THE STARTING GRID:
On a day where everyone was fighting their cars tooth-and-nail around the fast Atlanta Motor Speedway, it was fitness guru #99-Carl Edwards who wound up winning his seventh Sprint Cup race of the year, his third at Atlanta. After early worries about the pitch of his engine changing, his car never lacked for speed and remained with polesitter #48-Johnson through the early laps, taking the lead for the first time on lap 21. He lost a couple spots when the #48 blocked him in his pit stall during the first round of pit stops. After #48-Johnson’s struggles following a pit road speeding penalty, Edwards exchanged the lead with teammate #17-Kenseth when his crew had a slow stop under the third caution on lap 110. Soon, he was back to 2nd behind #11-Hamlin. #11-Hamlin had problems with spinning his tires on restarts, and Edwards took advantage on the next-to-last restart with 16 to go to bump past #11-Hamlin for the win. Anticipations of a big points day went south, however, as #48-Johnson managed to rally with a late 4-tire stop to finish 2nd. As with his first Sprint Cup victory, which came at the track, Edwards also won the Nationwide Series race for that weekend, this time in Memphis. Led 98 laps.
1) #99-Carl Edwards** THE WINNER!
2) #48-Jimmie Johnson** Won yet another rained-out pole position, but was mid-pack during all the subsequent practice sessions. At the green flag, he spun his tires to the point that he wobbled toward outside-polesitter #16-Biffle, ultimately leading to #99-Edwards taking the 2nd spot. He was first passed by #99-Edwards on lap 21, regained the lead off pit road under the second caution on lap 35, then dropped precipitously through the field. On lap 75, he nearly spun coming off turn two and called his car’s handling “evil.” As he pitted during the first round of green-flag stops on lap 90, he smoked his brakes coming down pit road so he could pit with leader #99-Edwards. The move resulted in him being caught speeding coming onto pit road, forcing him to serve a pass-through penalty on lap 91. He returned to the track in 30th. On the lap 115 restart following the third caution of the race (for debris), he quickly got by the slow-restarting cars of #9-Kahne and #12-Newman to get in position for the Lucky Dog. He was still in that position when #9-Kahne’s spin brought out the fourth caution on lap 130, giving him his lap back and restarting him in 20th. He was up to 13th with 95 laps to go. Under the tenth and final caution with 13 laps to go, crew chief Chad Knaus made the fateful decision to have him come in and change four tires along with a handful of other cars outside the top 10. After restarting 11th with 8 laps to go, he rocketed through the field, climbing to 7th with 7 to go, 4th with 4 to go, and past #11-Hamlin for 2nd off the final corner. The rally actually enabled him to gain points from a 149 point advantage over #16-Biffle to a 183 point margin over winner #99-Edwards. Led 28 laps.
3) #11-Denny Hamlin** Keeping pace with the leaders, he felt a vibration by lap 87 when he feared his tires were worn to the cords. Having moved up to 7th by lap 99, he silently, but deliberately, moved into contention for the lead. He was up to 4th by lap 203 and, under the fifth caution six laps later, he nearly collided with #99-Edwards as the two raced for 3rd off pit road. He won the battle and restarted 3rd behind #2-Ku. Busch and #17-Kenseth on the lap 216 restart. As the #17 and #2 raced for the lead, he closed in and, with 95 to go, was within sight of the lead pair. He had just moved by #2-Ku. Busch for 2nd with 73 to go when the sixth caution of the race came for debris. Under the yellow, he was able to beat #17-Kenseth off pit road by a half-carlength to take the lead for the first time. However, it became clear that his car struggled on restarts. When the race restarted with 68 to go, he spun his tires and was only able to stay out front by opening up an advantage through turns one and two. The same thing happened following the eighth caution with 28 to go, his car staying out front as #99-Edwards got past #17-Kenseth for 2nd. On the restart after that with 16 to go, #99-Edwards used this weakness to his advantage, bumping him as the two exited the quad-oval (similar to #18-Ky. Busch’s winning pass at Chicagoland). The contact caused him to wobble to the inside, allowing #99-Edwards to make the winning pass on him up high in turns one and two. Unable to return the favor on the final restart with 8 to go, he was passed by the surging #48-Johnson off the final corner and wobbled again, barely avoiding a wreck with the points leader as he fell to 3rd. Led 56 laps.
4) #17-Matt Kenseth** Raced into contention by moving up to 2nd on lap 61, then took the lead for the first time under the third caution of the race on lap 110 by beating teammate #99-Edwards off pit road. He held the lead for much of the middle stages of the race, maintaining it through pit stops under the fourth caution with a 12-second stop. He lost the lead by a hair to #2-Ku. Busch during pit stops under the fifth caution on lap 209, then regained it after a side-by-side battle with the #2 on lap 224. With 80 to go and his lead over #2-Ku. Busch at 1.43 seconds, he still worried that he wouldn’t be able to win the race because his car was so loose. He never regained the lead after #11-Hamlin beat him off pit road under the sixth caution with 72 to go, but held fast to a top 5. Led a race-high 128 laps.
5) #18-Kyle Busch** Ran the car he brought to his first victory of 2008 in the spring Atlanta event. Racing towards the top 10 on lap 120, he nearly spun while avoiding the nearby car of #41-Sorenson.
6) #2-Kurt Busch After nearly colliding with #29-Harvick during pit stops under the second caution of the race on lap 35, he raced into contention, moving up to 3rd by lap 99. Ironically, after slapping the outside wall off turn four with the right-rear of his car on lap 175, he seemed to get faster. Under the fifth caution on lap 209, he then took the lead for the first time by barely edging #17-Kenseth in the race off pit road. The move resulted in a tight side-by-side battle with #17-Kenseth that lasted from laps 222-224, his car holding the high line before the #17 took the lead. Led 12 laps.
7) #26-Jamie McMurray On lap 42, he was nearly pinched into the outside wall in the quad-oval while racing on the outside of #07-Bowyer and #83-Vickers in a three-wide battle. By lap 122, he had marched his way up to the 11th spot, and he was 9th with 87 laps to go. With 4 to go, he and #6-Ragan split #24-J. Gordon in the quad-oval as they raced into the 7th and 8th spots. Finally secured another good finish after his misfortune at Martinsville.
8) #6-David Ragan Flirted with the top 10 through much of the race and, after missing his pit stall under green on lap 188, was efficient in making up the lost ground. Though he lost a lap due to the extra stop, he got it back as the Lucky Dog under the sixth caution for debris with 72 to go. With 4 to go, he and #26-McMurray split #24-J. Gordon in the quad-oval as they raced into the 7th and 8th spots.
9) #24-Jeff Gordon** He was forced to make several changes to his car through the race, but was fortunately able to remain in the top 5 for just about the entire day. He did not, however, contend for the lead.
10) #16-Greg Biffle** Was irritated at the start of the race after #48-Johnson spun his tires and wobbled up towards him, causing him to check-up and lose 2nd to #99-Edwards. As early as lap 13, he worried about his car’s handling going away, and he fell from 2nd almost as soon as he retook the spot. On lap 158, he was stuck in 15th, his car still extremely loose. He went a lap down to leader #17-Kenseth on lap 208, then immediately got it back the next lap as the Lucky Dog when #55-Waltrip’s second blown tire brought out the fifth caution of the race. Fought his way into the top 10 during the final 8-lap dash to the checkers. Led 1 lap.
11) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr.** Once again, he had the fastest car on the track in the early laps and, again, this was credit to his running extremely close to the outside wall. After starting 9th, he was up to 4th just 29 laps into the race, at which point his was the fastest car on the track. He lost some spots on pit road under the second caution on lap 35 while waiting for #22-Blaney to get out of his way. His car’s handling suffered thereafter, and he required adjustments during the green-flag stops on lap 90 as his car was “dancing” on the right-rear tire. During the fourth caution of the race on lap 130, his crew was unsuccessful in removing his windshield tear-off, and it remained bunched-up on his windshield. Fortunately, it blew off the front of his car in turn one on the lap 136 restart. Unfortunately, his car was still extremely loose. As has typically happened with him in 2008, he scraped the outside wall, this time coming off turn two on lap 195. Exasperated, his crew chief said during the fifth caution on lap 209 that he was “running out of adjustments” to make his car tighter. After restarting 14th, he fought to get into the top 10, racing past #1-Truex, Jr. for 10th with 87 laps to go, then to 9th by 75 to go. Under the seventh caution of the race with 37 to go, his car bounced between #2-Ku. Busch and #99-Edwards coming off pit road, but none of the cars suffered any damage. Led 1 lap.
12) #5-Casey Mears NO NOTES
13) #29-Kevin Harvick** Once again ran his “go-to” car that gave him several top 10s through the summer and early fall, though it fell just short of picking him up another. His adventure began under the second caution of the race when he was forced to go into the grass coming off pit road to avoid #2-Ku. Busch. In the run that followed, his car pushed terribly and he was stuck mid-pack with teammates #07-Bowyer and #31-J. Burton. After some adjustments, he was back up to 9th on lap 127.
14) #10-A.J. Allmendinger Suffered some cosmetic damage to the nose of his car in the first caution of the race on lap 3 when he bumped the sliding #77-Hornish, Jr. into a spin after the #77 had spun #21-Elliott. He lost a lap, then got it back as the Lucky Dog when the multi-car wreck sparked by #22-Blaney brought out the ninth caution of the race with 22 to go. In the closing laps, he moved up further and picked up his second-straight top-15 finish in as many races driving for Ray Evernham.
15) #1-Martin Truex, Jr. Started 16th, then inched his way toward the top 10, where he sat for much of the middle-to-late stages of the race. After restarting 7th on the final restart with 8 to go, however, he dropped rapidly back to outside the top 10 as #48-Johnson and others with fresher tires raced past.
16) #12-Ryan Newman On Saturday, he picked up his first career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory in his first-ever Truck Series start. He lost a lap sometime in the first part of the race, then got it back as the Lucky Dog when debris from #55-Waltrip brought out the eighth caution of the race with 28 laps to go.
17) #20-Tony Stewart** Lost a lap after running in the top 10 in the middle stages of the race, then got the Lucky Dog under the tenth and final caution (for debris) with 13 laps to go.
18) #31-Jeff Burton** Ran the same car he took the victory lane in the fall Charlotte race a few weeks prior. He struggled on the start, however, when he spun his tires badly and dropped from the 3rd starting spot. He then languished back around the 17th spot and was momentarily joined by teammates #29-Harvick and #07-Bowyer. Running 16th, opn lap 158, he was complaining the front end of his car wouldn’t turn. He was lapped by leader #17-Kenseth on lap 195. Under the sixth caution of the race with 72 to go, he sustained some damage to the left-front of his car when he made contact with the stopped #96-Schrader as he left pit road. The contact resulted in his left-front fender smoking heavily for a few laps after the restart with 68 to go, after which the tire rub repaired itself. He remained in the Lucky Dog spot and, as such, got his lap back when #55-Waltrip’s spin brought out the seventh caution with 37 to go. Was involved in the ninth caution of the race with 22 to go when he bumped the slowing #22-Blaney into a spin entering turn three, then moved high only to be trapped behind the wrecking #22 along with #41-Sorenson and #42-Montoya to his outside. As the wreck ensued, the damaged #41 slid into his right-rear, turning his slowing car into the outside wall, damaging the nose of his car. Quick work by his pit crew under the caution kept him in the top 20, but he was certainly out of competition.
19) #7-Robby Gordon Moved back off the bubble into 34th in owner’s points as #84-Speed finished 34th, moving the #84 team back to 35th in owner’s points.
20) #07-Clint Bowyer** His streak of three-straight 6th place finishes at Atlanta came to an end with a frustrating run. After starting 5th, he had fallen all the way back to 23rd on lap 68 as the air pressure adjustments made by his crew proved unhelpful. On lap 122, he was one lap down in 21st, a few spots behind teammate #31-J. Burton. Still back in the pack when the eighth caution fell with 28 to go, he suffered damage to the driver’s side of his car when he sideswiped #42-Montoya on pit road. The repairs required an extra pit stop under the yellow.
21) #83-Brian Vickers Was given a one-lap penalty under the eighth caution of the race with 28 to go for pitting outside the box, keeping him from securing a needed top-20 finish.
22) #8-Mark Martin Surprisingly, despite his history at Atlanta, he was 2 laps down on lap 182.
23) #28-Travis Kvapil NO NOTES
24) #77-Sam Hornish, Jr. (R) The top-finishing rookie for the series-leading eleventh time in 2008 ahead of #01-Smith with nine, #10-Carpentier with seven, and #00-McDowell with six. Brought out the first caution of the race on lap 3 when he slid into the left-rear corner of #21-Elliott coming off turn two and was then bumped by #10-Allmendinger, sending both he and the #21 spinning toward the inside wall. He avoided further contact and kept going as #21-Elliott stalled. He and #21-Elliott were then both penalized a lap for a pit road infraction under the caution.
25) #19-Elliott Sadler Caused the second caution of the race when he bumped #66-Riggs going into turn three, turning the #66 into the outside wall.
26) #43-Bobby Labonte Scraped up the right side of his car in an encounter with the wall sometime before his first green-flag stop on lap 85.
27) #38-David Gilliland Went down a lap, then got it back as the Lucky Dog when debris was spotted on lap 110.
28) #44-David Reutimann NO NOTES
29) #47-Marcos Ambrose (R) Made his first race in a Toyota as he took over the owner’s points for Michael Waltrip Racing’s #00 team for the remainder of the 2008 season.
30) #01-Regan Smith (R) NO NOTES
31) #15-Paul Menard NO NOTES
32) #70-Tony Raines NO NOTES
33) #9-Kasey Kahne His car was perhaps handling the worst of anyone else. By lap 105, he was off the pace in the upper groove, forcing him to pit under green for new tires and adjustments on lap 108. He was trapped a lap down when debris was spotted on lap 110, bringing out the third caution of the race. On the ensuing restart, he narrowly averted a penalty for a false start when a logjam formed amongst the other lapped cars. He lost more laps when he brought out the fourth caution on lap 130, his car finally spinning off turn four by itself and not hitting anything.
34) #84-Scott Speed (R) His team fell to 35th in owner’s points as #7-R. Gordon finished 19th. Led 1 lap.
35) #96-Ken Schrader NO NOTES
36) #45-Chad McCumbee (R) NO NOTES
37) #55-Michael Waltrip Became the first man since Richard Petty to make 1,000 starts in NASCAR’s top three divisions when the command to start engines was given. For the first part of the race, he looked like he was going to celebrate his landmark start with a solid finish. After starting 29th, he was up to 16th on lap 29 and, despite brushing the wall off turn two around lap 45, was up to 12th on lap 77. He fell back to the last car on the lead lap under the fourth caution on lap 130 as he had a short in his helmet’s radio. The repairs took two separate stops to replace both his helmet and radio system. On lap 142, he got very loose off turn 2, but managed to save it. He was not so fortunate on lap 168 when he cut a right-rear tire, brushed the wall, missed the pit entrance, and pitted under green, costing him two laps. Another right-rear tire went down on lap 209, this time bringing out the fifth caution of the race when the tire exploded the right-rear quarter-panel off his Toyota in turn three. The lengthy repairs required a large grey patch over the gaping hole in the rear of his car. He then brought out the seventh caution with 37 to go when he spun out of the lower groove in turn two. He also brought out the eighth caution with 28 to go when the quarter-panel patch on his car came loose.
38) #21-Bill Elliott Was involved in the first caution of the race on lap 3 when #77-Hornish, Jr. merged into the left-rear corner of his car coming off turn two, sending him spinning into the inside wall on the backstretch. The driver’s side of his car bounced off the inside wall before the car stopped on the apron with all its tires flat. He re-entered the race several laps down, losing an additional lap with #77-Hornish, Jr. for a pit road violation under that first caution.
39) #41-Reed Sorenson Was damaged in the ninth caution of the race with 22 to go when, while running high in turn three, his path was blocked by the wrecking #22-Blaney in front of him and #31-J. Burton to his left. Teammate #42-Montoya, also with nowhere to go, slammed into the rear of his damaged car. The contact turned him to the left, clipping #31-J. Burton in the right-rear and turning the #31 into the outside wall.
40) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya Returning to the scene of his first oval-track top 5, he climbed up from the 24th starting spot to 14th on lap 77, 10th by lap 99, 7th by lap 203, and all the way up to 5th with 37 to go. Like #2-Ku. Busch, he had sustained some scrapes to the right-rear of his car after clipping the wall, but his car continued to drive well in spite of the contact. Unfortunately, his great run ended with some terrible luck in the final stages. Under the eighth caution with 28 laps to go, he and a few other cars behind the leaders decided to pit for fresh tires. While leaving his stall, his car was sideswiped by the passing car of #07-Bowyer, nearly ripping the front clip off his Dodge. The repairs required an extra stop that mired him back in traffic for the final scramble to the finish. This, unfortunately, put him in the middle of the ninth caution of the race with 22 to go. Committed to the outside line, he had nowhere to go when #41-Sorenson collided with #31-J. Burton and #22-Blaney. Lost in the smoke, he rear-ended the #41, severely crumpling his already-damaged nose.
41) #22-Dave Blaney The race was his 300th Sprint Cup start. Unfortunately, the race did not go well for him as he ended up sparking the ninth caution of the race with 22 to go. Entering turn three on that lap, he slowed down to get out of a three-wide battle and wound up getting bumped in the left-rear by #31-J. Burton. His car spun up the track and backed into the wall, trapping #31-J. Burton along with #41-Sorenson and #42-Montoya in the high lane. As his wrecked car slid down the track, #78-Nemechek then hit the rear of his car with the #78's right-front. The wreck was costly as, though still 33rd in owner’s points, it dropped him from 121 points to just 80 ahead of 35th place #84-Speed.
42) #78-Joe Nemechek Lost a lap early, then received the Lucky Dog when #66-Riggs’ crash brought out the second caution of the race on lap 35. He was not so lucky when he was the last car involved in the ninth caution of the race with 22 to go. He was driving near the apron when #22-Blaney’s wrecked car stopped in his path and, with nowhere to go, he ran into the rear of the #22, damaging his right-front fender.
43) #66-Scott Riggs Was severely damaged in the second caution of the race on lap 35 when #19-E. Sadler bumped him going into turn three, turning him into the outside wall. His car suffered damage to the right-front corner along with some scraping along the passenger side. Still finished running, though 128 laps down to winner #99-Edwards. Unfortunately, the finish dropped him back to 32nd in owner’s points, 102 markers ahead of 35th place #84-Speed.
DID NOT QUALIFY:
#40-Bryan Clauson (R)
#02-Joey Logano (R)