September 6, 2009
Busch Labors to 13th Place Finish at Atlanta
Date: Sept. 6, 2009
Pedigree Driver Wrestles Ill-Handling Car To Top-15 Finish
Event: Pep Boys Auto 500 (Round 25 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, GA. (1.54-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 5th/13th (Running, completed 325 of 325 laps)
Winner: Kasey Kahne of Richard Petty Motorsports (Dodge)
Kyle Busch fought through changing track conditions and an ill-handling race car to finish 13th in Sunday night’s Pep Boys Auto 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga.
The driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing led three times for 24 laps, but could not find the handling he needed for a top-10 finish in the final 100 miles of the 500.5 mile event.
“It didn't turn out the way we wanted it to,” said Busch’s crew chief, Steve Addington. “The start of the race there, the car was pretty decent. The track temps came down, we made adjustments and you saw it all across the board with the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) car. He was up there with us leading the race and then they went backwards. All lot of people were in the same boat. We fought the set-up all night long. We need to go back and reevaluate where we were. Everybody worked hard at Joe Gibbs Racing these past couple weeks – with the weekend off and everything – and we came here with what we thought was a good car. We just battled it.”
The race, the first ever night race at Atlanta, began as the sun was setting just beyond turn one. Early on, several cars, Busch included, were handling well, however, as the track temperature cooled down under the night sky, many of those same cars struggled to find the correct handling package to get them to the front.
“It looked like it across the board from everybody,” Addington said. “From the looks of it, I mean you got Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. comes from the back and goes up there and runs in the top-three and then he makes a pit stop and he gets passed by us. Everybody battled it and the guys who hit it on it were the better cars. Everybody has got the same car. Everybody came and raced Atlanta for the first time at night tonight from start to finish. The guys that did the best job won the race. The rest of us just struggled.”
The 13th-place finish dropped Busch one spot to 14th in the championship standings with only the next week’s race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway left before the 12-driver “Chase” field is set.
Busch is 37 points behind 12th-place Matt Kenseth entering Richmond, where he won in May and has two runner-up finishes.
“Our goal is to go win (at Richmond),” Addington said. “We’ve got to go there and win and let the chips fall where they may. We’ve been working hard. We can't control what everybody else does – we can only control what we do. We need to go to Richmond and win the race.”
Busch teammates, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, finished sixth and 22nd, respectively, at Atlanta.
Kasey Kahne beat Kevin Harvick by 1.766 seconds to win the Pep Boys Auto 500 and score the 11th victory of his Sprint Cup career, his second of the season and his second at Atlanta.
Finishing third was Juan Pablo Montoya, while David Reutimann and Mark Martin rounded out the top-five. Hamlin, Brian Vickers, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 42 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 325-lap race.
With 25 of 36 races in the books, Hamlin leads the JGR trio in the championship point standings, as his sixth-place finish kept him fourth points. He has 3,296 points and is 398 markers behind series leader Tony Stewart. Logano remained in 19th position with 2,584 points, 1,110 markers back of the lead.
The Chevy Rock and Roll 400 at Richmond is Saturday night and begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ABC beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m.