Race: Kobalt Tools 500
Date: Sunday March 8, 2009
Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Time: 1:30 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom of Predictem.com
If Jimmie Johnson needed a little help this weekend, at least he can look towards Atlanta, where one of his sponsors will be a big part of the race. This weekend’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway is going to bring in some of the fastest, if not the fastest, speeds this season on any track.
At just over 1.5 miles, Atlanta is a fun track for a lot of drivers and a curse for several others. This track is considered a quad-oval with 24 degree banking in the turns and 5 degrees on the straights. The frontstretch, like in Las Vegas, is where the speed comes from with a healthy 2332 feet of asphalt to get up to speed. The backstretch is 1800 feet.
Atlanta is as fast as it is because of the lack of restrictor plates on such a large and relatively flat track. These guys haul butt down the stretches and even through the corners. The brakes aren’t much of a factor here unless you’re trying to avoid a wreck.
As for the history of winners, this is notoriously a track the Carl Edwards and his teammates love. I bet he would say this is one of his favorites on the circuit. For whatever reason, Carl has managed to absolutely own this track, holding the title for the fall race here. Mr. Kyle Busch, our current Las Vegas winner, won this particular race last year. Although Kyle Busch is always a threat, Edwards boasts a total of three wins here. Other notables are of course Jimmie Johnson, who holds three wins here as well. Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon are also very strong.
If I had to put money on someone, I’m going to go with Carl. I think that this is the track where Carl starts to gain his momentum for the rest of the season. Being the fourth race of the season, Atlanta typically starts to weed out the weak and show who is going to be a factor for the rest of the season. This could very well be Carl’s chance to shine. Coming off a win, I have to think that Busch will show a good amount of strength here as well, but Edwards just has a better feel for this particular track. Look for Gordon and Johnson to be strong as well, as Gordon is showing strength and the potential for another championship year. Johnson needs to get back in his groove and this track may just help him do that.
Tony Stewart is a strong runner as well, but being a new team as well as being and owner, Stewart has a full plate. While I don’t think he is going to have a bad run, I don’t think he’ll be a factor at the front of the pack when the checkers come out.
Here’s a recap of your current top 12 in points:
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Clint Bowyer
3. Matt Kenseth
4. Greg Biffle
5. David Reutimann
6. Kyle Busch
7. Kurt Busch
8. Tony Stewart
9. Carl Edwards
10. Bobby Labonte
11. Kevin Harvick
12. Michael Waltrip
Look for the points to also solidify a little more this weekend as some guys show their consistency, keeping them in the running. As much as I love Michael Waltrip and his crazy commercial antics, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him tumble from the top 12 this weekend (although I’d love for him to surprise us!). This weekend, at least for me, is the true start to a points race. Guys are finding their momentum for the season and teams are getting to know each other much better at this point. Stay tuned for Atlanta. Crazy wrecks, points changes, and tempers are sure to be flying.