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Atlanta NASCAR postscript

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, September 08, 2009

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Sunday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway was simply amazing. It was loaded with several dramatic moments that, in turn, has set the stage for race #26 at Richmond where the 12 man line up for the Chase will be determined. There was almost as many lead changes coming off of pit road as there were on the track. We even got to see the humor in a fractured foot. With those thoughts in mind let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Kasey Kahne for his very impressive performance during the process of winning Sunday night's Pep Boys 500. It was Kahne's second win of 2009 and 11th career win. More importantly, this race moved him five positions, to sixth, in the all important top 12 in the points and now establishes Kahne as a major Chase contender.

Another THUMBS-UP goes out to Kahne's crew chief, Kenny Francis, for consistently making all the right calls that put his team in position to make that winning move on leader Kevin Harvick during the final moments of the race.

Last February, when the season began at Daytona, if someone would have told me that any one of the four teams from Richard Petty Motorsports was going to win two races and be a major contender for the Chase line up I would have said "sir, step away from the Budweiser bottle, it's time to report to rehab."

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THUMBS-UP for Kevin "Happy" Harvick for finding his smile again. Harvick had a wonderful time in Atlanta last weekend. First off, he won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday while driving a car that he owns. Then on Sunday night he finished second in the Pep Boys 500 and came extremely close to winning the race.

The Atlanta weekend was huge for Harvick and Richard Childress Racing-RCR. Let's face the 2009 season has been a nightmare for this organization with not one of the four teams even coming close to making the Chase this year. RCR recently announced some changes in the management of their competition department in order to salvage some bright spots during the remainder of 2009 while laying groundwork for next year. Harvick's performance may be some signs that the reorganization may already be working.

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WHAT'S-UP with Carl Edwards' bad luck during this race? Edwards was expected to officially clinch a starting berth in the Chase line up at Atlanta. Instead he ran over some debris, severely damaged his oil cooler and wound up with a 37th place finish. He's still good for clinching a Chase berth this weekend at Richmond as long as there are no more surprise problems.

On another Edwards issue he gets a THUMBS-UP for maintaining his sense of humor in the midst of the jokes he knew was coming after he broke his right foot. Let's face it, when you crack bones playing Frisbee someone is going to crack jokes.

After finishing seventh in Saturday night's Nationwide Series race, Edwards himself joined in the fun and suggested that his "broken right foot might be good for fuel mileage."

But one of the better lines came from his Roush Fenway Racing boss. Upon hearing that his driver broke his foot playing Frisbee, Jack Roush contacted Edwards and said "you just can't' go a day without showing everybody how dumb you are can you?"


"Six Pack Eddie", my long time friend and racing buddy, called me during the Atlanta race to remind me that the AFLAC Insurance Duck, Edwards' primary sponsor, will provide the driver special benefits during the healing process. According to "Six Pack" the duck will cover the mortgage, car payments, standard monthly bills and food including Subway sandwiches. However the duck cannot cover a loss of NASCAR Championship points nor will it fix beat up oil coolers. You need Triple A, a former Roush Fenway Racing sponsor, to cover matters like that.

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Without question this week's THUMBS-UP for making chicken salad out of chicken do do goes to Brian Vickers and his Red Bull Racing team. Vickers began the Atlanta race 14th in the standings and 39 points away from the coveted top 12 and a berth in the Chase. But during the race his car suffered a broken axle. Amazingly, his Red Bull team installed a new axle on pit road and kept their driver on the lead lap.

Vickers responded by driving the car to a seventh place which elevated him to 13th in the standings and only 20 points out of the top 12. If Vickers manages to race his way into the Chase line up this weekend in Richmond the outstanding work of this pit crew last Sunday night will be the reason why.

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THUMBS-UP to Denny Hamlin whose sixth place finish at Atlanta allowed him to clinch a starting berth in the Chase line up. The Atlanta finish was Hamlin's fifth straight top ten finish.

Hamlin's team may well be the flag ship for the Joe Gibbs Racing's Chase efforts. Team mate Kyle Busch fell to 14th in the championship standings, and 37 points away from 12th, following his disappointing 13th place finish in the Atlanta race. Busch is going to need a lot of help to make the Chase next weekend in Richmond.

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Speaking of the Busch brothers. WHAT'S-UP with the decision by Kurt Busch's Miller Lite Dodge team to use the exact same set up they had during the March Atlanta race? It's understandable that the team opted to use the same car they ran last March. Busch won the March race following a dominating performance that saw him lead 250 laps.

Wait a minute: did someone connected with this team over look that old proverb that says "it's the difference between night and day?" The March race in Atlanta was a daytime event as opposed to the Sunday race which began under the lights.

There was no way that the March pre race set up was going to work. Busch proved that with an extremely ill handling car that didn't seem to improve following pit road adjustments . Adding insult to injury was the fact that Busch crashed the car, following contact from Reed Sorenson, and had to settle for a 38th place finish. He was one of the drivers expected to clinch his Chase Berth Sunday night. Instead, he's now fallen from fourth to seventh in the standings and absolutely cannot afford anymore problems next weekend in Richmond.

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The final THUMBS-UP this week goes to Carter Simo Racing who entered the #08 Toyota in the Atlanta race for driver Terry Labonte. The team pledged ten percent of their Atlanta winnings to be split between the Egleston Children's Hospital and the Schriner's Children's Hospital.

Unfortunately the team had to park the car behind the wall, due to electrical problems, and settle for a 39th place finish. But the good news here lies in the fact that the Pep Boys 500Â was a very rich race. The 39th position paid $83,600 which means the two hospitals split a donation in excess of $8,000.

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The final WHAT'S-UP goes to suspended Sprint Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield who's finding out that being a defendant can get just as expensive as being a plaintiff. Mayfield's efforts to convince us that the findings from NASCAR mandated drug tests are bogus continues while he tries to get a judge to overturn his current suspension amid suing the sanctioning body.


However the process of pursuing Mayfield VS NASCAR has resulted in some incredibly high legal fees that has left Mayfield apparently unable to cover some of his outstanding debts. It was announced in recent days that he's being sued by Arrington Manufacturing, for the amount of $71,000, for his failure to pay debts related to racing engines. There's also a second lawsuit, for an amount in excess of $86,000, filed by Triad Racing Technologies for outstanding debts.

One has to think that NASCAR's original benevolent offer of allowing Mayfield to enter and complete rehab counseling as a means towards possible reinstatement to the sport is looking really good right now.

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