Atlanta Race Recap

The Key Moment – Jeff Gordon was able to pass Bobby Labonte on the final restart, but Labonte used a little muscle to shove past Gordon again to reassume the lead.


In a Nutshell – Green flag passes for the lead? I thought those had been relegated to the museums.

Dramatic Moment – On the final restart Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. knew they had one last shot at Bobby Labonte. Gordon got by the 18 momentarily but Labonte wasn’t shy about laying a bumper to the 24 to retake the point.


What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

Should NASCAR have single file restarts during the last twenty laps of a race rather than just the final ten laps?

Do the Chevys have an aerodynamic advantage?

If Ryan Newman can ever make it to the first pit sequence without losing a lap, how many races is he going to win?

Wow, Waltrip didn’t hold onto that points lead long, did he?

What’s with Jeff Gordon and qualifying this year?

What’s with Richard Childress Racing? His three drivers finished 17th, 19th and 25th. Yet he just signed Kevin Harvick to a long term deal. Why? Does finishing mid-pack really pay that well?

A Winston Cup race at Atlanta without rain? Circle this date in the record books. (Rain did wash out ARCA qualifying.)

What should Steve Park’s punishment be for the incidents in the last two races? Or should he be punished at all?


The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Four Jack Roush prepared engines failed during Sunday’s race. Mark Martin lost an engine for the second week in a row and has now finished 43rd and 42nd in the last two races. Martin lost one engine all of last year. (Kansas.)

For the second week in a row Jimmie Johnson seemed to have a solid finish locked up late in the race only to have fate intervene. This time it was a blown engine.

Outside pole sitter Bill Elliott was another victim of a blown engine.

Rusty Wallace looked to have a top 5 car before slapping the wall hard and knocking the toe in out on the car.

For the second week in a row Steve Park was involved in a questionable incident. This one occurred on pit road and also fouled up Jerry Nadeau and John Andretti’s day.

For the second week in a row Kurt Busch had problems. A blown engine ended his day.


The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Tony Stewart ran into the back of the 48 car on the penultimate restart but got away with minimal damage.

Joe Nemechek’s crew left a left front tire loose. Nemechek was forced to pit again, but got out just ahead of the leaders to stay on the lead lap.

Dale Earnhardt Junior’s car was so bad off the truck he spun out during qualifying, but it was pretty potent on Sunday.

Jimmy Spencer had an outstanding run finishing seventh in the lightly regarded 7 car despite some of the usual bumper car antics.

Greg Biffle missed last week’s race at Vegas but rebounded with a 13th place run at Atlanta.


Worth Noting

Chevys took the top three positions, four of the top 5 positions and six of the top 10. The best finishing Ford was Matt Kenseth in fourth. The best finishing Dodge was Ryan Newman in tenth. The best finishing Pontiac was Johnny Benson in eleventh.

Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart are the only two drivers to have three top 10 finishes in the first four races. Kenseth holds an advantage over Stewart with three top 5 finishes to Tony’s two. (Try saying that five times fast.)

Greg Biffle had the best finish by a rookie Sunday coming home 13th.

What’s the Points?

Matt Kenseth advances a spot into the points lead now 49 markers ahead of Tony Stewart who is in second. Former points leader Michael Waltrip ran like a lamb with no knees all day and drops to third in the standings. Jimmie Johnson (down one spot) and race winner Bobby Labonte round out the top 5. Johnny Benson is 23 markers out of the top five in points.

Anyone from ninth (Jeff Burton) on up in the standings could mathematically leave Darlington in the points lead next week. Only six points separate the drivers in seventh (Kevin Harvick) through 11th (Joe Nemechek.)

Jeff Gordon made the best advance in the points today moving up twelve spots to eighth place. Jimmy Spencer also advanced twelve spots but is still back in 23rd. Bobby Labonte, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Dave Blaney all advanced eight spots to fifth, tenth and fifteenth spots respectively.

Big dropper included Roush teammates Kurt Busch (down eight spots to fourteenth after leading the points prior to Vegas) Jeff Burton (down five spots to ninth) and Mark Martin (down a whopping fourteen spots to 25th). Ricky Rudd who also runs Roush engines fell thirteen spots to 21st.

Martin is only hour points ahead of Terry Labonte in 26th. Why is that important? Starting next at Darlington provisionals are based on this year’s owner points standings for the first time this season. Anyone outside the top 25 is charged for provisionals used, while those inside the 25 are not. Other notables outside the top 25 include Ward Burton, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Bill Elliott, Jeff Green and Kenny Schrader.

Hideo Fukuyama valiantly held onto 45th place in the points standings even after withdrawing from the event.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) We’ll give it four cans. Like the kids in Lake Woebegone, even an average race at Atlanta is above average.

Next Up- Slick down your hair, pick up some roses (she prefers extra thorns) and dust off your best boots, boys. We’re off on a date with the Lady in Black next week.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2003

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