KOBALT Tools 500: Surprising, Not Surprising

Ben BombergerSenior Writer IMarch 9, 2009

The Dirty South is behind us and the boys take this weekend off before heading to back-to-back short-tracks.

This past weekend was a lot different than a lot of people (myself included).

Here is a look at some of the Surprising and Not Surprising things from Hotlanta.

Surpring: The "Other" Busch Won the Race

It's amazing how Kurt—the older of the Busch brothers—has quickly become the other Busch. This is the guy that won the 2004 Sprint Cup championship in the inaugural Chase.

Yet, his younger brother Kyle, has received all the media attention and love.

On Sunday, it was all about the older Busch, who not only took home his second Atlanta Motor Speedway win, but did so in dominant fashion.

Busch had the best car the entire day. On restarts, he would easily jump out to a two or three second lead within a few laps and appeared to be on cruise control the entire race.

The win moves him to third in the points standings, only 46 points behind leader Jeff Gordon.

Not Surprising: Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, and Kevin Harvick Finish in Top Five

All three of these drivers are strong at the 1.5-mile oval near Atlanta.

Gordon has four wins (1995, 1998, 1999 and 2003), while Edwards swept the track in 2005 and Harvick brought home his first career Sprint Cup victory in 2001—just months after replacing the late Dale Earnhardt.

All three drivers were competitive throughout the day, and Edwards and Gordon both had a shot at the win as the laps wound down.

Edwards used a two-tire stop to take the lead on the final pit stops, but Busch's Blue Duece was too strong and passed him before the cars hit the backstretch of the green-white-checkered.

Gordon appeared to be ready to challenge Busch for the lead, but couldn't get to his bumper before the checkered flag fell.

Suprising: Dodge Puts Two Cars in the Top 10

Atlanta has not been a kind track to the Dodge's over the years. In fact, before Busch's win on Sunday, a Dodge hadn't visited Victory Lane since 2006 when Kasey Kahne did so.

Even more surprising?

Prior to Kahne's win, a Dodge hadn't won the race since 1977 when Richard Petty did so.

The surge shows that the Dodge programs are on the upward swing—perhaps.

Both AJ Allmendinger and Elliot Sadler finished inside the top-20, while David Stremme brought his "Verizon" Dodge home 23rd.

Not Surprising: The Cream Continues to Rise to the Top

As stated in last week's edition of this series, the top drivers are finding themselves situated in Chase contention, while the "pretenders" are quickly falling from the way-side.

At one point, Michael Waltrip Racing had two cars situated inside the top 12 (the cutoff for the Chase after 26 races).

Now, Waltrip has fallen out, and David Reutimann is hanging on the the skins of his toes at 12th, with three-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson lurking in 13th.

The Chase field—I believe—will not change much from here on out.

Guys like Gordon, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick aren't going anywhere.

The drivers outside that will work their way in are Johnson (of course) and maybe Denny Hamlin and Jeff Burton.

If those two get in, obviously, somebody has to go out.

My two that I could see dropping out: Kahne and Greg Biffle. (Of course, I'm a Brian Vickers fan now and am not about to think he's going to fall out, though I know others may have a different view!)

Suprising: Mark Martin Has Another Terrible Run

The sentimental favorite is all but out of Chase contention four races into the season. It's just been one of those years for Martin who has had two engine failures and a blown tire end his race early three times.

Martin currently sits 35th in owner points, only nine points ahead of the No. 8 Earnhardt-Ganassi Chevy of Aric Almirola.

What's even more surpring?

Martin—at one point—was outside the top 35, before Team Red Bull's Scott Speed was caught up in an accident and fell behind him in the running order.

The poor results can not be blamed on Martin, and it's a shame to see such a great racer, who we all thought would finally have a shot at that title that has eluded him all these years be out of contention so early.

Sure, crazy things have happened. But I don't see anybody coming from 35th place with 22 races to go and making the Chase field.

It's not that I don't have the confidence in Martin as a driver, but instead it's that he simply has too many good teams to pass to get there.

Overall, it's going to be a longer year for Martin than he expected. Full-time in 2010? Don't rule it out yet!

Not Surprising: Another Typically Exciting Race Was Ruined

While the end of the race was a little—and I stress little—exciting, the rest of the race was yet another NASCAR borefest.

However, this race was doomed from the early stages when a crew member from Marcos Ambrose's No. 47 Toyota ran out into the grass area and retrieved a tire that had rolled away from the team—dude was 50-yards from cars going 200 mph...stupid!

While I understand NASCAR felt they had to throw the caution, it did nothing but set the rest of the race up for failure.

Suddenly, seven cars were on the lead lap. That's just awful!

Not to mention, it put several cars two- and three-laps down, never giving many a chance to fight back and contend for a win.

In my opinion—albeit a foggy one I'm sure—NASCAR could have kept from waving the flag. By the time the caution waved, the crew member was back at the pit stop and no harm was done.

PS: Who else though Busch's Victory Lap in reverse was kind of cool?

That's it for this weekend my fellow NASCAR fans. Time to take a weekend off for my two baby showers I have this weekend and enjoy some time with the family before the long haul of the season begins.

Bristol...here we come!


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