Kurt Busch holds off Kenseth in Atlanta
Kurt Busch posted his second straight Atlanta Motor Speedway victory with a dominating performance in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 to score his 21st career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in a wild double-overtime session set up by Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski’s terrifying wreck in the closing laps.
Busch’s no. 2 Dodge rocketed through the middle of the field on the first green-white-checkered to take the lead moments before the yellow flag flew again, setting up another three-lap shootout. On the restart, Montoya spun his tires, allowing Busch to jump out to an insurmountable lead and easily beat Kenseth to the checkered flag.
Juan Pablo Montoya was third, followed by Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard.
Much like his run in this same race here last year, Busch had one of the strongest cars in the field, leading six times for 129 laps.
It was Busch’s 21st career victory, and his first with new crew chief Steve Addington.
“It was a great battle for us,” said Busch. “Our car was set up for being a utility-type car. What I mean by that is it was good on long runs, good in the middle runs and good on the short runs. We weren't excellent in any area, but good overall with the different stints you have to run on tires.
“Then sometimes there's cautions and you stay out on old tires. The car reacted well on those. That's what it takes, is a well-rounded car. Steve Addington has taught me how to drive cars different, how to look at them differently. When you want to get up on the wheel for somebody like Steve, good things happen.”
With the extra overtime sessions, Busch felt he’d won the race twice, telling his crew on the radio before the second green-white-checkered attempt “We’ve got to win this race three times, maybe even four times.”
“In years past, the leader would have took the yellow, won the race, it would have been done,” said Busch. “Then it would have gone to a 'green-white-checkered'. Now we've gone to multiple 'green-white-checkereds. You have to adjust to no matter what the circumstances are to win these races, no matter if there's a wing on the back, spoiler on the back, no matter if there's multiple 'green-white-checkereds', old tires, new tires, you name it.
The two overtime sessions were precipitated by a frightening crash involving Brad Keselowski, who tumbled down the frontstretch after contact with Carl Edwards after Edwards apparently intentionally spun Keselowski in retaliation for an incident earlier in the race.
Keselowski was unhurt in the accident, while Edwards was parked by NASCAR and told to report to the series hauler after the event.
In the ensuing caution period, most of the field came to pit road, with Clint Bowyer leading the field to the green flag followed by Menard, Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch and Montoya.
On the restart, Busch blasted through the middle to the front of the field before the leaders got to the backstretch, holding the top spot as a seven-car wreck unfolded as the field came through turn four, collecting McMurray, Mark Martin, Martin Truex, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.
Under the old rules, the race would have been over; however for 2010 NASCAR now allows three tries at a green-white-checker finish.
Much like the season-opening Daytona 500 three weeks earlier, NASCAR brought the field around for another go, with Busch out in front of Montoya, Menard, Kahne and Kenseth.
As the green flag waved, Busch pulled away as Montoya got off to a bad start, apparently surprised that Busch took off as quickly as he did.
“I was hoping we would finish second but he caught my surprise,” said Montoya. “You know we have those two lines we are supposed to start with and he went for it like 40 yards before the first one. It really surprised me. It is not a big deal, he deserves to win. I am not going to say, ‘Oh we should have won because he did that here’. I just want to make sure for the next time NASCAR knows about it, but it is ok.
“We needed this. We have been there every week, just a lot of things happen; it is nice to get a clean result. Car is in one piece. Ran against the fence all day, I'm pretty proud.”
Kenseth secured his best Atlanta finish since posting a third-place showing in March of 2007, sliding into second on the final restart after a slow start by Menard, who only took two tires on his final pit stop.
The runner-up finish was Kenseth’s fourth-straight top-10 finish, a great birthday present for the 2003 Champion who turned 38 on Sunday.
“That is the best finish we have had here ever, so I am really proud of my team. They did a great job today,” said Kenseth. “It was easy to spin the tires today, but there were some guys up there with two (tires) and you knew they were going to have a much rougher time on four, so it was interesting.
“You watch everyone lay back behind you and you know that it is going to be three or four wide when you got to turn one. I tried not to lay back too much. I just got it rolling real good and got it through the gears a little better than Paul (Menard).”
A.J. Allmendinger posted his best finish of the season so far with a sixth-place effort. Brian Vickers, Greg Biffle Kevin Harvick and Scott Speed rounded out the top ten, with Harvick holding onto the series points lead by 26 points over Kenseth.
* Denotes Rookie
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