March 8, 2009
Busch Battles Back to Bring Home 18th-Place Finish at AtlantaM&M'S® Driver Rallies From as Far Back as 36th PlaceDate: March 8, 2009
Event: Kobalt Tools 500 (Round 4 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, GA (1.54-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 9th/18th (Running, completed 327 of 330 laps)
Winner: Kurt Busch of Penske Racing in a green-white-checkered finish (Dodge)
A driver with the last name Busch ended up in victory lane following Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, GA.
Unfortunately for Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M'S® Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), it was not him, but his brother Kurt, who took home the trophy at the 1.54-mile oval. Kyle managed to rally for an 18th-place finish after battling handling issues throughout the day.
Kurt’s victory marked the second time in less than a year that the Busch brothers have won back-to-back races, as Kyle won last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In July 2008, Kurt won a rain-shortened race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, while Kyle won the next race at Daytona (FL) International Speedway.
“We just missed the setup from the start and we couldn’t dig ourselves all the way out,” said Kyle, who won last year’s Kobalt Tools 500 and Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta. “I’m proud of the M&M'S® guys for not giving up and being able to salvage something out of a really tough day.”
After starting ninth, Kyle and crew chief Steve Addington came to the realization early on that the setup on the No. 18 Toyota wasn’t where it needed to be, as the talented 23 year old complained of an extremely loose condition that caused the car to have no rear grip.
While handling was a major issue for the M&M'S® team, a stroke of bad luck put them behind early when an untimely caution waved during a round of green flag pit stops on lap 68, two laps after Kyle had pitted. The caution was thrown when a crew member from the No. 47 team driven by Marcos Ambrose inexplicably walked across pit road and into the infield grass to retrieve an errant tire as cars raced along the frontstretch at 200 mph.
The necessary caution immediately put Busch on the tail-end of the cars one lap down, for those who hadn’t yet pitted were able stop during the yellow-flag period. The crew member who caused the caution was suspended for the rest of the race by NASCAR officials.
“We were on pit road and we got caught, but we just missed it today from the get-go,” Addington said. “Getting caught two laps down there – from there it’s just a battle. You’re not going to get it back with the ‘lucky dog’ and there are only nine cars on the lead lap at that time. The way it cycled through when the caution came out it caught a lot of people a lap down, but that just puts you back in traffic and then it’s harder to work on your car.”
Still fighting a loose-handling racecar, Kyle was in 36th place and two laps down on lap 102, and then went three laps down on lap 146, dropping all the way to 36th. But, with many other teams in the same position as Busch because of the untimely caution, he was able to work his way back to the top 20 by lap 225, despite being 4.5 miles behind the leaders. While his M&M'S® Toyota handled the best it had all day, Busch was just too far behind to make any progress on the leaders over the final 100 circuits, ending the race as the first car three laps down.
“We just had no grip out of the racetrack,” said Addington. “We started making gains on it there at the end and then we could make it last for about 30 laps and then it would go away. I told the crew not to touch the car because we’re going to take it back to the shop and look at it.”
Busch’s JGR teammates – Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano – finished 13th and 30th, respectively.
With round four of 36 complete, Busch dropped one spot to seventh in the championship point standings, 120 markers behind series leader Jeff Gordon. Hamlin is 14th, 178 markers arrears Gordon, while Logano is 33rd, 313 points out of first.
Older brother Kurt beat Gordon by .332 of a second to win the Kobalt Tools 500 and score the 19th victory of his Sprint Cup career and his second at Atlanta. He led six times for 234 of 330 laps, with the race being extended five laps past its scheduled distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.
Finishing third at Atlanta was Carl Edwards, while Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr., comprised the remainder of the top 10.
There were 11 caution periods for 54 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish the 508.2-mile race.
The Sprint Cup Series takes a rare weekend off before heading to Bristol (TN) Motor Speedway for the March 22nd Food City 500. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 1:30 p.m.