Well, Atlanta did prove to be a place full of surprises this last weekend. It appears the track did yield unexpected results this time and nobody expected to have as much trouble with handling as they did. It wasn’t the tires, though, as Goodyear brought good tires tested and proven to perform at the track. When all was said and done it was just the warm weather and the old worn out track surface.
I think Kurt Bush called it right in his after-race interview in Victory Lane at Atlanta Sunday. He said the old place drove a lot like old Darlington. He wasn’t alone in his feelings as several of the racers expressed similar sentiments and they were obviously referring to the way Darlington used to eat up tires and the fastest way around Darlington was way up against the wall. In its day, that left a lot of cars with the well known “Darlington Stripe” and this week it was the “Atlanta Stripe” that left its mark.
As I stated in the pre-race chatter, I knew Kurt Bush would be strong this weekend. The reason I didn’t expect him to come away with the win was because of the engine problems he had in the previous weeks. I just didn’t have confidence in the new Dodge engine under the hood. Well, not only did he have the horsepower and reliability, but handling-wise, he and his team “put a whoopin'” on the rest of the field. He was very consistent all race long and, even when they got slightly off during a green-flag run, they quickly got back to form on the next pit stop. I think this weekend proved that Kurt is a force to be reckoned with for The Chase and the maybe even the championship this year. Hat’s off to the Penske teams.
I still believe, if Mark Martin ever gets rid of the gremlins that have been hounding him for the last few weeks, he will definitely be in Victory Lane soon and probably more than once. The last couple of weeks it was engine problems. This last weekend it was a tire that took him out of contention. Until that time, he looked to be in the mix for the run to the checkered flag at the end. To say he was disappointed is a major understatement, although, he didn’t seem as confident going in as one might have expected with his performance in practice and qualifying.
Just A Fan’s View can’t, and won’t, overlook the way Brian Vickers has performed this year in his Red Bull Toyota. Except for several glitches along the way this year, Brian has made a a strong showing every week. I expect he will be in victory lane in the very near future. If it hadn’t been for the yellow flag at the end of the race, it would have been an interesting finish, since both he and Kurt were running the exact same line. (Oh well, that’s life in the “shoulda – woulda – coulda” lane.)
Without spending a lot of time on a specific discussion of who finished in the top ten or so, there are some drivers that we just can’t ignore. If you look at the finishing order, you will once again see Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer,Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex Jr. These guys have been showing up every week ready to race. They may not be making the headlines during qualifying, but they are definitely in the discussion at the end of the race.
As ‘Just A Fan’, I am impressed with the way Tony Stewart has performed with his brand new team so far this year and have been surprised at how Clint Bowyer quietly seems to finish near the front consistently with his. These teams are strong and I am surprised at how well they seem to be performing out of the box, (although I probably shouldn’t be.)
Jeff Gordon is at the top of the points chart again and has been consistently knocking on the door at the end of the races. I think he will end his no-points-win streak soon. Who knows, it could be at one of the short tracks in the next two races, (maybe even both.)
The brunt of the “after chatter” this week was mostly about how the unexpected warm weather seemed to affect the handling of the cars severely for the weekend. I, along with others, think that many of the teams expected the race to be similar to Las Vegas since the tire was similar to what they used out there. No one was blaming Goodyear or the tires for the slippin’ and slidin’ but, they didn’t have a lot of good things to say about the track. It’s just worn out.
The second main subject was the empty seats in the stands. I am sure Nascar and AMS are taking a good look at the situation and only they know how that will turn out. Times are tough and I don’t want to speculate.
In listening to the drivers in numerous interviews, it seemed they knew it was going to be an uncomfortable ride all day long and many said they were just going to go out and try to have a little fun. I’m sure they tried, I just don’t know how many actually had that much fun.
Well, as I’m sure everybody already knows, Nascar is taking a week off, but we’ll be here for the weekend blog/podcast. At the present I don’t expect there to be any “After Chatter” planned for the mid week. I do have a special feature I’m planning for this weekend though and I expect it to all work out. No matter what, we’ll have something for you…
See ya next time …
© March 2009 – all rights reserved
Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman