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Busch holds off Gordon in Green-White-Checker finish

by Pete McCole
Sunday, March 08, 2009

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Kurt Busch
Rhonda McCole/AR1.com

Another race – another victory for Busch. Kurt Busch, that is.

The older brother of NASCAR’s most dominant driver picked up his first Sprint Cup victory of the season Sunday, putting on a dominant performance of his own, passing Carl Edwards and then holding off Jeff Gordon in a green-white-checkered to win the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Edwards held on to finish third, followed by Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers.

It was the 19th career victory for Busch and just his fifth since coming to drive for team owner Roger Penske in 2006

“This was big. Good things come to those who wait,” said Busch. “We’ve waited over a year-and-a-half for this COT to find a good package and we’ve had that to start 2009. Just from the get-go of the race, I knew we had something special, it was up to me to protect it.

“I’ve got to thank Carl Edwards for racing me clean at the end. Jeff Gordon was strong all day. When you beat those two kinds of guys here at Atlanta, especially on a day when it reminded me of Darlington, this place will just chew you up and spit you out, but we had it handled.”

Busch celebrated snapping a 22-race winless streak with a unique victory celebration – driving his Dodge Charger backwards around the entire 1.5-mile oval, with the checkered flag flying out the window.

“I was actually surprised at how tall the reverse gear was.  I maintained a lot of speed,” said Busch. “The problem is that the caster is in reverse when you're heading that way.  It was going to swap ends on me pretty quick.

“I just kept focus like Don Johnson would coming around the start/finish line, flipped a 180, did a little Miami Vice action.  It was a real blast.  Happy to do something like that today and create a statement.  That could be the name for it, the Don Johnson.”

Busch was the class of the field all day, leading 234 of the 330 laps despite scraping the wall on lap 202. Busch made a pit stop with 64 laps to go and looked poised to gamble on fuel mileage before Robby Gordon brought out the 11th caution of the day with four laps to go.

Busch brought the field to pit road, followed by Vickers and Edwards, who beat everyone off pit road with a two-tire stop.

Edwards led the field to the green flag for the final three-lap shootout, but was no match for Busch as the Blue Deuce sped by on the outside pulling Gordon with him.

Gordon, looking to snap his own 44-race winless drought, gave all he had to catch Busch on the white flag lap, but his car began to slide up the track in the final turn as Busch pulled away for the victory.

“I felt like I had a real shot at him,” said Gordon. “Certainly we would have liked to have beaten (Busch) off pit road. Even in third, I thought we had a shot. We kind of had to settle for second.”

Edwards and his crew chief, Bob Osborne, were hampered all day with a pit stall between Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Knowing that everyone was coming to pit road for the green-white-checkered, Osborne gambled with a two-tire stop so Edwards would be off pit road before Earnhardt, Jr. made it to his pit stall.

“I didn’t pick that pit stall and Bob (Osborne) isn’t here to defend himself,” said Edwards. “We’ll just say that that pit stall got picked and it will never be picked again as long as I live.

“Our decision at the end to take two tires was based on (the pit stall location). We were gonna be blocked in. We had to take two tires. If we took four and got held up there and came out seventh or something, it would be bad for us, so we got the restart in the lead….I think that was the best position we could have been in. We had good race with Kurt and Jeff, but they got by us and we ended up third, which I think was the best-case in our situation.”

The slippery track conditions and tire wear were critical issues on the minds of many drivers at the start of Sunday’s race, and throughout the day it became apparent who had made the right adjustments, and who was still struggling to get a handle on the track.

“I'm going to be a guy to say that the tire was fine today because we had a dominant car,” said Busch. “I think if you go through the garage, you'd have to ask the others what they thought about the tire. 

“When we come back and race here in September, it's going to be hot, it's going to be slick, it's going to be just as bad.  So I feel like this gives us an advantage coming back in September running strong today.”

“We all knew what we had,” said Edwards. “Even though the tire was hard to drive, you could still get the car out of shape and gather it back up. I didn’t have trouble racing with someone.”

Among the drivers who failed to finish Sunday’s race were Greg Biffle, Scott Speed, Bill Elliott and Bobby Labonte.

Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer held onto the top two spots in the points standings, while Kurt Busch jumped up four spots to third. Edwards moved up five spots to fourth in points, followed by Matt Kenseth.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 2 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 195/10 330 Running
2 16 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet National Guard Youth Challenge / DuPont 175/5 330 Running
3 29 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 170/5 330 Running
4 10 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Reese's 160/0 330 Running
5 17 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 155/0 330 Running
6 21 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet BB&T 150/0 330 Running
7 13 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 146/0 330 Running
8 11 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Old Spice 142/0 330 Running
9 7 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 143/5 330 Running
10 23 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 139/5 330 Running
11 20 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Amp Energy / National Guard 130/0 330 Running
12 30 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Dewalt 127/0 330 Running
13 6 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 124/0 330 Running
14 15 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 121/0 330 Running
15 3 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Irwin Industrial Tools 118/0 328 Running
16 25 07 Casey Mears Chevrolet DirecTV 115/0 328 Running
17 38 44 A.J. Allmendinger Dodge Charter Comm. 112/0 328 Running
18 9 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 109/0 327 Running
19 39 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 106/0 327 Running
20 14 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Best Buy 103/0 327 Running
21 37 8 Aric Almirola Chevrolet Cub Cadet 100/0 327 Running
22 12 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Haas Automation 102/5 327 Running
23 28 12 David Stremme Dodge Penske Racing 94/0 326 Running
24 31 171 David Gilliland Chevrolet Capital Window 91/0 326 Running
25 24 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA 88/0 326 Running
26 19 7 Robby Gordon Toyota Jim Beam 85/0 326 Running
27 4 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 82/0 325 Running
28 33 98 Paul Menard Ford Pittsburgh Paints / Menards 79/0 325 Running
29 41 34 John Andretti Chevrolet WindowWorld.com 76/0 325 Running
30 42 20 Joey Logano * Toyota The Home Depot 73/0 324 Running
31 1 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet Kellogg's / Carquest 75/5 316 Running
32 18 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 67/0 305 Running
33 32 43 Reed Sorenson Dodge Super 8 64/0 264 Running
34 5 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 61/0 263 Running
35 26 82 Scott Speed * Toyota Red Bull 58/0 262 Running
36 35 21 Bill Elliott Ford Motorcraft 55/0 201 In Pit
37 36 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Mobil 1 52/0 199 In Pit
38 34 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Kingsford / Clorox / Little Debbie 49/0 179 Out of Race
39 8 187 Joe Nemechek Toyota NEMCO Motorsports 51/5 110 In Pit
40 40 96 Bobby Labonte Ford Ask.com 43/0 103 Out of Race
41 27 66 Dave Blaney Toyota Prism Motorsports 40/0 82 Out of Race
42 22 28 Travis Kvapil Ford Golden Corral 37/0 32 Out of Race
43 43 09 Mike Bliss Dodge Phoenix Racing 34/0 21 In Pit

* Denotes Rookie

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