Kurt Busch Wins In Dominating Fashion at Atlanta Motor Speedway
After a two week stretch out west, the Sprint Cup Series headed back to the east coast for the KOBALT Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Mark Martin started from the pole, making him the second oldest pole sitter behind Harry Gant. This was also Martin's first pole since 2001.
The green flag waved over the field, but only for a brief period as the first yellow flag came out on lap 2 for Reed Sorenson pounding the wall in Turn One.
The race quickly restarted, and the lead changed hands shortly after as Kurt Busch passed Martin soon after the green flag waved.
Busch remained at the front of the field when the second yellow flag waved for a spin by Bobby Labonte on lap 12. The leaders took advantage of the early caution period, hitting pit road for fresh tires and fuel. Ryan Newman was first off pit road with the help of a two tire stop.
Newman’s two tires were no match for Kurt Busch's four fresh tires, as Busch took the lead shortly after the race restarted on lap 16. Busch remained at the head of the field until the first round of green flag pit stops began taking place around lap 60.
The race changed drastically during the green flag stops, as the third yellow flag of the race waved on lap 67 when a crew member on Marcos Ambrose’s car ran across pit road, toward the cars on the front stretch—retrieving a loose tire.
This caution period hurt a number of drivers, because a few of the leaders had not yet made their green flag stops. This trapped some drivers one or two laps behind the leader Busch.
Busch and the other six drivers—who had not yet made pit stops—hit pit road under the yellow flag, with Busch holding the lead after stops. Busch did not restart the race in the lead though, after having problems on pit road forced him to make another pit stop under the yellow.
The lead was handed over to Jimmie Johnson on the restart, Busch restarted sixth.
Johnson held the lead for a handful of laps until Carl Edwards passed him on lap 80 for the top spot.
Edwards continued as the leader, when another caution flag waved for Labonte’s second spin of the afternoon on lap 103. The leaders pitted again under the caution and Busch returned to the top of the lineup.
Busch continued to lead through a stretch of the race up until lap 203. During this stretch of the race, there were three separate cautions that halted the pace. The first was for fluid on the track on lap 157, the second for a blown motor on Ambrose’s machine on lap 184, and the third was for a crash involving Sam Hornish Jr. and Bill Elliott on lap 203.
Under each of these caution periods, the leaders came to pit road with Busch holding the lead after stops. That soon changed though, as Jeff Gordon beat Busch out of the pits on the previous caution period for the incident involving Hornish and Elliott.
Gordon continued to lead, when another caution flag waved for an incident involving Martin, who cut down a right rear tire on lap 215. The leaders hit pit again, with Gordon leading the way off pit road.
Gordon led a good chunk of the next green flag run, until Busch passed him for the lead once more on lap 250.
Shortly after Busch regained the lead, another caution flag waved for debris on lap 259. The leaders once again took advantage by coming down pit road for fresh tires and fuel, with Busch holding on to the lead after stops.
Shortly after the race restarted, the pace was soon slowed once more for a hard crash by both Greg Biffle and Scott Speed on lap 266.
The race soon resumed, and stayed under the green flag until the 11th—and final—caution flag of the race waved for a cut right front tire on Robby Gordon’s car.
This caution flag set up some dramatic pit stops, as drivers were low on fuel and had to stop for service to make sure they could make it to the finish. Tire wear also proved to be a key factor all race long so many drivers chose to take four tires and fuel.
However, two drivers chose to take just two tires and fuel, hoping that they could hold off the guys for the green-white-checkered restart and earn the victory.
Edwards won the race off pit road with the help of a two tire stop, and Martin Truex Jr. also only took two tires and restarted in fourth.
Edwards led the field down for the restart, but his lead was short lived, as Busch and Gordon flew by with their four fresh tires. Busch, Gordon, and Edwards had a great battle to the finish over the last two laps, but Busch proved to be the best on this day as he dominated all race long.
The top 15 finishers were: Busch, Gordon, Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Johnson, Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Burton, and Jamie McMurray.
Some notable finishes were: Kyle Busch in 18th, Newman in 22nd, Martin in 31st, Biffle in 34th, and Labonte in 40th position.
The top 12 in Sprint Cup points:
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Clint Bowyer
3. Kurt Busch
4. Carl Edwards
5. Matt Kenseth
6. Tony Stewart
7. Kyle Busch
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Kasey Kahne
10. Greg Biffle
11. Brian Vickers
12. David Reutimann
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