Racing on Sunday night for only the second time in the 2012 season, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visited the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Advocare 500. A fast 1.54-mile race track, the Atlanta Motor Speedway has earned a reputation in recent years for challenging drivers and crew chiefs in the search for ideal handling.
Clinching pole with a 186.121-mile per hour speed in qualifying, the #14 Chevrolet of Tony Stewart was granted lane choice for the start of the Advocare 500. Based on the tricky nature of the Atlanta Motor Speedway, Stewart elected for the outside position on the double-file start of the scheduled 325-lap race. While it at the green flag the move appeared to have been a misjudgement as Greg Biffle’s #16 Ford sailed by to lead the first lap, Tony Stewart flew by on the second lap to take the early race lead. Leading 8 laps, the #14 Chevrolet of Stewart would be outpaced during the first stint of the Advocare 500 and fall from contention. Tony Stewart would cross the Atlanta Motor Speedway start/finish line 22nd at the end of the NASCAR Sprint Cup event.
After Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick would exchange the lead of the race up to the 281st lap of the Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Three cautions in the first 247 laps of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race resulted in relatively minimal retirements or damage to race vehicles.
For drivers Carl Edwards Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman, the Advocare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway represented desperate times for securing a spot in the 2012 Chase. For many of them, the Sunday night event has contributed to the uneasiness for some and would effectively end the Chase contention for at least one driver.
With 71 laps remaining, #99 Ford Fusion driven by Carl Edwards began backsliding as what was believed to be a battery issue began to cause the Roush-Fenway Racing car to backslide. Shortly after the #99 Ford began slowing, smoke erupted from the right corner of Edwards’ car. As NASCAR threw a yellow flag out of concern for Carl Edwards’ vehicle, the Roush-Fenway Racing car was brought to the #99 team pit crew that determined the mechanical problems were terminal for the event. Now 49 points behind 10th place in the Sprint Cup Series driver point standings, Carl Edwards slimmest chance of entering the 2012 Chase will be to dominate and win the next Richmond race. Even then, the complexity of the Chase qualifications could more than likely cancel out the runner-up in last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.
On the restart lap 271 in the Advocare 500, a tangle between a three-wide fight of Jimmie Johnson, Sam Hornish Jr and Ryan Newman out of turn 2 resulted in the #48 Chevrolet being turned sideways. All three competitors would receive noticeable damage with the #39 and #48 cars ending the race in the garage. The #22 Dodge Charger of Sam Hornish Jr was more fortunate continuing to finish 11th despite the front-end damage suffered in the lap-271 crash.
In the late stages of the Sunday night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a new contender emerged in the form of Martin Truex Jr. Having just received a contract renewal to continue driving his #56 NAPA-sponsored Toyota Camry for Michael Waltrip Racing, Truex Jr was in prime position to commemorate the recent deal with a victory. Leading comfortably with only a handful of law from victory, Martin Truex Jr’s almost certain win was thwarted by a caution where the #1 Chevrolet of Jamie McMurray suffered problems through the frontstretch.
With 2 laps resulting from a green-white-checkered restart to settle the Advocare 500 at Atlanta (ultimately extending the race by 2 laps past its advertised distance), Martin Truex Jr took the high line with the #11 Joe Gibbs Racing-owned Toyota of Denny Hamlin positioned low. Truex Jr spun his rear tires on the crucial restart allowing Denny Hamlin and later Jeff Gordon to snake by. Holding off a late charge from the #24 Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon, the #11 Sport Clips-sponsored Toyota took the checkered flag. Winning his 4th race of the year, Denny Hamlin currently holds the most victories of any driver during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
While Denny Hamlin has secured his spot in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup, 2nd place Jeff Gordon was in need for a second victory in this season in order to grant himself a better chance of gaining his place in the NASCAR’s 10-race championship playoff. Gordon was visibly dejected in losing the Atlanta race as he climbed out of his #24 Chevrolet. In third place, Brad Keselowski’s #2 Dodge owned by Penske Racing is continuing to prep himself for his guaranteed place as the only Dodge to be involved in the 2012 Chase playoff. After almost winning the Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Martin Truex Jr had to settle for 4th ahead of #29 Chevrolet piloted by Kevin Harvick. Behind 6th place Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr and his #88 Hendrick Motorsports team were able to emerge from a starting spot of 35th to cross the finish line 7th.
Only six days separate the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams from the next race at Richmond International Raceway. The Wonderful Pistachios 400 on the 0.75-mile short track is set for past 7:30 pm eastern time on Saturday, September 8th.
2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup
Atlanta Motor Speedway