Sunday, March 08, 2009

Live on Type Delay: The Kobalt Tools 500

After the thrill we saw at Atlanta Motor Speedway during the truck race, the Sprint Cup series Kobalt Tools 500 may be a let down. Long green flag periods, and varying track conditions may cause the field to become spread out, and diminish the number of cars that stay on the lead lap. But, even if it is half as good as the truck race was, it will still be racing, and it will still be good.

Mark Martin leads the field to the green flag, and then begins to gain some distance away from the field, then, on turn one of the third lap, a caution comes out because Reed Sorenson hits the wall.

At the restart, it's Martin, Kurt Busch, McMurray, and Biffle in the top four. Kurt Busch gains the advantage at the green, and takes the lead before the lap is over. Jamie McMurray is looking racey and also challenges for the lead, but he can't get past Martin, who prevails in second. Lap 12, and there is another caution as Bobby Labonte gets "so-o-o-o loose," and spins out.

Most of the leaders pit, and there are varying strategies. Ryan Newman's #39 team gets off of pit road first after taking two tires, while the rest of the field took four. After the restart on lap 15, Kurt Busch soon takes the lead and begins checking out on the field. Denny Hamlin has moved into second, but is a good five seconds back by lap 37. Dale Earnhardt, Jr and Carl Edwards are the two drivers on the move. Jr has moved up from his starting position in the twentieth spot, and is fighting Kyle Busch for tenth. Carl Edwards is in the top five, after starting twenty-ninth.

The Other Busch, Kurt, is lapping cars and seven seconds ahead of the field on lap 46. Out of the race at this early point are Travis Kvapil (#28--engine), Mike Bliss, and Reed Sorenson. By lap 51, there are only 21 cars on the lead lap.

The green flag pit stops begin around lap 60. The 66 car of Dave Blaney is now out of the race due to engine problems. Most of the drivers are still talking about loose, so there are plenty of adjustments. As Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards pit, a crew member from Marcos Ambrose's team chases a tire to within seventy feet of the racing surface, and brings out a caution.

This changes things, as the only cars that are on the lead lap are the six leaders who have yet to pit. That includes the 99 car of Edwards, who is waved through pit road by his crew as the caution comes out. The restart is on lap 73, with Jimmie Johnson first, Bowyer second, Truex, Jr third, Edwards fourth, and The Other Busch formerly known as Dirty Kurty is fifth. There are eight cars--those that had been exiting the pits at the time of the caution--in front of the leaders at the tail end of the lead lap.

Oh well, it's early, things could change. With the "slick" track and tires, we could see some more cautions, which would put more cars on the lead lap. After the correction, there are actually eleven cars on the lead lap.

On lap 81, Carl Edwards goes high on the track and gets around Jimmie Johnson for the lead. Clint Bowyer runs up to second.

Lap 83 and the 87 car of Joe Nemecheck leaves the race. At lap 84, Kurt Busch gets around Jimmie Johnson for third.

Now we are getting some pretty good racing as Dale Earnhardt, Jr is fighting race leader Carl Edwards to stay on the lead lap. After some tough racing, Edwards completes the pass and now there are nine cars on the lead lap. Things don't look good for Stewart-Haas racing this week as the #14 car of Tony Stewart goes two laps down.

Caution on lap 104 as Bobby Labonte's engine lets go and he spins. Robby Gordon gets penalized for leaving the pit with equipment--the gas can--still attached. Kurt Busch took the lead just before the caution, but the leaders all pit. Dale Jr gets the free pass.

Rev' Jim is happy to be able to mention Dale Earnhardt, Jr often today. It is good for traffic. We offer a hearty "Welcome Back" to Jr Nation.

The restart on lap 128 almost looks like a Daytona restart, as Montoya gets stuck in the middle lane and falls back. Brian Vickers gets a pit road speeding penalty and has to start at the tail end of the longest line.

The restart order was Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, and Denny Hamlin. Kurt Busch checks out on the field, but Edwards gains some ground back.

Mike Bliss is listed as the only car out of the race. Apparently the engine problems of Labonte, Kvapil, and Nemecheck were not fatal. Sorenson's car was repaired after the early race wreck, and he is back in the race. As of lap 120, there are still ten cars on the lead lap.

Does this remind anybody of the "Good old days" when the leaders would be several laps ahead of the field at the halfway point?

By the way, Dale Earnhardt Jr is still on the lead lap in ninth position. Brian Vickers is at the tail end of the lead lap in tenth.

Now we are told that Nemecheck's problem was brake trouble, not engine trouble.

Speaking about trouble, Dale Earnhardt, Jr is reporting that he is feeling a vibration, possibly brake trouble, and has fallen back to tenth on lap 125. Kasey Kahne is the first car one lap down. AJ Allmendinger is running in eighteenth and is the first car two laps down.

A caution would be good right now. Maybe Sam Hornish, Jr will bring it out. He certainly has his hands full with a car that can only stay up to speed if it looks like it is wrecking. To use an old Tony Stewart phrase, Hornish is wrecking, he just hasn't hit anything yet.

By lap 142, lap times have fallen as the handling of all 42 cars has fallen off. Kurt Busch is leading the field by nine seconds. Montoya is the first car to pit in the upcoming green flag pit cycle, on lap 143. The top five on lap 145 are Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, and an alternating fifth position as Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon are battling it out. Dale Earnhardt Jr is still on the lead lap in tenth. But Kurt Busch puts him a lap down on lap 153.

The news has come in that the pit crew member who chased the tire almost all the way to the race track, and forced the caution that screwed up the race, has been suspended for the remainder of the race. We would like to see him fined, hung, crucified, drawn and quartered, and then shot, for being too stupid to exist. Sure, he meant well but we all know the old saying about good intentions.

Caution on lap 156 for fluid in turn 2. David Stremme and Robby Gordon get caught in the pits, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr gets the free pass.

The top five cars off of pit road are Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards. Dale Earnhardt, Jr is the last car on the lead lap in tenth.

Restart on lap 163 and look at Jeff Gordon go! He moves into second, and may be threatening Kurt The Other Busch for the lead. Dale Earnhardt, Jr is still on the lead lap in tenth.

Dave Blaney is now listed as the last car still in the race, 88 laps down in forty-first place.

And here comes The Gordon. Great stuff, he gets to the inside of Kurt The Other, and the lead is changing back in fourth. It seems as if the #2 Dodge has a little more power on the straightaways, but Gordon is catching him in the turns. But Gordon gets loose, and backs off, and Busch retains the lead.

On lap 177, the leaders are Kurt The Other Busch in first, followed by Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, and Jimmie Johnson. Dale Earnhardt, Jr is still in tenth and on the lead lap, putting all four Hendrick drivers on the lead lap and in the top ten.

Lap 179 and the #47 car of Marcos Ambrose loses oil onto the track and brings out the sixth caution of the day. Kasey Kahne gets the free pass and there will now be eleven cars on the lead lap. The top five cars at the time of the caution are Busch, Gordon, Edwards, Martin, and Johnson.

Coming out of the pits, on lap 189, it is Martin Truex, Jr who comes out first, Kurt Busch is second, Jimmie Johnson third, Jeff Gordon fourth, Mark Martin is fifth. Then Truex pits, and that changes to Busch, Johnson, Gordon, Martin and Brian Vickers. Dale Earnhardt, Jr will restart in ninth, and Kasey Kahne once again got the free pass, and is restarting in eleventh.

Restart was on lap 192. Tony Stewart gains a lap back on lap 198 by racing his way back, and is now only one lap down. On lap 202, Sam Hornish cuts a tire and finally hits the wall. On his way down the track, he collects Bill Elliott, and the caution comes out. This answers the prayers of the #14 team, which was short on fuel, and proves that Tony's continuing friendship with Joe Gibbs could be a very good thing.

The leaders pit on lap 204, and Jeff Gordon barely wins the race off of the pit road. Kurt Busch is second, Jimmie Johnson third, Mark Martin fourth, and Clint Bowyer is fifth. Dale Earnhardt, Jr comes out in ninth, and Matt Kenseth gets the free pass and is now in twelfth at the back of the lead lap. Restart on lap 209.

Three and four wide in the front five rows at the restart. What a blast! It straightens out by turn three, without any wrecks. On lap 213, the top five are Gordon, Kurt Busch, Johnson, Martin, and Bowyer. In turn two, on lap 214, Mark Martin's right rear tire explodes, and the eighth caution comes out. Kevin Harvick gets the free pass. The restart on lap 222 will be with Jeff Gordon in first, followed by Johnson, Bowyer, Hamlin, and Kurt The Other. Biffle gets a one lap penalty due to pitting outside the box.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr is in tenth, and Ryan Newman is now the first car one lap down in thirteenth. He can't get by the 24 to gain a lap, because that car is looking very good right now. On lap 225, the running order is Gordon, Johnson, Hamlin, TOB (Kurt The Other Busch), and Bowyer. Kevin Harvick has moved up to eleventh, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr has fallen back to twelfth. Stewart has taken thirteenth place from his team mate, Ryan Newman, and is now the first car one lap down.

During the commercial, Kurt Busch raced his way into second place, and he is followed by Johnson, Hamlin and Edwards, 82 laps to go. The Gordon's lead has been stretched to over two seconds.

But with 75 to go, TOBusch has caught The Gordon and retaken the lead. On lap 251, as we break for yet another television commercial, the top five are Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, and Brian Vickers. Vickers takes fourth from Johnson on lap 254. Dale Earnhardt, Jr is the last car on the lead lap and is in twelfth. Ryan Newman reports that he has a cylinder down in his motor.

Vickers is now on the move, on lap 258, and we get a caution for debris in turn four, off of Robby Gordon's car as he scraped the wall. This puts Smoke back on the lead lap. Way to go #14 team! Yes, The Revvin Jim is biased. We can't help it, we are race fans.

The leaders pit on lap 260, and TOB comes off in first, Jimmie Johnson came out second, but gets caught for speeding on pit road, and will have to restart at the tail end of the longest line. This means Brian Vickers is second, Bowyer third, Jeff Gordon fourth, and Carl Edwards is fifth. Restart on lap 266.On lap 267 , there is a big wreck, as Ragan gets knocked into Scott Speed by Greg Biffle. Speed hits the wall and rebounds down the track, Biffle wrecks, and several cars have to mow the infield grass to avoid the carnage. Neither Dale Earnhardt, Jr, nor Tony Stewart were involved in the wreck, and we breathe a sigh of relief.

By the way, the leaders will refuel barely within the theoretical fuel window, though it may still be a stretch. This will make things interesting. Pit road is open with 54 laps to go. Apparently expecting everyone to have to pit again, Kurt "TOB" Busch, Brian Vickers, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, and Carl Edwards stay out. Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin also stay out, so Kevin Harvick and the rest of the lead lap behind him pit, and hold positions eight through fourteen. Jeff Burton got the free pass, and there are no more cars one lap down. There are a lot of cars two laps down and further back.

At the green on lap 276, the top five are Busch, Vickers, Gordon, Bowyer, and Edwards. Jr falls back to fourteenth after handling problems create a close call between him and Aric Almirola. Almirola is three laps down in twenty-fifth.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr is still okay and on the lead lap. We are now able to say that this race is better than the one at California, two weeks ago. The handling problems that everyone has experienced have made it exciting. At lap 285, there are no more or less cars on the lead lap than there would normally be at this point in any Atlanta Motor Speedway Sprint Cup race. Because The Other Busch, Brian Vickers, and Denny Hamlin have been running so well this race, it is not about the same ol' same ol'. In fact, on lap 296, Kasey Kahne has won his multi-lap battle with Matt Kenseth and has moved into fifth. Denny Hamlin has dropped back to fourteenth. Dale Earnhardt, Jr is in thirteenth.

If this race goes green to the finish, somebody is going to run out of fuel.

Jamie McMurray is the first car not on the lead lap, two laps down and in fifteenth. That doesn't matter now, there are only seventeen laps to go. There are no more lucky dogs.

Here comes Vickers again, as TOB, the race leader has to pick his way through lapped traffic. Vickers is gaining down the back stretch and in turn three. We will have a race to the finish.

With this race marking the end of the first four weeks of the new season, there will be a one week break, and the next race, the one determining the new top thirty-five owners points standings. will be at Bristol. This will give us plenty to anticipate. If we can get close finish at Atlanta, before the break, that one week break will seem too long.

There is lots of debris coming off of Robby Gordon's car on lap 322. I mean the car looks like it is falling to pieces. There is a caution. All the lead lap cars pit.

Carl Edwards comes off of pit road first, after taking two tires. There will two laps to go when the race restarts in overtime. The order is now Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Truex, and Harvick. At the restart, Kurt Busch goes high and takes the lead foorm Edwards. Jeff Gordon makes a run on the leader, but it looks like the #2 car is too fast. Kurt "The Other Busch" Busch takes the checkers. Gordon is second, Edwards is third, Kevin Harvick raced his way to fourth, and Brian Vickers is fifth. They are followed by Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, and Tony Stewart, who has now finished eighth in three of the first four races of the season. Jimmie Johnson was ninth, and Jr was tenth. Martin Truex, Jr, that is. Truex's kidney stone was eleventh. Just kidding, and that is not that funny, it is painful. A lot of credit should go to Truex Jr who has obviously gone through a lot of pain over the last few days.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr finished eleventh, and Matt Kenseth finished twelfth, the last position on the lead lap.

Always creative, sometimes not for the best, Kurt Busch makes his victory lap in reverse

So, we take a week off, and look forward to the next race. It's Bristol, Baby!

Interesting stats about this post: Dale Earnhardt, Jr was mentioned 19 times. The winner's brother was only mentioned once, and that was just now. Just thought that might be of note. It is our final note.

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