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CUP: Winners And Losers

Article by Jeff Owens, scenedaily.com

Picking the winners and losers from Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta is easy – there were plenty of both.

The bizarre race featured several surprise finishers in the top 10 and many contenders falling by the wayside due to tire problems and wild wrecks.

In the end, it produced one of the most interesting races of the season.

Here’s a look at who won and who lost in the fourth Sprint Cup race of the season.

WINNERS

Kurt Busch – He dominated at times and then pulled off a spectacular power move to regain the lead on the first green-white-checkered restart. New partnership with crew chief Steve Addington could lead to big things.

Matt Kenseth – Speaking of new driver/crew chief combinations, Todd Parrott already has Kenseth second in points after runnerup finish.

Juan Pablo Montoya – Needed a good finish after two bad-luck weeks; had a chance to win on final restart.

Paul Menard – Fifth-place finish was no fluke; he hung around the top 10 all day.

AJ Allmendinger – Sixth-place finish gave Richard Petty Motorsports three cars in the top six. Switch to Ford paid off big at fast track.

Kevin Harvick – Looked like he was destined for a poor finish all day, but rallied for a top-10 to maintain points lead.

Scott Speed – Scored his second career top-10 to crack the top 12 in points; might be the season’s most improved driver.

LOSERS

Carl Edwards – He was already having a bad day after early wreck. Now he will have to endure the abuse, guilty conscience and possibly a severe penalty for intentionally wrecking Brad Keselowski and causing a frightening crash.

Brad Keselowski – Ok, so he made a mistake when he spun Edwards, and he’s made a few enemies with his aggressive driving. But he didn’t deserve that horrifying crash.

Denny Hamlin – Was in contention to win, but two flat tires felled him.

Mark Martin – Recovered from an early spin, only to get caught up in the last multicar wreck. His 33rd-place finish halted a strong start to the season.

Joey Logano – Innocent victim of the first Keselowski-Edwards crash; 35th-place finish stalled his early-season momentum.

Jeff Gordon – Had a top-five car until a speeding penalty and tire problems put him a lap down.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Ran up front until he thought he had a loose wheel. Unnecessary pit stops led to another mediocre finish.

Kyle Busch – Was recovering nicely from untimely caution flag until he got a piece of the final crash.

David Reutimann – Headed toward another solid finish until his engine expired.

Clint Bowyer – Pit-road gamble gave him a chance to win, but crash on the restart led to 23rd-place finish.

Jamie McMurray – See Bowyer.

COOL-DOWN LAP

“The Deuce is back baby! Way to go boys!” Kurt Busch, on his in-car radio after taking the checkered flag.

“These guys work their tails off all during the offseason, and it was a lot of fun out there today. All of our cars were fast this weekend. … I think Richard Petty Motorsports is back.” – Paul Menard, who finished fifth

“He is why I am here. We are learning. … Hopefully this is something we can build on the rest of the way.” – sixth-place finisher AJ Allmendinger on team owner Richard Petty

“To be dog fighting up there and to be able to scrounge and make really big aggressive moves on my part and to be able to see the thing go forward, that is huge for us. This top-10 means a lot.” – Scott Speed, who finished 10th

“Us, the 2 [Kurt Busch] and the 9 [Kasey Kahne] were the class of the field for most of the day. … It’s a shame, we wish we had a better finishing day.” – Denny Hamlin, who wound up 21st after tire problems

“We just can’t keep having these little problems. It never happens on a day where we’re trapped anyhow, running 35th or whatever. It always happens when we’re running in the top 10.” – Sam Hornish Jr., who had an electrical problem that led to a 28th-place finish

"If a ninth-place effort ever felt like a win, then that was it. … Today was the kind of day that we just couldn't manufacture last year.” Kevin Harvick, who struggled but rallied for a ninth-place finish.

SceneDaily.com • Tire problems plague Hendrick Motorsports Jeff Gordon others at Atlanta