NASCAR's Winners and Losers: Kobalt Tools 500

Patti RodischAnalyst IMarch 10, 2010

ATLANTA - MARCH 07:  Kurt Busch, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, does a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 7, 2010 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Atlanta Motor Speedway is known for its high speeds. On Friday Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran the fastest lap ever in the new car and Sunday the speeds did not change.

Check out the winners and losers of the Kobalt tools 500.

 

Winners

Kurt Busch

Lost in all the crashes and tire issues was the race winner Kurt Busch showed just why AMS is his house. Busch started 11th but made his way to the front.

After late race cautions, Busch was able to pass then-leader Paul Menard on a restart and pull away with the win.

Busch is starting off the season with a new crew chief in Steve Addington. Their mixed results the first three races had some people questioning whether or not these two had the chemistry to be successful. On Sunday, Busch and Addington quieted some of the critics.

For the second year in a row Busch found his way to the front and victory lane and for the second year Busch is proving he will be a contender for the championship.

Points: 10th

 

A.J. Allmendinger

The weekend at AMS was a very good weekend for Richard Petty Motorsports and A.J. Allmendinger, rounded out three of the four drivers finishing in the top six.  Allmendinger seems to finally able to run smart races and save his equipment for the end.

Allmendinger did just that. He ran just outside the top 10 for most of the day. His crew did a great job on pit road and Allmendinger was able to take advantage of the late cautions.

With so much talk of tire wear, it seemed that Allmendinger was able to pass cars even after the tires had worn. He finished sixth on Sunday.

I believe in 2010 we finally see the driver that so many expected to see the last few years. He finally has the team behind him and stability in the organization.

Allmendinger is capable of making the Chase; he just needs to be able to put together top 15 runs every week.

Points: 23rd

 

Paul Menard

What can you say about the run on Sunday for Paul Menard. Prior to the race many people were picking Menard to have one of his best career finishes on Sunday. He did exactly that and almost won the race.

Menard ran in the top 15 for most of the day. With less than 50 laps to go Menard had made his way into the top 10 and was moving toward the top five.

When the caution came out on lap 327, the lead-lap cars all hit pit road and Menard and his crew took two tires and came out in second.

While most of the guys behind them took four tires Menard and leader Clint Bowyer took the restart and on the caution just one lap later Menard was passed by the eventual winner. Menard finished fifth.

This was not his career best finish but one of his best overall races on a mile and half track.

Menard ran the smartest race I have ever seen him run. He took care of equipment, knew when to push and knew when to pull back.

He let his crew do their job on pit road while he did his on the track. Menard finds himself sitting in the top 12 in points.

It was an impressive run by Menard and his crew. The real task will be if he can follow that up at Bristol.  

Points: Ninth

 

Losers

Robby Gordon

It has been a tough first few races for Robby Gordon. It only took five laps before Gordon found himself in the garage instead of on the race track.

Gordon hit the wall hard on lap four when his tire gave way. He finished 43rd, not the finish he needed. Gordon, who does not have a full season of sponsorship, was already on the edge in the top 35 in the standings.

He has not finished inside the top 20 in 68 races. Now he is sitting on the outside looking in on the top 35 with only one race to work with.

Gordon is hanging on right now with the very little room for error.

Points: 36th

 

Mark Martin

Once again Mark Martin did not have the race he was hoping for. Martin started in the top five but quickly dropped to the back of the pack with a very ill handling race car. The team hit pit road for adjustments but was never able to be a factor in the race.

Martin like his teammates at Hendrick Motorsports struggled with tire problems. Then on lap 332, Martin got caught up in the wreck with Jamie McMurray and Clint Bowyer after climbing back into the top 15.

Martin finished 33rd. Martin is off to a great start this season, but he seems to drop back early in the races and then has to spend the races rebounding.

The early trend for Martin is struggle early but be there at the end. That might not win a championship in 2010.

Points: Seventh

 

Kyle Busch

A year ago Kyle Busch might not have won a race but at least he finished in the top 10. In 2010 Busch is really struggling on race day. Sunday was no different.

He started on the outside pole but the team had an rollercoaster day. They could not get the handling of the race car to Busch's liking. On lap 75, Busch hit pit road and went a lap down. Busch was never able to recover as he finished a disappointing 25th.

Busch’s slow start has him with no top 10 finishes and sitting outside the top 12 early in the season. Busch is a talented driver, but if the competition in 2009 was strong and he missed the Chase, 2010 is will be even harder to make the Chase.

It’s still early and its only a matter of time before Busch hit his stride but hopefully it is sooner, rather than later.

Points: 15th

 

Final lap…

Sunday’s race at AMS was one of the best races we have seen in the spring in a long time. Not just because the rivalry between Keselowski and Edwards boiled over.  It was because throughout the entire field there was some great racing going on.

We saw drivers have career-best finishes and some drivers rebound after issues throughout the race. This weekend is an off weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

Next weekend they head to the first short track of the season, where tempers and bumpers rarely stay intact.

We all know the storylines going into the race but do not be surprised if we see a few drivers steal the spotlight and back up their AMS runs in the bull ring known as Bristol Motor Speedway.