NASCAR America: Turning Point in Atlanta Cup race

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The final restart of Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta was a little jumbled, but it adhered to NASCAR’s rule book, despite a sequence of green-flag pit stops that were interrupted by a caution with 51 laps to go.

It was that pit sequence that NASCAR America’s analysts identified as the turning point in Sunday’s race and led to Brad Keselowski‘s win.

According to the NASCAR rule book, this is how a restart order should go:

  1. Lead lap cars
  2. Cars one or more laps down.
  3. Free pass position (lucky dog)
  4. Wave around cars.
  5. Cars with penalties.

The only cars on the lead lap when the caution came out were Joey Logano and Kurt Busch, who restarted on the front row.

Immediately behind them were the lapped cars of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Jimmie Johnson and then Bubba Wallace and Ty Dillon.

Keselowski was the beneficiary of the free pass as he was the first car a lap down when the caution came out. He restarted in third place but was in the fourth row on the inside.

On the ensuing restart, Keselowski was able to clear the four lapped cars, putting himself behind Busch and Logano. While Keselowski cleared the lapped cars, Martin Truex Jr. had trouble getting around Stenhouse. Truex said that kept him from winning the race.

“Ten seconds either way he would not have gotten the free pass,” NASCAR on NBC analyst Steve Letarte said. “Because of that free pass, he pits (again), he takes tires, he lines up … in front of the wave around cars. That puts him into position.”

Letarte continued: “I want to call it a good strategy, I want to call it a little bit lucky, it was a little bit of both.”

Watch the above video for more.