Though he has not won a race this season, Matt Kenseth also clinched a spot in The Chase last night, based on his standing in Sprint Cup points. That leaves just two spots remaining on The Chase grid. Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, Paul Menard, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, Marcos Ambrose, Casey Mears, Martin Truex Jr., Tony Stewart, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier, and Michael Annett could get in with a win. If a driver who has already won a race wins at Richmond, Newman, Biffle, Bowyer, or Larson could qualify on points.
This is a very big deal for teams, and not just for bragging rights. When A.J. Allmendinger won at Watkins Glen it was worth several million dollars for his team. The added exposure that Chase teams get is extremely valuable for sponsors, and don’t forget the year end point money either. There is always pressure in the Sprint Cup garage, but it will feel like the proverbial 900 pound gorilla for the 16 drivers mentioned above when they arrive at Richmond this weekend.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Atlanta:
-Tony Stewart was greeted with an ovation when he was introduced to fans before the race. Yes, there were some boo’s, but not many. Fans cheered his early race charge from 12th to 4th place in the race.
-When Willie Nelson went to Nashville decades ago he wrote a song for Faron Young titled “Hello Walls.” Four past Sprint Cup champions were singing this song in Atlanta. Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart, and Brad Keselowski all got up close and personal with the Atlanta Motor Speedway walls. Gordon and Busch managed to finish on the lead lap-17th and 13th respectively, but Stewart and Keselowski were both knocked out of the race.
-Danica Patrick fell a lap down early in the race, was a lucky dog on one caution to get back on the lead lap and managed a 6th place finish.
-Drivers could pass on the outside lane during the race, but the outside lane was impossible on restarts. Not one driver running in second had a good restart in the outside lane. Most dropped several spots back. Kahne starting 3rd instead of 2nd on the final restart was big. This is one thing about NASCAR racing I do not understand. I can understand a slight advantage one lane over the other, but this was ridiculous.
-Also ridiculous was the action of Kyle Busch ‘re Martin Truex Jr. Obviously Busch took offense at something Truex did, but to hit him several times after the caution flag flew does not seem like the mindset of someone who is going to be a champion, at least in 2014.
-Kevin Harvick won the pole position on Friday, giving the #4 team the right to choose whatever pit stall they wanted. They picked the very first pit, one of two that were asphalt and not concrete, and seemed to lose positions on every caution, despite decent stops by his crew. The asphalt had less traction that concrete would. So, why are two stalls asphalt and the rest concrete?
-NASCAR TV ratings continue to plummet. And the races won’t be on ESPN for the next seven seasons, meaning we will lose the insight of professionals like Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree-no boogety, boogety, boogety boys these two.
-Rick Hendrick is a great team owner, but he also has extremely talented drivers who are classy. Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all visited Kahne in Victory Lane, and to me, one of the best lines of the night was Gordon telling Kahne “I’m really proud of you.” It would not surprise me to see three Hendrick drivers battling for the championship at Homestead in November.
Thanks for stopping by.
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