Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rating the Pep Boys 500: 4 Stars ****

After another long two week break from racing action, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series got things fired up by bringing the Labor Day race back to the Southeast and going under the lights for the first time in front of a full house. The best COT race at Atlanta gets a 4 Star Rating for the holiday weekend show.

This race felt more like race at Atlanta in years past. There were truly racing grooves all over the race track and guys were able to go side-by-side at many points throughout a run. Also, the tires fell off so much that it felt like the race could have been at Darlington anyway.

As the race went on, new drivers continued to show up at the front of the field. For the first time in a while, Hendrick Motorsports didn’t have two cars at the front of the field for over half of the event. To begin, the front row of Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne was a bit different then has been the norm throughout the summer. I was really surprised to see the Richard Petty Motorsports cars qualify well and then run where they qualified for much of the race.
The other great aspect to Sunday’s race was the variety of drivers up near the lead. In that sense, it felt a bit like a restrictor plate race. The drop-off in the tires created a big difference in cars that were set up for a short run vs. those set up for a long run. Also, with the conditions of the track changing so much throughout the race different cars would hit on a set-up that worked really well while other guys fell through the field like a rock.

As for the Chase standings, this is shaping up to be one of the best regular season finales since the first Chase season in 2004 when Jeremy Mayfield won the race and made the Chase field. Both Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch could do just that, but there are still four drivers that could potentially fall out of the Chase by the end of the night. In the past few years there have been only a spot or two open going into Richmond, but this year there is any number of drivers that still have their playoff hopes hanging in the balance.

So, thankfully the final off-week has been passed, and now things are shaping up for a great run to the finish. If the final run at the championship is anything like the Race to the Chase, this is going to be a great ending to the season.


  1. hmm, little bit higher rating than I thought as, to me anyway, the first part of the race was really boring, lol

  2. The tires made this race beter than normal. Allowed comers and goers, and allowed passing during green runs. Not our usual follow-the-leader B.S.

    Just wondering....Is 4 stars the highest rating you give? Not that this one deserved more.

  3. tezgm99 - Compared to many of the races throughout the summer I thought this race had a bit more action from start to finish. There was no big wreck this week but I thought there was a lot of side-by-side racing that we haven't seen at several other tracks recently. Thanks for stopping by!

    Gene - The rating system is based on a 1-5 scale. There have been four 5 Star races so far this season. The race at Martinsville, All-Star week, and the last two plate races have gained that honor.
    As for Sunday, I agree that the tires allowed for the field to be shuffled several times. I was hoping Goodyear would get a tire that worked at Atlanta quickly. They aren't there yet, but are closer. Thanks!

  4. I listened to the race on PRN on my way home from our Labor Day travels and I must say it was MUCH more exciting than when I blew thru it on the DVR. I'd give it a 4 star based on PRN.

    The comers and goers were interesting, thanks to Goodyear and no night time practice but not sure the drivers would agree.

    It definitely tightened up the Chase so that is worth something too.

  5. klvalus - I think the radio guys do a great job of calling the races, expecially if a race comes down to fuel mileage. They really make races sound exciting.
    The drivers didn't sound too thrilled because it was hard to hold on, but it made for good racing, and I can't wait for Richmond. I'm looking forward to a five star finish to the regular season! Thanks!

  6. Nice write-up as always.

    Jeff Gordon was one of those guys who had a bad setup at the beginning of the race, but he adjusted and still managed to get a top ten finish. He dropped like 15 positions in the first 30 laps.

    Jeremy Mayfield... a lot has changed about that guy in the past couple of years.

  7. gonger93 - While Gordon hasn't been spectacular this year, he looks to be in good shape to be in contention for most of the Chase.
    Yes, Mayfield's life has gone pretty much straight downhill since that win at Richmond.