Back Seat Driver

Back Seat Driver: Atlanta

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*Editor’s Note* Every Monday, after every race weekend, contributing writer Jacob Mullins will recap the top story lines from the track in our new weekly feature, Back Seat Driver.

NASCAR has wrapped up the second week of the 2015 season as all three national series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Here are some of the top stories from Atlanta.

Qualifying Woes

After qualifying issues at Daytona, one would think that NASCAR would make sure another debacle wouldn’t take place. However, at Atlanta, we saw two issues with qualifying: 1. Cup Teams not able to turn a lap and 2. A pole award be stripped.

So on Friday, just like every time at the race track, each team has to go through technical checks to make sure that they are racing within the limits allowed and ensuring that all competitors are on an equal playing field. However, on Friday, 13 drivers failed to register a lap time during the 1st round of knockout qualifying, and big names at that: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart, just to name a few. The issue with these 13 teams was they failed pre-qualifying technical inspection and having to go through the process additional one or more times.

Now let’s jump back a few years, When a team failed an inspection, the team was able to “jump” the line because they had specific times to start their single car qualifying run. However, now with group qualifying, NASCAR makes all team that fail go to the back of the line and wait, a move that I agree with.

Why do I agree? If someone gets caught doing something outside of the rule book, whether it is splitter height, calibrated wheel, etc., why should they get to jump the line ahead of a team that might be doing everything right and just hoping to make the show? They shouldn’t!

I believe that if you are going to push the limits and work in the “grey” area, then you must suffer the consequences when caught. That doesn’t matter whether your last name is Earnhardt, Keselowski or Harvick.

Funny I mention Keselowski, because he was the second qualifying issue this weekend. Keselowski, who competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Hyundai Construction Equipment 200, posted what seemed to be the fastest lap in the third and final segment of qualifying on Saturday for the race. NASCAR believed that he was going to lead the field to green for just the second time in his career. Keselowski even posed with the Keystone Light Pole Award flag, signed the banner and all.

But, the more NASCAR looked into his one and only lap in the third segment, it showed that he didn’t cross the start-finish line before time expired in the segment, nullifying his time. So what happened? NASCAR revoked his pole award and gave it to Ben Kennedy and Keselowski started 10th, the position he transferred into the final segment in.

NASCAR really needs to get this qualifying thing figured out. Since all team have to go through pre-qual tech, start it earlier to ensure that everyone get in. If a team doesn’t pass initial tech checks, send them to the back of the line. Also, NASCAR has enough technology to make sure that some started a timed lap in time. It’s a true shame that any driver goes through the fare of earning a pole award and then like Houdini, it’s gone.

Going for Three

Matt Crafton, the two-time reigning Camping World Truck Series Champion, is starting his run for a three-peat. Crafton, who has just won three races during his two years as champion, picked up his first one Saturday night.

Well, not only did Crafton win the race, he dominated it. Starting 15th, it didn’t take for him to drive to front and stay there. He led 85 of the 130 laps in the race. In addition, it was a full points day as Crafton picked-up 48 points. He now trails Tyler Reddick of Brad Keselowski Racing in the over standings, who finished 5th.

Flash back to last year, Crafton took the honors in the second race of the year at Martinesville. He went on to win one more time, at Texas, but posted 13 top-5’s and 17 top-10’s. So far this year, he has 1 top-5 and a pair of top-10’s.

Although there is still 20 race left in the season, if history is Crafton’s side, he is well on his way to his third consecutive Camping World Truck Series Championship in 2015. Crafton has been a contender at every track the series visits. He is fierce competitor and from the looks of it, up to his championship ways.

Hot-lanta

In Saturday’s NSCAR XFINITY’s Hisense 250 from Atlanta, Kevin Harvick held off Joey Logano for his third straight series win in Atlanta. Harvick out muscled and fought off a hard charging Logano a restart on Lap 140 of 163 to win his fourth overall NXS race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In addition to Harvick’s win, it was the first win for his crew chief Dave Elenz.

When a driver gets hot at one track, it seems that they are unstoppable. However, that luck of running well on Saturday hasn’t always panned out as planned on Sunday. In 24 races in Sprint Cup at AMS, Harvick has only 1 win and 5 top-5’s. Just because you’re good in one series at a track, that doesn’t always means that you’ll be successful in another series at that same track. Harvick is “Happy” at Atlanta in XFINITY, but not “The Closer” in Cup.

Dude, Where’s My Car?

Friday morning Team Xtreme and Travis Kvapil were having déjà vu like Jesse and Chester from the movie Dude, Where’s My Car? The problem you ask? They couldn’t find their No. 44 race car. Kvapil and others took to the Twittersphere for information leading to not only finding their race car, valued at $250,000, but also a back-up engine (valued at $100,000) and other equipment for their Sprint Cup Team (valued at $175,000).

The hauler that was being transported by a truck was parked outside a hotel on the team’s way down to the track. In the wee hours of the morning, surveillance cameras spotted a car along with the truck and hauler driving off the property with the car, engine and equipment in tow. Without a back-up car prepared at the shop and an extra engine, just in case, John Cohen, owner of Team Xtreme, had to withdraw the No. 44 from Sunday’s Fold of Honor QuikTrip 500.

Good thing for Team Xtreme, the car was located in a suburb of Atlanta unscathed. “There was no damage whatsoever,” announced Cohen. “Nothing was taken off the car. Even the antennas that went to the radio were still in the seats.” The truck that hauled the trailer was found back near the hotel, but no word on the actual trailer, engine and equipment stolen has not been announced at this time.

Now this makes me mad on so many levels. Not only is grand theft auto a serious issue these days, and the thief’s might not have known what they stole until they were able to open the trailer, this is repulsive. It’s a shame that people have to steal from someone else to make a quick buck for whatever reason.

I feel for Cohen and Team Xteme. He is running a team that is doing all they can to make the race while most of the time having to race themselves into the starting grid. Cohen’s and his crew is an underdog team trying to make ends meet to be able to race. I’m glad they found the car and truck. I also hope that they find the theif(s) and they face the judicial system. Best of luck to Cohen and Team Xtreme the rest of the year, I wish you success.

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About Jacob Mullins

Jacob Mullins serves as the managing editor and senior NASCAR writer covering all three national touring series's. You can find him on on Twitter at @JMulls15. An intercollegiate athletic administrator by trade, Mullins can be found at the big tracks as well as the local short tracks in the Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania area. Mullins enjoys social media, photography and graphic design. A native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, Mullins follows all forms of racing, Major League Baseball (Baltimore Orioles) and college football (Virginia Tech Hokies).

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