Parks Race Reactions: Pep Boys Auto 500

Dustin ParksAnalyst ISeptember 7, 2009

HAMPTON, GA - SEPTEMBER 06:  Kasey Kahne, driver of the #9 Budweiser Dodge celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on September 6, 2009 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

It is always exciting when the Sprint Cup Series makes the trip to Atlanta. It has always been one of my favorite tracks, and the racing has always been some of the most competitive of the entire season.

The fact that now the track will run a race under the lights makes it just that much better. Sunday night was definitely a spectacular event. Let's take a look at some of the teams that did well and some that didn't have the best night in this edition of "Parks Race Reactions."

Right away, I have to commend the fans in Atlanta. This spring the crowd was not exactly stellar for the race, and seeing one car completely dominate the event did not help.

This weekend, a completely different story. Track personnel said that some fans were camping out ten days in advance for this race.

The crowd for the race on Sunday was incredible. Although it wasn't sold out, it was a vast improvement from the spring. Electing to run the race at night definitely was a good idea, and I hope they do the same thing next year.

The biggest winner last night was Kasey Kahne. After starting on the outside pole, he stayed near the front early and got out front when it mattered. The final restart of the night was a perfect run by Kahne and his pass on the backstretch was simply perfection.

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It was the second win this year for Richard Petty Motorsports. With the win, Kahne moves from tenth to sixth in the standings, plus gets another ten bonus points for his win.

The driver that was definitely awesome to see out front last night was Kevin Harvick. The entire Richard Childress Racing organization has had a very lackluster year. Even on this night, it was only Harvick who had a great night.

But, it was a night that could help build to the future. There are still questions of whether Harvick will be in the No. 29 car next season, and Richard Childress has said publicly that he will be. If that is the case, his second-place run last night was indicative of how well he can run.

The two drivers that really took a hit on this night were both Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards. Johnson was running up front for much of the night, leading on different occasions.

He was in great position to compete for a win until after a pit stop where he both spun an axle and rang the gears. That one pit stop put him three laps down and relegated him to a 36th-place finish.

It seems as if this year Johnson has not made that pre-Chase run that he has the last couple years. That doesn't mean he won't be competitive in the Chase, but now is the time to gain momentum for those already in the Chase.

Edwards was running well in his Aflac Cancer Center Ford Fusion, but while on track, some debris ruptured the radiator. The loss of all the water forced Edwards behind the wall and to a 38th-place finish.

It was already a rough week for Edwards as he broke his right foot in a freak frisbee accident, but still was willing to compete in both the Nationwide and Cup races. There is no question there had to be some discomfort.

It was a rough way to end the night for Edwards, and it will be a short week to recover as the series goes back to racing Saturday night in Richmond, VA.

The entire Chase picture will be finalized when the checkered flag falls on the Chevy Rock and Roll 400. Only three drivers are locked into the Chase, and the race to get in is still as close as ever.

There is no better way to settle the final Chase field than a Saturday night shootout under the lights.

It will be time to rock and roll, no pun intended, when the green flag flies at 7 p.m. Saturday on ABC.

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