Atlanta is the next stop in the topsy-turvy Cup Series

March 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

How unpredictable has the 2009 season been? Where do you begin?

Three-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is 19th in the standings entering Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin are 29th and 34th, respectively, after three races.

Carl Edwards, who won a series-high nine races last year, including two of the first three, is winless with one top-10 and has led all of three laps.

David Reutimann is fifth in the standings, Bobby Labonte is 10th and Michael Waltrip is 12th. Reutimann has never won a Cup race, and the last wins for Labonte and Waltrip came in 2003.

Need more?

For only the third time in the past 35 years, no driver has finished in the top 10 in each of the first three races.

“Trust me, guys like Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman [33rd] will not be there long,” said John Andretti, who is 30th. “These teams know they aren’t bad teams, but it shows that everyone can have some bad luck. Right now, it’s like a lottery. The points are going to bounce all around, and you’re going to see some guys jump up big and fall down big.”

Labonte is in the top 10 for the first time since August 2004.

“It’s good to see a lot of diversity at the front right now,” Labonte said. “Our sport needs this, and it’s great.”

“I’m sure the fans have to love this,” Andretti said. “You see more teams up front, and it’s great. You never want to see someone stink up the show. It’s early, but it’s a good sign to see a lot of different guys running up front.”

Johnson also started slowly last year, entering Atlanta 14th in points. His experience tells him there’s no reason to be alarmed.

“Yes, last year we got off to a slow start, but it was more of a panic situation than what we have right now because we didn’t have the speed in the cars,” Johnson said. “This year it’s different. We’ve got fast cars but just haven’t linked together a solid [400] or 500 miles and taken advantage of the great cars that we’ve had.

“It’s only three races in. Guys are going to have bad luck and hopefully ours is behind us and we can climb up the points ladder here. I’m not worried. I’m not stressed. I’m really optimistic and excited about the next few races.”

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