Atlanta Race Recap

The Key Moment - Greg Biffle made a do or die pass to try to get around his teammate Mark Martin to make up a lap and he towed Jimmie Johnson right through the hole with him.

In a Nutshell - One driver dominates but another celebrates.

Dramatic Moment - The final ten laps were all anyone could ask for both as a race fan and as a human being.

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

Could Hollywood have provided a better script for the ending of this race? Think the conspiracy theorists are going to have a field day with this one?

Why did NASCAR throw a caution flag when Kevin Harvick stalled out on pit road rather than just pushing the car out of the way?

Was anyone else amazed by the good sportsmanship on everyone's part after the race?

Races at Atlanta Martinsville and Charlotte in the fall and none of them are rain delayed?
The South must be about to start a Biblical drought.

Am I the only idiot who got all confused this morning after tuning in for the race an hour early? Stupid Daylights Saving Time.

Who was at fault for the lap 311 wreck, Earnhardt or Edwards?

What's gone wrong with Rusty Wallace and the 2 team? Maybe they ought to change the name of Rusty's retirement tour next year to the "Just Looking for a Couple Top Tens" Tour.

What was Greg Biffle thinking opening a hole for Johnson to pass Mark Martin with sixteen laps to go? Think Jack Roush is going to have some words with him?

What was the deal with the Petty Blue and STP Red paint scheme on Robby Gordon's car? I've watched Richard Petty race. I've seen Richard Petty win championships. Robby, you're no Richard Petty.

How did NASCAR's electronic scoring "lose" Carl Edwards when he was running second? That doesn't instill a lot of confidence in the scoring system. What is Katherine Harris running the NASCAR scoring system this November?

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was gunning for the lead and the points lead as well when he got into the 99 car with fourteen laps to go and spun into the inside wall.

Mark Martin clearly had the fastest car but he was a sitting duck after NASCAR threw a questionable flag for a car stuck on pit road.

Kurt Busch and the 97 team had been nearly flawless in the first six playoff races but they used up their Mulligan in a big way on Sunday with a mechanical DNF early in the race. The command to start the engines lasted nearly as long as Busch's engine. The Busch boys had a rough race with Kurt finishing 42nd and Kyle finishing 43rd.

Elliott Sadler collided with Joe Nemechek on pit road breaking a center link and losing his transmission at the same time.

Once again Jeff Gordon's car was clearly out to lunch early in the race but this week things didn't get better. They got worse when Gordon tore up his rear differential.

It doesn't get much worse than running a full time schedule and missing the race. That's what happened to Scott Wimmer and Scott Riggs. (Great Scott, how did that happen?) But the real losers may be the part time teams. NASCAR reacted to the situation with a harebrained knee-jerk plan that might guarantee the top 35 in points automatically make each race and those outside the top 35 have no shot at the pole and a taste of glory on Friday. Every time I think they couldn't possibly come up with a dumber idea than the C4C NASCAR proves me wrong. Imagine a guy like Ron Fellows posting the fastest lap at the Glen in qualifying and having to start 36th.

Friday also wasn't a great day for the Wallace family with Mike and Kenny both missing the race. Despite what our friend Mr. Loaf used to sing on AM radio, two out of three actually is pretty bad.

Ryan Newman won the pole and led the race early but was sent to the pits when he lost a wheel weight (Four grams not ounces TV folks) and he went down a lap. From that point forward his car just seemed off song.

The "Seven Come Fore Eleven" Award For Fine Fortune

Jimmie Johnson looked like he was battling for second when a series of late race events played out in his favor. (To give him his due, Johnson also drove his guts out for those last fifteen laps.) His third consecutive victory moved Johnson up to second in the standings.

Jeff Burton had to start the race shotgun on the field due to an unapproved engine change but he still battled his way back to third.

Joe Nemechek survived that pit road collision with Sadler to lead the race late and finish the day fourth.

Carl Edwards survived his lap 311 incident with Earnhardt to post a remarkable third place finish.

Brian France may be the weekend's biggest winner. Problems for the top three drivers in the standings have breathed a little life in the contrived, nonsensical and formerly moribund playoffs.

Worth Noting

Johnson won his league leading seventh race of the season and his third in a row. He also has the most top 5 finishes with eighteen three more than Dale Earnhardt Jr. who is second on that list.

Jeff Gordon has the most top 10 finishes with 22. Jamie McMurray is next with 21 (and he's not even in the playoffs!). Earnhardt and Gordon are next on the list with twenty a piece.

Four drivers (Johnson, Earnhardt, Gordon and Busch) have combined to win twenty of this year's 33 races. Add four more drivers (Stewart, Newman, Sadler and Kenseth) and those eight drivers have combined to win 28 of this year's 33 races.

The top 10 finishers competed in five Chevys, three Fords and two Dodges.

Kasey Kahne was the top finishing rookie in fifth place. Brian Vickers finished seventh.

Mark Martin scored his first top 10 finish since Dover.

Carl Edwards scored his first top 5 and his fourth cumulative top 10 in just eleven starts.

Jeff Burton has scored eleventh or better finishes in the last three races.

Joe Nemechek has top 10 finishes (including a win) in four of the last five races.

Kasey Kahne scored his first top 5 since New Hampshire.

Brian Vickers scored his first top 10 since Daytona in July.

Jamie McMurray has scored top 10 finishes in ten of the last eleven races.

Earnhardt has finished 33rd in the last two races.

Kurt Busch scored his first DNF since Pocono in August.

What's the Points?

Despite finishing 42nd Kurt Busch hangs onto the points lead thanks to problems experienced by Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. later in the event. Busch now leads new second place points man Jimmie Johnson by 59 points, Jeff Gordon in third by 72 points and fourth place Mark Martin by 82 points.

Johnson made the best points gain in the top10 moving up two spots but more importantly back into title contention. Ryan Newman also moved up two spots to seventh but he's well behind the lead pack. Mark Martin moved up a spot to fourth.

Earnhardt really took it on the chin losing two spots and falling to fifth place, 99 points behind Busch. Earnhardt has to make up 33 points on Busch in the next three races to win the title. Jeff Gordon fell a spot to third. Elliott Sadler and Matt Kenseth both fell a spot and they are now eighth and ninth respectively.

Jamie McMurray retains the eleventh spot in the standings and is now 221 points ahead of twelfth place Dale Jarrett. I think you can fit him up for the "I Finished Eleventh in the Points and All I Got Was This Stupid T-shirt" shirt. Under the old points system McMurray would be up to sixth in the standings.

Under the old points system Jeff Gordon would be leading Jimmie Johnson by 42 points. Earnhardt would be third 77 points back. Kurt Busch would be fourth, 191 points behind Johnson. Sigh.

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 this one a five with an open admission I'm indulging in sloppy sentimentality most unbecoming a cynical old coot. Most of the race was a runaway.

Next Up- Go west young man, and saddle up for NASCAR's last west coast traveling medicine show in 2004, Phoenix.

Related Topics:

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2004

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