Next stop on the Nextel Cup Schedule is Atlanta Motor Speedway
Holy shitoli; what just happened? Now with only 4 races to go to decide the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup champion, we have just 100 points separating 1st and 8th positions. Next stop on the circuit is Atlanta Motor Speedway.
For the uninitiated, Atlanta is the fastest track on the NASCAR Nextel Cup schedule. It’s a 1 1/2 mile track modeled after Lowe’s Motor Speedway with the exception that it’s wider. The increased width allows drivers to carry more speed through the turns and floor it on the straight-a-ways to top speeds of 200mph.
Next week expect Kasey Kahne to continue his successful streak at Atlanta. In 5 starts at Atlanta, Kasey has logged 1 win and 4 top 5’s. Also expect the following drivers to do well next week:
Carl Edwards – Average Finish 11th
Jimmie Johnson – Average Finish 12th
Dale Earnhardt Jr – Average Finish 12th
Tony Stewart – Average Finish 13th
Next Week’s Schedule:
Nextel Cup: @ Atlanta Motor Speedway
10/27/06 – 07:10pm NASCAR Nextel Cup Bass Pro Shops 500 Qualifying
10/28/06 – 12:05pm NASCAR Nextel Cup Bass Pro Shops 500 Practice
10/29/06 – 02:55pm NASCAR Nextel Cup Bass Pro Shops 500
Busch Series: @ Memphis Motorsports Park
10/27/06 – 04:00pm NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Sam’s Town 250 Practice
10/28/06 – 10:05am NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Sam’s Town 250 Qualifying
10/28/06 – 01:10pm NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Sam’s Town 250
Craftsman Truck Series: @ Atlanta Motor Speedway
10/27/06 – 02:250pm NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Easy Care Vehicle Service Contracts 200 Practice
10/28/06 – 01:05pm NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Easy Care Vehicle Service Contracts 200 Qualifying
10/28/06 – 05:05pm NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Easy Care Vehicle Service Contracts 200
Jimmie Johnson Sings the Blues No More!
Early in the Chase for the Championship, Jimmie Johnson stumbled and dug himself a monster hole. With the help of his team, and a little from Jeff Burton, Jimmie has managed to claw his way back one race at a time. Now the driver of the #48 Lowe’s Monte Carlo finds himself in 3rd place at only 41 points back.
Over the past 5 races, Jimmie Johnson has been on a tear. His average finish over that stretch has been 10th. This is a sharp contrast to the average finish of 31st that he carried through the first two races in the Chase. Three weeks ago, Jimmie nearly won the UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega until he was wrecked on the last lap by teammate Brian Vickers. He followed up his strong run at Talladega with a 2nd place finish in Charlotte last week. What’s better than 2nd; how about a 1st place finish at Martinsville?
Yesterday’s win in the Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway boosted Jimmie Johnson 4 spots in the points. I am sure winning at the track where just a few years ago, a Hendrick Motorsports plane went down carrying a number of Hendrick employees including Ricky Hendrick, Rick Hendrick’s son, will serve to not only boost the team’s standing but also their morale.
In a sport where the level of competition is at such a high level, every member of the team from the guys in the shop to the driver on the track must believe in themselves and their teammates. From the results of the past 5 weeks, it is clear that Jimmie Johnson and the rest of his team have shrugged off the slump they suffered from early on and have regained their confidence.
Jeff Burton Loses His Edge
Just when everyone thought Jeff Burton was about to run off with his first Nextel Cup championship, “Ice Man”, as he is affectionately known by other drivers, thawed just a little at Martinsville Speedway. Mechanical problems were the culprit of Burton’s 42nd place finish.
The 45 point cushion Jeff Burton owned prior to the Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway is now a 48 point deficit to leader Matt Kenseth. With upcoming races at Atlanta, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead, Jeff has his work cut out for him. His average finish at the final 4 tracks is 15th, and a 15th place average does not win you a championship.
However, do not fear. Jeff has been defying the law of averages all season long, and expects him to continue. The most interesting thing to watch in the upcoming weeks is if the Ice Man can turn up and the heat and not melt in the process.
Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway Recap
The Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway turned out to be an action packed wreck fest featuring 18 cautions for 107 laps. I believe it is safe to say the drivers do not appreciate the wreck fests as much as we do.
Just ask Dale Earnhardt Jr who wrecked himself in the waning laps of the Subway 500. Dale Jr was trying to take away 7th position from Kasey Kahne when he drove down into turn 3 way too hard and completed a beautiful 180 degree spin. The mistake cost Jr 17 positions.
The other championship drivers faired as follows:
1. (Leader) Matt Kenseth’s mediocre day turned fantastic thanks in part to a 42nd place finish by Jeff Burton. Matt was able to take over the championship lead with an 11th place finish.
2. (-36 points) Kevin Harvick finished 9th and earned every bit of it. The Busch Series champion suffered setbacks early after being tangled up in a wreck on lap 231.
3. (-41 points) Jimmie Johnson shot up the charts 105 points by winning the Subway 500. Johnson had the dominate car on the day and led the most laps, including the one that counts the most.
4. (-47 points) Denny Hamlin’s put on a spectacular show for the hometown crowd, and rebounded from last week’s poor finish with a 2nd place finish at Martinsville. Hamlin had a chance to win the race when he bumped Johnson up the track and pulled along beside him. In the end, Hamlin’s car, only running on 7 cylinders wasn’t enough to overpower Jimmie Johnson.
5. (-48 points) Jeff Burton, suffered his first real setback of the Chase. The engine in the #31 Cingular Chevy broke a valve train on lap 244.
6. (-94 points) Dale Earnhardt Jr could be a real contender if he kept his cool in the waning laps of the Subway 500. After complaining for many laps that Kasey Kahne was holding him back, Jr tried to drive under Kahne and ended up spinning himself out. What would have been a top 10 finish turned into a 22nd place finish really quick.
7. (-96 points) Mark Martin’s day was fairly uneventful until the last laps of the Subway 500. That’s win Martin realized he had a cracked radiator that leaked water. After coming in for multiple pit-stops to top off with water, Martin fell to 24th position.
8. (-99 points) Kasey Kahne posted yet another top 10 with a 7th place finish. This finish along with the win last week at Charlotte has moved Kahne to within 100 points of the lead.
9. (-141 points) Jeff Gordon gained 75 points on the leader with a 5th place finish. Gordon had a strong car that lead early on until the sun started to peek out. The #24 crew could not find the right adjustments to make to keep up with the changing track temperature.
10. (-171 points) Kyle Busch ran strong for much of the day until a late race swipe of the wall doomed him. As Kyle was trying to avoid one of the many spin outs in the race, he accidentally ran into the concrete barrier wall. The resulting damage knocked Kyle out of the top ten.