By Sarah Tonsmeire
Looking back to Atlanta, starting towards the rear proved to be no challenge for drivers Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, and Matt Kenseth. Their weekend certainly didn’t begin as planned when each of their cars failed to pass through tech in time for qualifying, thus forcing them to the back of the field.
When the time came to make up ground, each of the three drivers made their way to the front of the field and led laps. Harvick led the most laps of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 with 116.
Sunday’s race comprised of ten different cautions totaling fifty-four laps. Among those cautions, Jeff Gordon collided into the wall when Denny Hamlin spun on the backstretch on lap 257. Gordon caught a section of the wall void of SAFER barriers. For the second week in a row, drivers have voiced their opinions regarding placement of SAFER barriers following Kyle Busch’s injury. “Everybody knows we have to do something and it should have been done a long time ago. All we can do now is hope they do it as fast as they possibly can,” Gordon said in reference to increasing SAFER barrier use by tracks.
Jimmie Johnson gained the advantage on the final restart, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. right behind. Johnson quickly pulled away while running in clean air, Earnhardt then collected debris on the front of his car allowing Kevin Harvick overcame second place.
Harvick was no match for Johnson who crossed the finish line to secure his first win in the 2015 season, and secure a spot in the Chase. Johnson went home with the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 trophy, adorned with a folded flag, gun barrel, and medallions representing each branch of the armed forces.
Aside from the on track action at Atlanta, there were several uncommon occurances of theft and accidents over the weekend. First, the No. 44 Team Xtreme car of Travis Kvapil was stolen from the parking lot of his hotel during the night. Thieves later dumped the car on the side of a dark road, northeast of Atlanta. Truck Series driver Jennifer Jo Cobb’s team van was involved in a hit and run accident in their hotel parking lot in the middle of the night. At the track, a vehicle parked on a hill, rolled and collided with Denny Hamlin’s motor coach. As if those three occurrences weren’t crazy enough, two Supercross bikes were stolen in Atlanta, as they were in town to race at the Georgia Dome.
In NASCAR news this week, Delaware prosecutors announced that no criminal charges were to be filed against suspended driver Kurt Busch. Busch was accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend in September inside his motorcoach, but prosecutors believe there was not sufficient evidence to charge him.
NASCAR begins the west coast swing this weekend with the first race being at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Drivers will compete for 267 laps around the one and half mile track to complete the Kobalt Tools 400. Drivers who make up the Fast Five are all top-rated drivers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Take a look at the Fast Five for Vegas: Jimmie Johnson, who is always a solid pick on intermediate tracks, has four wins at Las Vegas and carries momentum from his win at Atlanta last week; Jeff Gordon, who face disappointment in Atlanta, but is an excellent pick at Las Vegas; Matt Kenseth, who is a three-time winner at this track and proved that his team had speed for intermediate tracks last week in Atlanta; Kevin Harvick, who came close to winning twice last week, and should be a front-runner this weekend; and Carl Edwards, who is a two-time winner at Las Vegas and ran well last week.
Be sure to tune into the race Sunday at 3:30 on FOX.