Remember last week? I was abuzz about Kyle Busch going for (and failing to get) the sweep at Bristol. I was curious because he won the consolation prize, the Nationwide and the Camping World....but the Cup alluded him. I made the point to say that sweeping a track was a cool little tidbit, but winning the Cup would be damn impressive. Well Kyle Busch has officially impressed me. Going through the motions of the 500 mile race Busch wasn't even in the conversation of a potential winner, but he stayed the course, raced clean and didn't make any mistakes, a timely caution and restart and all of a sudden Busch was battling Truex and Logano for the lead.
Truex had his chance to lock up his spot in the chase, but driving with a broken wrist and up against the door check of the #18 car he couldn't maintain first place and lost it to Busch in the final 10 laps. Logano ended up pulling a nice move on Truex to take 2nd, but the distance between Busch and the pack by the final lap was just staggering.
Busch has to be one of the favorites for the Cup this year after this win, it was more impressive than any other win I've seen all year by any driver. It wasn't exciting, it wasn't technical and it wasn't result of some exciting move, it was just sound driving that proves that the level head is one of the greatest assets to any driver. Credit must be given to Logano as well. Driving off the lead pit changes for a majority of the race, he kept his car together on sets of tires for 55 laps at a time under green flag pitting. Seriously impressive tire wear management on his part. Logano did everything he could to win, but Truex and Busch edged him in the final pit plus resulting restart, he's still in great position for the cup so I don't think he's sweating this race too much.
Clint Bowyer lead the pack for a good clip last night, but his experimental engine had cooling issues and eventually popped well before the checker was out. Bowyer has long since locked up a spot in the race so Atlanta was the best place for him to try out something new and see if it sticks. He had an appropriate response to getting knocked out the race: "I think I'm gonna go get a beer". Well said, Clint, well said.
I think the big takeaway from Atlanta was that NASCAR is extremely crowded up top. One or two of your favorite drivers are not going to make the race simply because the quality of the top 18 or so are about as evenly matched as is possible among drivers. Richmond is going to be a big race, it's a tight track with lots of grip in two turns and almost none in the others, don't be surprised to see lots of cautions and restart lead changes but also don't be surprised to see tempers flare up as drivers learn if they're in, or out of the race.
The tables set and fans should be in for one hell of a finish to the regular season.