What We Learned: Atlanta

  • Scott Whitmore
  • Monday, March 9, 2009 8:11am
  • Sports

I’m almost ready to admit I was wrong about the competitiveness of Dodges in NASCAR’s Cup series. Earlier this year I said they would have to prove me wrong in not thinking much of their chances.

Cue the triumphal music and the highlight reel of Kurt Busch’s dominating win at Atlanta on Sunday. Right after he scraped the fence were the only times the elder Busch brother looked mortal, other than that no one else had anything for the Blue Deuce.

Also finishing in the Top 10 in a Dodge — and driving for a different team — was Enumclaw’s Kasey Kahne (7th).

I’m not ready to concede fully that I was wrong (not that I don’t have a lot of practice at it), but one or two more solid runs and I’ll be suitably humbled.

Oh-fer for me again this weekend. I had picked Mike Skinner to win the Truck series race on Saturday and Jimmie Johnson for the Cup race.

Instead, it was the Brothers Busch this weekend, with Kyle winning on Saturday and Kurt on Sunday.

Speaking of Kyle Busch, someone please explain to me how he won Saturday’s race. I mean, he falls back to ninth or 10th place after restarting in the closing laps without second or third gear, then runs by everyone else for the checkered flag.

Love him or hate him — lots of you on either side of that one — you have to admit the man knows how to drive. I think he made that run to victory on sheer will, and I’ll bet he never lifted once.

It was pure instinct, I’m sure, but when Jimmy Watts, the gas man for Marcos Ambrose, ran out into the grass between pit road and the front stretch to get a loose tire it changed the whole complexion of the race.

The caution flag flew — it was going to fly for the tire whether Watts ran out there or not, so don’t make him out to be Bartman — and a lot of cars making green-flag pit stops were caught unawares. Lots and lots of big names went one or more laps down in the blink of an eye.

Although a lot of them would have fallen victim to Kurt Busch on green-flag runs anyway, I’ve got to believe a lot of folks instantly lost interest in the race seeing their favorite drive three laps down and the race not half done.

Did you see the empty seats at Sunday’s race in Atlanta? (check out the center-left of above photo — that’s the front stetch!) On a bright, sunny day in Georgia, lots and lots of folks had better things to do than take in NASCAR’s best when the cheapest seats in the house were just $39.

Although Atlanta has a sketchy history of attendance, I’m a bit surprised, because I fully expected the races in the Southeast to be well attended — much more so than at tracks outside of NASCAR’s core. Do you think Kansas, Chicagoland, Michigan and Phoenix are worried this Monday morning?

The Yates Racing Fords of Travis Kvapil and Bobby Labonte had engine troubles, as did the Toyota of David Reutimann (Michael Waltrip Racing) and the Chevrolet of Ryan Newman (Stewart-Haas Racing).

Although the TV talking heads said Yates gets its engines from Roush-Fenway, I thought Yates built their own. Anyone with the no-kidding info, please let me know.

I thought Kurt Busch’s backwards victory lap was, if nothing else, original. It was also a bit more humble than either the back flip or the bow.

Kurt Busch’s Penske teammate Sam Hornish Jr. had his hands full all day on the slick Atlanta asphalt, as every time the camera found his No. 77 he was slipping one way or the other.

During a late-race spin-out, Darrell Waltrip tagged him as “Sideways Sam Hornish.”

“I am so loose, so, so loose,” Bobby Labonte after his early-race spin-out on a notoriously worn-out and slick Atlanta Motor Speedway.

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