Busch Notches Hard Earned Top-Five at Atlanta; M&M's Team Battles Back from Handling Issues to Finish Fifth After battling an ill-handling race car throughout the first half of Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at ...
Busch Notches Hard Earned Top-Five at Atlanta; M&M's Team Battles Back from Handling Issues to Finish Fifth
After battling an ill-handling race car throughout the first half of Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., Kyle Busch could have easily given up.
But characteristic of Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), and his entire team, they kept working on their race car and fought back for a hard-earned fifth-place finish to notch their series-leading 17th top-five finish of the season.
"Yeah, it was hard-fought, for sure," said Busch, who notched his second consecutive top-five finish at Atlanta after capturing his first Sprint Cup win at the 1.54-mile track in March. "The M&M's guys kept digging in and Steve (Addington, crew chief) kept making changes to the best of his knowledge to get us further up there. We were out to lunch there on the long runs, but we were able to make the most of what we had to work with. We're happy with a top-five finish. If we can keep finishing in the top-five like we did today, then the wins should come back our way."
After starting 12th, Busch ran within the top-10 for most of the 325-lap race, despite battling a race car that was too tight in the center of the corner and so loose off the corner that the talented 23-year old could not get back to the gas as quickly as he wanted.
During a total of six pits stop throughout the first 253 laps, Addington and the entire M&M's team threw a bevy of changes at Busch's No. 18 Toyota to combat its ill-handling tendencies, changes that included air pressure, track bar, spring rubber and wedge adjustments. While nothing specific seemed to cure the ills of the No. 18 machine, Addington finally hit on something during the team's seventh pit stop on lap 254, as a track bar and wedge adjustment seemed to be just what Busch needed to bring his car to life.
While Busch restarted seventh on lap 258, the Las Vegas native moved up to fourth by lap 300 and held on through four late-race cautions to notch his second consecutive top-five finish at Atlanta.
"It's a testament to the M&M's guys sticking in there all day and having good pit stops and being able to keep us up there all day on pit road and not make any mistakes," said Busch. "Steve Addington made some good calls on top of the box to keep trying to make the car better. I know that it was a handful out there for myself, so I'm sure it's a handful up there on the pit box for him to watch. We made the most of it today."
Busch's JGR teammates -- Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart -- finished third and 17th, respectively. Hamlin brought home his 11th top-five finish of the season while Stewart suffered from an ill-handling race car.
Carl Edwards won the Pep Boys Auto 500 to score his 14th career Sprint Cup victory, his seventh of the season and his third at Atlanta. Finishing 2.684 seconds behind Edwards in second was Jimmie Johnson, while Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Busch rounded out the top-five. Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, David Ragan, Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 10 caution periods for 43 laps, with three drivers failing to finish the 500-mile race.
All three JGR drivers are represented in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup. Stewart continues to lead the JGR trio in points, as he maintained his eighth-place point standing, but fell to 401 markers behind series leader Johnson. Hamlin and Busch held onto their respective slots in the point standings at 11th and 12th, respectively. Hamlin is 425 points out of first and Busch is 465 points down to Johnson.