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Atlanta Sprint Cup race postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, March 08, 2010

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Over the previous weekend we observed a new level of NASCAR's policy of "putting the racing back into the hands of the drivers." We watched the elder Busch brother and the Captain make a well deserved trip to victory lane and we watched "Happy" Harvick get happy again. With those thoughts in mind let's begin with: 

Carl Edwards
WHAT'S-UP with Sprint Cup driver Carl Edwards and that lack of judgment during the Atlanta race? Edwards had every reason to be upset with fellow driver Brad Keselowski. Early race contact by Keselowski sent Edwards' Ford up into the wall which in turn collected Joey Logano. The incident completely destroyed any chances Edwards and Logano had of having a good run. 

After making repairs Edwards returned to the race approximately 156 laps down. With three laps left in the race, it appeared that Edwards tried to hit the rear of the Keselowski car but missed. One lap later the contact was made and we all watched the Keselowski Dodge take off like an airplane and land on top of the retaining wall. 

That leads to a THUMBS-UP for the mandated safety features inside of the NASCAR COT along with the energy absorbing safer barriers installed around the speedway. That's the main reason we saw Keselowski walk out of the infield car center unharmed. Another THUMBS-UP goes out for the fact that there has been no reports of anyone, standing on the fan side of the security catch fence, being hit with flying debris from the wreck. 

Bear in mind that these two drivers have had their issues in the past. The most memorable being last year at Talladega. Edwards wound up airborne and into the catch fence while Keselowski won the race. There was also an issue between these two drivers that stemmed from a 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Memphis. 

But the fact remains: there is simply no place for personal retaliation on a race track especially a track like Atlanta where high speed is such a huge factor. That leads to a THUMBS-UP to NASCAR for parking Edwards and summoning him to their "oval office". 

That act also leads to another WHAT'S-UP for Edwards for intentionally driving the wrong way down pit road to return to the garage. It was tantamount to thumbing his nose at NASCAR officials. It's also an act that is not going to be regarded kindly. 

Now we wait until sometime Tuesday afternoon when NASCAR is expected to render and announce a decision regarding possible sanctions. Be ready racing fans, this is going to be "the story" for the next several days to come. 

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While this incident will likely overshadow anything and everything relative to the Kobalt Tools 500, a THUMBS-UP remains the priority for race winner Kurt Busch's outstanding performance during this race. The elder Busch brother led a race high 129 laps and scored his 21st career Sprint Cup win, his third win at Atlanta and now owns at least one Cup win in each of the last nine years. Not even the aggravating presence of double green-white-checker finishes could stop the "blue deuce" last Sunday. 

A THUMBS-UP also goes out to crew chief Steve Addington who has clearly proven that he can handle any Busch brother you name and still get the job done. Do you get a sense that perhaps Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing are feeling a pang of regret over releasing Addington late last year? 

Another THUMBS-UP goes out to "Captain" Roger Penske the team owner who truly deserves this win. Yet another THUMBS-UP goes out to Chrysler. The beleaguered car manufacturer has had its fair share of financial upheaval over the past two years and it participation in NASCAR racing has been reduced to this one Dodge team who made them very proud last Sunday. 

************  WHAT'S-UP with the tire issues during the Atlanta race? Extreme tire wear greatly impacted 12 different drivers during this race including potential front runners Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and pole sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. Goodyear executive Stu Grant defended the tire quality and suggested, pending further investigation, that the problem might have something to do with the "overly aggressive set ups and driving."  After the race a visibly upset Jeff Gordon said "when they, (Goodyear), come here to test, you expect them to build a tire that we can abuse and that we can race hard with. Obviously, that wasn't the case." Ryan Newman called the situation "a safety issue" and added "Goodyear has some work to do." 

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THUMBS-UP to Kevin Harvick for that dynamic winning performance during Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Atlanta. The Kevin Harvick Inc, EZ-Go Chevrolet was flawless right off of the car hauler. The only adjustments this truck needed during the entire race involved a slight air pressure change in the tires for the final short run following the last yellow flag of the race. 

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Now let's send out two THUMBS-UPS for comments overheard from the in car radios. The first goes to Kasey Kahne who, to coin a phrase from a Justin Timberlake song, may be trying to bring sexy back. During the Atlanta Sprint Cup race Kahne informed his team that "this car is pretty sexy right now." The sexy car finished fourth in the Kobalt Tools 500. 

The second THUMBS-UP goes to crew chief Chad Knaus for suggesting that driver Jimmie Johnson may need some optometry services. During the course of a pit stop Johnson over shot the line of his pit box and had to back the car up. Once off of pit road, he came over the radio and said "I'm sorry guys, was the pit sign still out there or did I just blow right through it? Knaus responded "you just kind of blew past it, remind me to get your eyes checked next week." 

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Next is two final THUMBS-UPS that both involve the Victory Junction Gang Camp: the Randleman-North Carolina based facility created by Pattie and Kyle Petty that brings smiles to the faces of seriously ill children. 

The first THUMBS-UP goes to driver Dale Earnhardt Jr for his recent one million dollar donation to the camp. This huge act of generosity will construct and maintain the Dale Jr Corral and Amphitheatre at the facility. 

The second THUMBS-UP goes to the NASCAR Foundation and their recent donation of $408,000 which will be used to provide life changing experiences for children attending the camp. 

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The final WHAT'S-UP of the week goes to the apparent demise of brotherly love between the racing Key family. On Monday of last week, Raymond Key, owner of Keyed Up Motorsports who fields a Sprint Cup team for driver Casey Mears, announced that he has severed all ties with Key Motorsports, owned by his brother Curtis, who fields teams in the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. 

That led to Raymond Key moving his Cup operation last week to a shop formally used by Tommy Baldwin Racing. The move also led to a severe lack of time for prepping the car for last weekend's Atlanta race which, in turn, might have had something to do with the blown engine the team suffered in practice. 

Making the situation worse was the fact that Mears failed to qualify the car for the fourth race in a row. Family ties and building location are not the team's problem at the moment. The problem is sponsorship funding that may force them to curtail original plans to run the entire Cup season to approximately 12 selected races.

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