Jeff Gordon – In 30 Cup starts at Atlanta, the points leader has posted four victories and 18 top-10 finishes. However, he finished 12th in the race this spring.
The Hendrick stronghold on the Chase for the Championship tightened Sunday at Martinsville, as Jimmie Johnson scored his series-high seventh win of the season. Not to be totally outdone, teammate Jeff Gordon finished third, maintaining a 53-point lead over Johnson in what has quickly become a two-man race for the championship. As things stand right now, it’s the Gordon/Johnson show down the stretch, with Clint Bowyer barely holding on in a possible spoiler role for yet another week.
Jeff Gordon – In the last nine Cup races at Martinsville, Gordon has won four times, finished second twice, and never finished outside the top 10. In 29 Martinsville career starts, Gordon has won seven times, and is averaging a seventh-place finish.
The halfway point of the Chase at Lowe’s brought with it a reality check to several men no longer in the hunt for a championship. For drivers like Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, and Kevin Harvick, their one-time title dreams turned into nightmares filled with enough broken parts and pieces to start a junkyard. On the contrary, for others it was a case of too little, too late, as strong runs by Jeff Burton and Kyle Busch didn’t even make a dent in deficiencies that seem far too steep to overcome.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon has won here four times, including the 1994 World 600 to score his first ever Cup series victory. (Has it really been 13 years? Wow). But he’s in a pronounced slump at LMS right now, having failed to finish the last five points races here.
1) Jeff Gordon (Six First-Place Votes)
Was going to either win, or become a hood ornament on Tony Stewart’s Chevy in a daring last lap pass for the win.
A handful of Chasers, including Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, got dragged into a fall mess of mangled machinery coming out of turn 4, all caused when Bobby Labonte simply lost control and spun out in front of the field. The results really jumbled up the Chase standings; for when the smoke cleared, all title contenders figured out just two men had left the rest of them eating their own dust. It was all par for the course in another restrictor-plate roller coaster ride that left engines burning up, Chasers on life support, and fans sitting on the edge of their seats for a last-lap shootout to the finish.
Each week, we’ll go through media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Nextel 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 the car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the much-anticipated UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Jimmie Johnson – Johnson has been on a roll at Talladega as of late: he won here last spring and finished second in April. He almost won last fall’s Talladega event, as well; that is, before former teammate Brian Vickers crashed the little party Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson were staging on the final lap of the race. Johnson was miffed for a long time after that, but don’t expect it to be a problem this year – Vickers is in a Toyota and might not even qualify for the race.
Some drivers love the strategy involved in drafting – picking and choosing partners and lines while using airflow to their absolute advantage. Other drivers just don’t get it, and lament the loss of control over their own destiny that comes with having to rely on someone else to make moves ahead of them. And this time around, there’s an even bigger unknown; in particular, how the CoT will make its restrictor plate debut. All of this makes for a particularly tricky race when considering your fantasy picks, and even then, this is one where simply surviving will win out over skill. So, who will figure it out and get lucky? Because, in all honesty, it will probably take a little bit of both. Keep reading on to see who is worth the gamble and who needs to sit this one out in this week’s Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans…