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Sunday, October 26
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Edwards Wins, Johnson Rebounds For Second
If you didn't know any better, you would think this one-and-a-half mile tri-oval race track was a Saturday night dirt track the way Carl Edwards drove it Sunday.
Edwards drove his Roush Ford to victory in unbelievable fashion, slipping and sliding around the paved track like he owned it at speeds reaching 190 miles an hour.
Edwards ran in front or near the front all day in spectacular style, doing everything he could to make up some points on championship leader Jimmie Johnson.
"Jimmie's magic," said Edwards afterwards, when informed Johnson had raced his way back from oblivion to a runner-up finish.
"I can't believe Jimmie finished second," said Johnson. "We did everything we could today. We won the race. But Jimmie's unbelievable."
Both drivers were unbelievable in the Pep Boys Auto 500 that had 11 caution periods in 325 laps and provided a crowd a dramatic windup to the seventh of 10 races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Johnson raced his way back into contention after a pit road speeding penalty put him a lap down. With just 16 laps to go after the final caution, Johnson's pit crew gambled by stopping for new tires, dropping back to 10th position for the restart.
The two-time champion passed everyone but Edwards in the final 16 laps, scooting around Denny Hamlin on the final turn of the final lap. Hamlin almost lost control of his Toyota, which would have taken him and Johnson out in a wreck but managed to maintain control. It was a hair-raising finish.
Matt Kenseth was fourth, Kyle Busch fifth and Kurt Busch sixth. Jamie McMurray was seventh, David Ragan eighth, Jeff Gordon ninth and Greg Biffle 10th.
One of the most disappointed drivers after the race was former Formula One star Juan Pablo Montoya, who raced his way into the top five and was apparently headed for a great finish before a couple of unavoidable accidents put his totally-wrecked car in the garage with less than 20 laps to go.
Another driver who had a bad day was Michael Waltrip, who, unfortunately, was involved in a handful of mishaps after running very competitively early on.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., ran well in spurts but wound up 11th.
Johnson, with his second-place finish, has a healthy lead in his bid to become NASCAR's first three-peat champion since Cale Yarborough did it with Junior Johnson as his owner 30 years ago.
It was a picture perfect day for racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway when the green flag waved just after 2 p. m.
Points leader Jimmie Johnson, going for a three-peat after winning the Sprint Cup the past two years, got off to a quick start, leading the first three laps before Bill Elliott and Sam Hornish, Jr., spun on the backstretch for the afternoon's first caution period on lap four.
The race restarted on lap seven with Johnson in front, Biffle second and Edwards third. Edwards moved past Biffle on lap 13, and Gordon moved to fourth.
Bowyer was next, trailed by teammate Burton, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Earnhardt and Kenseth. Edwards zoomed around Johnson on the 23rd lap and other challengers were on the move as well. Earnhardt was in fourth by the 30th lap.
Scott Riggs had a flat right front tire on lap 31, prompting the second caution of the day.
On the restart at lap 39, johnson was out front again, thanks to the quick work of his crew, but Edwards came out right behind him. Gordon was third and Kenseth fourth. Biffle held the fifth spot and Earnhardt was sixth.
Edwards went ahead again on the 45th lap. Edwards held the lead until pit stops at 90 laps under green flag conditions. Once the cycle of stops was complete, Edwards was back out front. Johnson fell back to 30th position after speeding on pit road. It was Edwards, Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Gordon, Earnhardt, Truex, Jr., Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Stewart and Montoya in the top 10. A caution for debris on lap 109 slowed the field.
Kenseth had the lead on the restart with Edwards on his bumper while Johnson ran wide open trying to unlap himself. The two Fords held off Johnson's Chevy and he settled in behind them.
Kasey Kahne brought out another caution when he lost control of his Dodge on lap 130.
On the restart at lap 136, Kenseth led Edwards after a great pit stop. Gordon was third, followed by Kurt Busch and Earnhardt, who had a brief scare when a plastic windshield tearoff crumpled up on his windshield before blowing away. Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Harvick and Montoya rounded out the top 10.
At the halfway point, Kenseth was still setting the pace with Edwards in hot pursuit. Kurt Busch was third, followed Gordon, Hamlin, Montoya, Earnhardt, McMurray, Harvick and Truex.
Johnson had moved back into 16th position 25 seconds behind the leader.
Complete Race Results click here
Post-Race Driver Point Standings click here
Race 6 in the Chase: Pep Boys Auto 500
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway
The Track: 1.5-mile tri-oval
The Distance: 325 laps/500.5 miles
TV: ABC, 2 p.m. (AT)
Radio: PRN, SIRIUS Satellite Radio
2007 Winner: Jimmie Johnson
2007 Polesitter: Greg Biffle
Pre-Race Schedule - local track time: Friday—Practice, 3-4:30 p.m. Qualifying, 6:45 p.m. Saturday—Practice, 10:30-11:15 a.m. and noon-12:50 p.m.
Year-To-Date Race Results & Driver Point Standings click here
Broadcast Times - AT*
Practice: Friday Oct 24 at 4 p.m. (SPEED)
Qualifying: Friday Oct 24 at 8 p.m. (ESPN2, TSN & Sirius Satellite Radio)
Practice: Saturday Oct 25 at 11:30 a.m. (SPEED)
RaceDay: Sunday Oct 26 at Noon (SPEED)
Pre-Race: Sunday Oct 26 at 2 p.m. (ABC & TSN2)
Race: Sunday Oct 26 at 3 p.m. (ABC, TSN2 & Sirius Satellite Radio)
*AT is one hour ahead of ET, i.e. if it's 2 p.m./AT - it's 1 p.m./ET...
Qualifying Notes & Starting Lineup
For the second time, rain has dashed driver Joey Logano's hopes of starting in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Logano was going to qualify for Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500, but rain cancelled qualifying and the field was set by owner points. Jimmie Johnson
will start from the pole - see the complete starting lineup and Saturday's final practice speed chart below...
RAIN CANCELS QUALIFYING AT ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY
Weather washed out all activities Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, cancelling the NASCAR Sprint Cup Hot Shot Qualifying and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series qualifying. Both Saturday’s E-Z-GO 200 Craftsman Truck race and Sunday’s Pep Boys Auto 500 Sprint Cup race will be lined up according to points.
Saturday’s activities at Atlanta Motor Speedway will include a full slate of practices for both series, as well as the E-Z-GO 200, which begins at 1:30 p.m.
Complete Starting Lineup click here
Saturday Final Practice Speed Chart click here
- Four To Go: Johnson Heads To Atlanta As The Chase Leader...Reigning and two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet) sits in a good place as the series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Pep Boys Auto 500.
As in, the top of the standings.
Race No. 7 in the 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup awaits, and Johnson will approach it as an opportunity to gain more ground. He did so last Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, en route to his 13th career Chase victory and sixth overall this season.
And his view from here is pretty good — it’s 149 points to second-place Greg Biffle (No. 16 DISH TurboHD Ford), 152 points to third-place Jeff Burton (No. 31 AT&T Mobility Chevrolet) and 198 points to fourth-place Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford).
As for Johnson’s Atlanta statistics, he has three wins and a series-high Driver Rating of 113.4 there.
But Biffle, Burton and Edwards are equally accomplished at the 1.5-mile venue. Edwards is fourth in pre-race Driver Rating (102.8). Biffle is fifth (102.3) and Burton is eighth (92.8).
Edwards and Biffle — Roush Fenway Racing teammates — excel at 1.5-mile tracks, a team staple. Edwards has two Atlanta victories while Biffle finished fourth in the March event. Burton has seven top fives and 13 top 10s in 28 career starts there.
Johnson is chasing history as well as another title. Only one driver has recorded three consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup titles — the legendary Cale Yarborough, who did it in 1976-78. If successful, Johnson would equal Yarborough’s feat on its 30th anniversary.
- The Man To Catch: Three-Time NASCAR Champion Yarborough ...Cale Yarborough, whose feat of three consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup titles is being challenged by two-time and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson, visited with media via a special teleconference this week. Excerpts follow:
Comparing his Junior Johnson-owned team to Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports team: “There's no doubt about what kind of team Junior put together during those years. It was an excellent team. Of course, Rick Hendrick has put together an excellent team for Jimmie Johnson. That's what you've got to have to be able to win a championship, much less three championships in a row: an excellent race team...
His successful 1974 pairing with team owner Junior Johnson: “Bobby Allison was driving for Junior. He and Junior were going to separate, and Junior was looking for a driver, I was looking for a ride. We got together. We made a good combination. The championships that I won with Junior were his first championships and, of course, mine. We just hit it off at the right time, the right place, did the right things…”
What it takes to win consecutive titles: “It's hard to explain really. When you get on a roll like Junior and I were back in the earlier days when we won three in a row, Jimmie and his team all are on a roll now, it's just hard to break that momentum when they get going.”
- Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing Excel At Atlanta...When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway next March, it will be to mark a major milestone — the track’s 100th series event.
Two teams, however, have done a good job figuring out the last 10-plus seasons at Atlanta.
Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have won the most races there since the 1.5-mile venue was reconfigured after the spring event of 1997.
That’s a total of 15 wins in 22 races.
JGR own eight of those wins — five by Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge), the 2000 series champion, a pair by two-time series champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Toyota) and one by Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&Ms Halloween Toyota) this March.
Hendrick has seven of those wins — three by four-time series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), one by Jerry Nadeau and three by reigning and two-time series champion Jimmie Johnson.
Others with Atlanta wins during that 22-race period are Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards, who swept both 2005 events, plus Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge), Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet) and Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) — all with single victories.
- On The Bubble: Robby Gordon’s No. 7 Is 35th With Four To Go...For those teams battling to remain in the top 35 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ owner standings, the season’s final four events are every bit as crucial as those teams involved in the 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Each week, the top 35 in the owner standings are guaranteed starting positions, while those outside the cutoff must qualify on speed.
Ending the season within the top 35 also is very important: The top 35 teams in the owner standings from the previous year are guaranteed starting berths through the first five races of the following season.
Heading into Atlanta’s Pep Boys Auto 500 — the 32nd of 36 series events — the No. 7 Jim Beam Dodge owned and driven by Robby Gordon occupies the 35th spot.
He’s only 15 points behind 34th, and the No. 84 Team Red Bull Toyota owned by Dietrich Mateschitz and driven by Scott Speed.
Speed’s team trails 33rd — and the No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota owned by Bill Davis and driven by Dave Blaney — by 106 points.
Behind Gordon, the No. 47 Little Debbie’s Toyota owned by Rob Kauffman and driven by sits in 36th.
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