View From the Couch: Atlanta

No matter what you think about the Busch brothers, they both can drive. While Kyle has eclipsed big bro’ Kurt on most weekends, when either driver gets a car that is running well it’s usually game over. Kurt Busch hit the outside wall multiple times but still managed to keep the lead for 2/3’s of the day. Kurt compared Atlanta to Darlington’s abusive track and judging from his scraped up #2 Miller Lite Dodge, it’s a pretty accurate comparison. How many tracks do you see the race leaders all pit for tires with 2 laps left, let alone nearly every driver take four tires? It made for some interesting racing and thankfully a better race than last year’s tire debacle.

While Kurt Busch has always had his moments of madness, he has tried very hard to be loved by fans. Some of his past ideas and victory celebrations have fallen flat on their face, sometimes literally. Sunday I had to give Busch some points for originality for the backwards victory lap.

Other Thoughts

  • Brian Vickers had a terrific run going and with 6 laps left was right on the heels of Kurt Busch. After I earlier this week whether Vickers could win a Cup race, I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Of course then his pit crew had a slow pit stop that dropped him to 5th. The #83 is still making strides, but the pit road problems have been costly over the last two years. What’s most surprising is that,-barring changes this year, Red Bull is the only team in NASCAR to employ full time pit crews (does anyone know if this is still true?).
  • Most weeks I like to predict which driver will bring out two cautions in the same race. Bobby Labonte and Greg Biffle each accomplished that feat. What happens when a driver brings out three yellow flags? By my count Robby Gordon factored in three cautions on the day, each one more severe than the last. Kudos to you Robby Gordon, a true trailblazer.
  • My guess is that we will see more than one article this week asking, “When will Jeff Gordon finally win a points race?” The way the #24 team is running, who cares? He is piling up top 5’s and running near the front in every race. His driver rating is a healthy 120.5. He has a He has run 94% of all the laps in 2009 in the top 15. If they broke that down further, my guess is that his percent of laps in the top 5 would be near 90% too. Wins are often out of a team’s control, but spending every week in the top 5 and leading a lot of laps will pay off in the long haul. And here’s something even scarier: Intermediate tracks have been his weakness in recent years. Even in 2007 when Gordon won 6 races, he only had one win (Lowe’s) at a downforce track and often struggled to get a handle at tracks like Texas and Atlanta. We haven’t even reached some of Gordon’s best tracks like Martinsville, Talladega, Darlington and the road courses. The Deathstar is quite operational.
  • Next week is an off-week. After five straight weeks of racing all the drivers deserve a break, but Martin Truex Jr will likely be the most gracious recipient of the extra rest. Saturday night he was treated for kidney stones, then went out and posted a top ten.