March 7, 2010
Up and Down Day at Atlanta Ends on Sour Note for Busch
Date: March 7, 2010
Late-Race Accident Thwarts Rally by M&Mís Team in Kobalt Tools 500
Event: Kobalt Tools 500 (Round 4 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Start/Finish: 5th/25th (Running, completed 341 of 341 laps)
Winner: Kurt Busch of Penske Racing in a green-white-checkered finish (Dodge)
Kyle Busch finished a disappointing 25th in Sundayís Kobalt Tools 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway after being involved in a late-race accident while running in the top-10.
The driver of the No. 18 M&Mís Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) was seventh on lap 331 of the 341-lap event, but was caught up in an accident not of his doing just one lap later and needed several subsequent pit stops to repair the damage.
"It was just a long day," said Busch, who won the March 2008 Sprint Cup race at Atlanta. "We had a lot of trouble with our right-front (tires) early in the race and somehow kept it out of the fence. We were just tight all day, but Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys just kept working on it and we were able to get back near the front toward the end. The Ď1í (Jamie McMurray) and the Ď33í (Clint Bowyer) got together in front of me and I tried to go high to miss it and I had nowhere to go."
After starting second in the 43-car field, Busch quickly jumped into lead for the first 13 laps of the race before relinquishing the top spot to Kasey Kahne. Soon thereafter, Busch radioed to Rogers that he was fighting a tight handling condition, causing him to nearly drop outside the top-10. Then things really started going downhill for the M&Mís team as Busch radioed that he had a vibration via a flat right-front tire which forced a green flag pit stop on lap 76.
Though Busch went a lap down, the yellow caution flag waved on lap 80, and since Busch did not need to pit under the caution, he was eligible for the "wave around" which allowed him to receive his lap back. NASCAR rules state that any car one lap down that does not pit under caution is allowed to return to the lead lap by being waved around the leader and the pace car.
From there, Busch struggled with the handling on his M&Mís Toyota, asking Rogers to loosen his car up, which he attempted to do through a series of air-pressure, wedge and track bar adjustments.
With many other teams enduring excessive right-front tire wear, Busch waited patiently during the mid-part of the race by taking it easy on his tires and staying out of trouble. Before he and the No. 18 team knew it, they were 11th with just 25 laps remaining in the originally scheduled 325-lap distance.
An accident on lap 324 forced the race to end under a green-white-checkered finish in which NASCAR makes three attempts to complete the race under green. While pitting on lap 327 for tires and fuel, Busch suddenly was inside the top-10 prior to the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish on lap 331. But moments after Busch had moved up to seventh, the cars of McMurray and Bowyer got together in between turns three and four right in front of him. As Busch dove high to avoid the incident, Bowyerís Chevrolet slid up the racetrack and into the left-front fender of Buschís M&Mís Camry.
The damage was significant enough that it took a series of pit stops as the race ran under caution to repair Buschís ride so that it could make it to the finish.
Busch restarted in 27th on lap 340 in the second and final attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, but could only gain two spots to crack the top-25 and finish off what turned out to be an up-and-down day for the M&Mís team.
Buschís JGR teammates Ė Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano Ė finished 21st and 35th, respectively.
Kobalt Tools 500 Race Report
With four of 36 races in the books, Logano leads the JGR trio in the championship standings. He dropped six spots to 14th and has 471 points where he is 173 markers back of series leader Kevin Harvick. Busch dropped three spots to 15th and has 468 points, 176 markers arrears Harvick. Hamlin remained in 22nd with 409 points, 235 markers back.
Kyleís older brother Kurt won the Kobalt Tools 500 to score his 21st career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his third at Atlanta. Steve Addington, Kyleís former crew chief, was also victorious, as he is now Kurtís crew chief.
"Congrats to Kurt and Steve. They deserve it," said Kyle.
Matt Kenseth finished .482 of a second behind Kurt, while Juan Pablo Montoya, Kahne and Paul Menard rounded out the top-five. A.J. Allmendinger, Brian Vickers, Greg Biffle, Harvick and Scott Speed comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 11 caution periods for 53 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 341-lap race, which was extended 16 laps past its scheduled distance due to the green-white-checkered finish.
The Sprint Cup Series takes a rare weekend off before heading to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for the March 21 Food City 500. The race begins at 1 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at noon.