We make our only trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway this Labor Day Weekend, a track where in 1995, the late Dale Earnhardt drove his No. 3 to victory in a race time of 3 hours, 3 minutes, and 3 seconds. That might just be my coolest “quirky fact” yet for Matty’s Picks.
[media-credit name=”atlantamotorspeedway.com” align=”alignright” width=”152″][/media-credit]Atlanta has no characteristic of being dominated by one or a few drivers as 7 different drivers have won this race the past 10 years, repeat winners being; defending race winner Tony Stewart (2010 & 2006), Carl Edwards(2005 & 2008), and Jimmie Johnson (2007 & 2004).
For the first time in 50 years, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will visit Atlanta Motor Speedway just once in the 2011 campaign. Atlanta forfeited its spring race this season to yield an opening in the 36-race schedule for its brother, Kentucky Speedway. Being one of the original NASCAR superspeedways, the track has traditionally drawn two races to the Peach State but with just one weekend on the schedule this year, you can be sure that the fans will pack the grandstands when the lights come on Sunday night.
For the first time since The Brickyard, I didn’t pick a driver that finished inside the Top 10, so in turn my Bristol recap will be rather brief.
Before his troubles last Wednesday night in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in Thunder Valley, Kyle Busch had won the previous 5 NASCAR events at Bristol Motor Speedway. His prior dominance in all three major NASCAR series at BMS was my basis for picking him as my Winner Pick last week.
Busch struggled for the majority of the weekend, (besides the Nationwide Series race Friday night) and his troubles carried into the race on Saturday. His car was NEVER good last weekend, and really drove the wheels off his Doublemint Camry to try and say in the Top 10. Busch eventually would come home 14th and had this to say about his troubles:
“Kind of a disappointing day, but proud of the guys. We never gave up, but we just never could get the car to where it would feel like it had in the past. That’s kind of what we struggled with all weekend — just not being able to get that special Bristol feel.”
As for my Dark Horse pick last week, he fared a bit better than Kyle Busch but still failed to finish inside the Top 10 by just one spot.
Kasey Kahne found himself one lap down just past the midway point in the race, but was fast enough to stay just behind the leaders and catch the lucky dog, putting him back on the lead lap.
Kahne started at the tail of the field and was able to work his way through a bit of traffic after the Lucky Dog, and was able to secure an 11th place finish for his efforts. The finish boosted him two spots in the points standings and he spoke after the race:
“We worked on the balance of the car all evening. Luckily, we got the lucky dog and were able to work our way up to 11th at the finish. The finish moved us up two spots in the points, which is great with two races left to get in the Chase. We head to Atlanta next week, which is one of my favorite tracks so looking forward to that.”
Without a spring race at Atlanta this year, I will be turning to some statistics from prior seasons as well as results from the first race at AMS’ twin sister, Texas Motor Speedway. Texas was modeled after its big brother in 1996, and produces extremely similar racing to AMS with its 24-degrees of banking and corner-entry speeds over 200 MPH.
This week, I’d like to please my girlfriend again by picking her favorite driver. I’m trying to score some brownie points with her after ditching her this Labor Day Weekend to head to South Bend, Indiana to fulfill a dream I’ve had for quite some time. I will be attending my first football game at Notre Dame Stadium as my beloved Fighting Irish take on the Bulls from the University of South Florida.
At least my girlfriend’s favorite driver has some history at Atlanta Motor Speedway and is extremely familiar with Victory Lane at the track. Jimmie Johnson has 3 wins at AMS and an average finish just outside the Top 10 at 10.4. He finished 3rd in this race last year, but his last win at Atlanta came in October of 2007, the year he swept both Sprint Cup races at AMS.
Johnson finished 8th at Texas earlier this year, and will probably go down as the best Intermediate Track drivers in NASCAR history. He has tallied 37 of his 54 victories on Intermediate Tracks and averages a Top 10 in all combined races on 1.5 mile courses, a no-brainer pick I would say.
Dark Horse Pick
My dark horse pick is desperate for a win here late in the season, and Atlanta is a place I feel he has a good shot at doing it. Clint Bowyer sits 12th in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings, but with zero wins would find himself on the outside looking in for the last 10 races of the season.
As it stands now without Bowyer having a win, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin would seal the two Wild Card spots, moving Bowyer aside. Atlanta is a place that Bowyer enjoys racing at as it brings him back to his days of Dirt racing in the Midwest. Atlanta’s slick, high-banked corners make turning though the corners similar to that of driving on Dirt.
Bowyer scored a Top 10 in this race last year with his 7th place finish, his 5th at AMS, but has failed to finish inside the Top 5 at Atlanta. Bowyer finished second earlier this season at Texas, and has fire in his belly for a win this weekend. Bowyer is looking for a win in the worst kind of way and he might just do it Sunday night.
That’s all for this edition of Matty’s Picks. As a quick side note, I’m extremely excited for the 2011 College Football season to start this weekend. I’ll be watching my Alma Matter, West Virginia University take on the Marshall Thundering Herd this Sunday afternoon in preparation for the race Sunday Night.
Until next week…LETS GOOO MOUNTAINEERS!