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Atlanta Sprint Cup Race Preview

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, March 04, 2009

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Can anyone stop NASCAR's top dog Kyle Busch?

The current weather forecast certainly indicates that it could indeed be hot racing in Atlanta, Georgia this weekend. Yes, the weather is significant. It was just a matter of days ago that the Atlanta area was covered in snow and about the only show the speedway was going to be able to present was the "Ice Capades." Current forecasts tells us that it's going to be partly cloudy with daytime highs in the mid to upper 70's. That means hot racing in hot 'Lanta.

THE BREAKDOWN

  • The Atlanta Motor Speedway is 1.54 miles in length and is officially the fastest track on the NASCAR schedule.
  • The speedway's sweeping turns, with 24 degrees banking, is conducive to three wide door to door racing.
  • The pit road speed is 45 MPH.
  • The speedway officially opened in 1960 and has hosted 99 NASCAR Sprint Cup events. It currently has seating for 124,000.
  • The speedway's most famous event was held in 2001. That's the year when Kevin Harvick took over the Childress Racing Goodwrench Chevrolet following the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. Harvick beat Jeff Gordon to the checkers by a margin of 0.006 seconds. The finish remains as one of the more emotional moments in NASCAR history.
  • Bobby Labonte currently holds the record for most wins at the speedway, for active drivers, with six. Dale Earnhardt Sr. holds the all time record for most wins with nine.
  • Chevrolet holds the record for most manufacturer wins at 35.
  • The track qualifying record, 197.479 MPH, was set in November of 1997 by Geoff Bodine.
  • Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 has a very rich purse set at $5,099,491.
  • The Kobalt Tools 500 has 48 entries meaning five teams, from the go or go home list, will leave Georgia disappointed.
  • The defending race winner, from March 2008, is Kyle Busch. Carl Edwards won the 2008 fall race last October.
  • The race will be aired by Fox Sports with the pre-race show beginning at 1:30 pm eastern time.


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Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 U.S. Army Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, is looking forward to the qualifying session for the Kobalt Tools 500. Often called the "Rocket Man" because of his qualifying abilities, Newman has won the Coors Light Pole seven times at Atlanta. That's a record he shares with his longtime friend and mentor Buddy Baker. Newman credits Baker for sharing one of his qualifying secrets many years ago. It seems that Baker used to drive a street car on race tracks in the opposite direction to achieve a more keen sense of where the braking zones were as well as what point on the track to slam the throttle to the floorboard.

WHO'S GOING TO HOLD THE GAS CAN THIS WEEK?

Larry Gunselman Motorsports is another new team to NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series this year that benefited from the mergers of other high profile teams. For example: when Dale Earnhardt Inc merged with Chip Ganassi Racing late last year they had a combined seven race teams but agreed to only run four cars. That agreement left a lot of race ready Cars Of Tomorrow in the storage area and they became the source of a major used car sale. In fact, it's been rumored that these cars were sold as low as twenty cents on the dollar. That's how new start-up teams such as Tommy Baldwin Racing, Jeremy Mayfield Motorsports and Gunselman were able to get operational so quickly.

Prior to the start of the season Gunselman retained the driving services of the Bodine brothers: Geoff and Todd. Todd Bodine drove the car last week at the Las Vegas race. In the spirit of doing anything to help a team, with limited sponsor resources, Geoff Bodine donned the safety gear and performed the duty of the gasoline catch can man during the pit stops. By the way team owner Gunselman performed the duties of the jackman during the stops and the front tire changer was the team's crew chief Doug Richert.

Geoff Bodine returns to the driver's seat this week for the Atlanta race. However little brother Todd will not be available to return the favor of catching the excess gas on pit road. He will be driving the #13 Germain Brothers Toyota at Atlanta. This is the same car that Max Papis drove in the Las Vegas race last Sunday.

HERE'S SOMEONE ELSE BLAMING GOODYEAR TIRES

For quite sometime now Roush Fenway Racing has been in a technical alliance with Yates Racing to build Ford engines for their respective race teams. This alliance has yielded a lot of horsepower with virtually no engine problems over the years. So it's easy to imagine how everyone was shocked, last Sunday at the Las Vegas race, when Roush Fenway drivers Matt Kenseth, David Ragan and Carl Edwards pulled into the garage area with blown engines.

In the aftermath team co owner Jack Roush felt the engine problems were linked to the new tire that Goodyear debuted at the Las Vegas race. That point was reinforced by Doug Yates who's in charge of Roush Yates Engines. Commenting on the situation, earlier this week, Yates said "I think that we misjudged how fast this new tire was going to be and the engine turned a lot more. We used the same specs that we had on the engines we used all of last year. We didn't do anything new or experimental, (with the engines used at Las Vegas), and I had confidence in them."

Do you think that Tony Stewart, Goodyear's harshest critic, is laughing right now?

HE WAS THE BEST MAN ON AND OFF THE TRACK.

After setting the fast time and  winning the Coors Light Pole last week in Las Vegas, Kyle Busch was set to participate in the awards ceremony when he happened to notice that a couple of huge NASCAR fans were in the process of getting married adjacent to victory lane. When he learned that the couple didn't have a best man Busch volunteered to stand up for the groom. After Damon and Heather Landry were declared man and wife, Busch also noticed that they didn't have a wedding cake so he arranged for his sponsor to supply the couple with several bags of M&M's Candy. It's certain that the newlyweds were thrilled when their best man won the race the following day.

SO, WHO'S GOING TO WIN SUNDAY'S RACE AT ATLANTA?

We again turn to the experts from the Las Vegas based WSE-World Sports Exchange who are telling us that they have a three way tie for their projected Atlanta race winner. Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards top the list at five to one odds this week. Close behind them are Roush Fenway Racing drivers Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle who are rated at seven to one.

However the WSE is not fully convinced that this is the week when three time champion Jimmie Johnson launches his charge towards the top of the Sprint Cup standings. Johnson's odds are set at nine to two this week. The Junior Nation will not be thrilled with the news that the WSE is also not confident in Dale Earnhardt Jr's chances of winning at Atlanta. NASCAR's most popular driver comes in this week at 18 to 1 odds.

It's disclaimer time: this is where we again inform you that NASCAR neither encourages or condones the placing of wagers on their events and this sports book data should be used for entertainment and informational purposes only. (SO YOU'LL KNOW EXACTLY WHO TO BET ON.)

By the way the Internet domain listing for the World Sports Exchange is "W SEX DOT COM." How cool is that?

AND FINALLY: JUNIOR JOHNSON WOULD BE SO VERY PROUD.

In recent days former NASCAR driver Carl Dean Combs was arrested by the North Carolina based Alcohol Law Enforcement Agency, (yes that would be ALE), for the creation and possession of moonshine. The agents located and destroyed the still that was housed in a storage shed adjacent to the North Wilkesboro Speedway.

According to NASCAR archives Combs ran their Winston, now Sprint, Cup Series in 1981 through 1984. His best finish was an eighth at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1983. He's also a five time champion in NASCAR's now defunct regional touring series for compact cars known as the Goody's Dash. Following his driving days Combs was also a crew chief for team owner Junior Johnson who, ironically, is an American legend in the world of making and transporting moonshine.

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