Kyle Busch claimed victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup 500-mile night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Joe Gibbs Toyota driver emerged in the lead during the final pit stops and was able to control the closing stages. The win puts Busch’s place in this year’s Chase beyond doubt.
His former teammate Joey Logano made progress through the field during the final stint to take second for Penske, having earlier lost ground with an out-of-sequence pit stop, but Busch remained seven tenths of a second clear up front. Logano’s final pass was on Martin Truex Jr., who coped with both a fractured wrist and a melting support cast on his hand to take third in his Waltrip Toyota.
Both Buschs were in the top four, with Kurt recovering from 32nd on the grid to fourth for Furniture Row, helped in large part by an astounding restart in which he made up eight positions to appear in second place.
Juan Pablo Montoya led much of the first part of the race, but faded to seventh in the end. His fall was not as great as Carl Edwards’, though, the Roush Fenway man looking dominant at times early on only to slump to 18th, unable to regain the ground lost when he stayed on old tires as most around him took fresh rubber mid-race.
Reigning champion Brad Keselowski’s bid to at least be in contention for a second title struck another blow when his Penske Ford ran into engine problems while he was leading. He was eventually classified 35th, leaving him 15th in the points with just Richmond next week remaining before the Chase cutoff.
Championshp leader Jimmie Johnson also had a bad night, getting involved in two collisions and finishing four laps down in 28th. At one stage he looked set to finally lose the lead in the standings, but was granted a reprieve when nearest rival Clint Bowyer had an engine failure when running in a position to jump to the top of the championship.
Polesitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. immediately slumped down the order when the race began and finished 16th.
Results - 325 laps:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota 3h42m14.000s 2. Joey Logano Penske Ford +0.740s 3. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota +1.840s 4. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet +3.622s 5. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +4.137s 6. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet +6.658s 7. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +8.056s 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet +8.690s 9. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet +8.907s10. Brian Vickers Waltrip Toyota +9.516s11. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +10.462s12. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota +10.988s13. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford +11.103s14. AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Toyota +11.606s15. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford +11.852s16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford +12.780s17. David Gilliland Front Row Ford +13.822s18. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford +1 lap19. Austin Dillon Childress Chevrolet +1 lap20. Aric Almirola Petty Ford +2 laps21. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +2 laps22. Casey Mears Germain Ford +2 laps23. David Ragan Front Row Ford +2 laps24. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet +3 laps25. Mark Martin Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +3 laps26. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet +3 laps27. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota +3 laps28. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet +4 laps29. David Stremme Swan Toyota +4 laps30. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet +4 laps31. Timmy Hill FAS Lane Ford +4 laps32. David Reutimann BK Toyota +5 laps33. Mike Bliss Phoenix Chevrolet +6 laps34. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet +6 lapsRetirements: Brad Keselowski Penske Ford 307 laps Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet 292 laps* Landon Cassill Hillman Chevrolet 249 laps Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota 231 laps Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota 192 laps Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 114 laps Jose Wise Front Row Ford 94 laps Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 92 laps Scott Speed Leavine Ford 22 laps* Running again at checkered flag