
As the 2009 season wears on, some of the teams that have had early success are finding themselves in a point standings freefall. As they disappear from view, the composition of the top 12 is starting to take form, with annual contenders slowly creeping towards and into that coveted threshold. The season may be early and the beginning of the Chase months away, but these men are proving they will be threats nearly every week. At the other end of the points are heavily-funded teams that find themselves one bad race away from beginning Martinsville, the first race that uses 2009 owner points, without the comfort of being locked in via the Top-35 rule. For them, the upcoming week off will be filled with little sleep and lots of worry, their very futures hanging in the balance on the high-banks of Bristol in two weeks.
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 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
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.
It’s no small feat to finish in the top 10 in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. But to do it less than 24 hours after being rushed to the hospital for a painful kidney stone is even tougher. Yet that’s exactly what Martin Truex Jr. did. Unsure late Saturday if he’d be able to race at all, Truex did pass the stone (an extremely painful process by all counts) and took the green flag. He also battled battery issues during the race but managed a solid 10th-place finish.
Like it or not, after just 380 miles the first race of the 2009 Sprint Cup season is officially in the books. Matt Kenseth was crowned the winner of just the fourth rain-shortened Daytona 500 in history, taking the lead one lap before the weather with a generous push from runner-up Kevin Harvick. But was that last-lap pass enough to leave Kenseth number one in the eyes of our staff this week? After all, Kyle Busch dominated the race, only to become an innocent victim of the day’s big wreck on lap 125. And where did AJ Allmendinger land after starting the year with a career-best third – driving for a team that doesn’t even know if it’ll exist two months from now? Find these answers, and more, by examining our first Top-15 Power Rankings poll of the year.
Had the rains not come, AJ Allmendinger had a shot at taking it all. In the end, he had to settle for third, but that’s a long way from a year ago, when Allmendinger watched the race on television after failing to qualify. The driver called ‘Dinger by his friends has been impressive in a fill-in role since being released from Team Red Bull late in 2008. Unfortunately, the No. 44 only has funding for a handful of races this year, so we may never see what this driver is capable of.
Sitting in the Chevrolet camp is perhaps the best chance a Nationwide regular has had to win the NNS title since Martin Truex Jr. scored back to back crowns in 2004 and 2005. And, once again, it’s a Dale Earnhardt Jr. protégé. I’m talking about Brad Keselowski.
So NA$CAR won’t let Alltel or Verizon sponsor a car, thus providing money to a race team, but they’ll gladly accept the money to sponsor an in-car camera feature. Greed will be the downfall of the sport I once loved so much.
Heading into Speedweeks, Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 1 on the side of his Chevy was synonymous with the one piece left alone from a desperation merger. Now, that “1” stands for something far more exciting – Daytona 500 polesitter – closing out a weekend that’s given hope to people looking for some different faces up front next Sunday. “The guys felt good about this all winter,” Truex said after pulling what had to be labeled a minor upset. “They’ve felt like they’ve had a shot at coming down here and sitting on the front row for the 500. I’m just the lucky guy who gets to sit in that seat and drive that thing.”