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How the race was won

Stewart
Stewart A handful of drivers were dominant on Sunday, including Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon. Those first three were in the mix for the win late, and pit strategy helped set up a battle between Stewart and Johnson – which Stewart won handily.

Story of the race

Stewart trying to upstage the Chasers.

A points battle (almost) becoming a bit clearer.

Title hopes being dashed.

Give 'em credit

Stewart, Johnson and Junior. With the exception of Junior's vibration problems early, the trio spent virtually the entire race running up front. Some remarkable performances – and clutch for the 48 and 8. Anyone else get a little nervous when Stewart tried to get from the top of the fence to the flag stand, though? Incidentally, nice pit bluff/non-bluff from Stewart, who had himself a great weekend overall.

Jeff Gordon. He could fall under the "Better luck next time" category, but a fine comeback effort left him with a solid sixth-place finish.

Carl Edwards continues his return to form. Nice of Greg Biffle to finally join him.

No, Matt Kenseth and the 17 still aren't quite in top form. But if they keep finishing top-five anyway, who cares?

Nice in-race comeback for Bobby Labonte. Same for Denny Hamlin (he said his inexperience came out Sunday, but he still finished eighth) .

Is Joe Nemechek's team finally done grossly underachieving? And can Robby Gordon regain his midseason form? And might David Gilliland really have what it takes to compete at this level?

Juan Pablo Montoya. He raced (relatively) clean, rebounded from a spin, dodged several wrecks and finished just outside the top 10. Very impressive Busch debut.

Dale Jarrett and the 88 team haven't been too bad over the past five weeks. That bodes well for, well, does it actually bode well for anyone?

What were they thinking?

Kasey Kahne. Clearly.

Back to Robby Gordon – did he toss roll bar padding out of his car? The replays, while interesting, were inconclusive. Something seemed to come out of the car; it's impossible for us to tell whether it was intentionally thrown. If NASCAR can determine otherwise …

Kevin Harvick. Sure, he's cranky about it, but skipping Saturday's Happy Hour practice for a meaningless Busch race appears to have been a mistake. Who knows, maybe Harvick still would have struggled Sunday even if he had stayed in Atlanta. Point is, nobody knows. At least he won the Busch race. That's worth about the same as a Cup championship, no?

Lapped traffic starting key wrecks. Perhaps single-file restarts shouldn't be limited to only the final 10 laps. Maybe the last 30?

The sun. Quit causing so many problems for drivers heading into the turns, will you?

Better luck next time

Martin
Martin Mark Martin. Again. For good, it seems.

Martin Truex Jr. His team still is showing potential to make a splash in '07.

Mike Bliss could have had a top-10. Would have made for a huge weekend after winning the truck race.

Jeff Burton. Salvaged a decent finish, but could have rebounded from Martinsville in a big way.

Johnny Benson. He was primed to take the Craftsman Truck Series points lead, or at least erase most of his deficit. Didn't happen.

Maybe the new Red Bull team will get to run a race one of these days.

By the way …

Montoya makes his NASCAR debut, A.J. Allmendinger announces his full-time Nextel Cup plans, Sam Hornish Jr. announces his part-time Busch Series plans, Jacques Villeneuve may or may not be toying with the idea of racing NASCAR … notice a trend?

IROC still is fun to watch, as despite its various flaws, it still it entertaining to bring together top drivers from different series. But despite the many giants of auto racing whose names are on that trophy, is winning the IROC title really as big a deal as Stewart makes it out to be? Maybe it is …

Caution. For debris.

Grading the race

Big Roar
Bear The Chase itself, with the close points, might be exciting, but the last four races have left a bit to be desired. Long green runs and green flag pit cycles usually are smiled upon, but the field became too spread out, the lead lap a little too thinned out, and there was, at times, just not enough action. It became somewhat boring. When the drivers were able to mix it up, though, it was entertaining – especially some of the battles for the lead, including Gordon vs. Junior. And the fact that four drivers were able to dominate over and over was impressive, as it left the outcome of this race very much in doubt – as did the late caution and almost-wild finish (the battle for third on back was terrific). And while a couple of Chasers were caught up in wrecks, this race generally was far cleaner than the previous three. Also, the trophy is a huge bear. That's pretty cool. Grade: C+

From the source

Tony Stewart: "We're strictly just trying to win races."

Kasey Kahne: "I knew [David Stremme] was there and then I forgot he was there … screwed the whole deal up. It was a matter of time before we were going to be leading that thing. … Driver error."

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