Coming down to the wire, Atlanta race had its interesting moments in the penultimate race for those who will make it into the Chase. Richmond is next!
Kyle Busch went from third to first with his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota during a caution with 37 laps remaining in the 325-lap Advocare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night.
He remained up front the rest of the way to claim his fourth win of the season. He also locked himself into the 12-man Chase for the Sprint Cup field one race prior to the cutoff Sept. 7 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
The No. 22 Penske Racing Ford of Joey Logano finished second, and the No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota of Martin Truex Jr. was third.
"I can't say enough about this team," Busch said. Their work tonight really helped us out. I wasn't happy with the car at the beginning."
Busch didn't look to be a factor for much of the race. Cars like the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Carl Edwards, the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota of Clint Bowyer, Logano's No. 22 and the No. 2 Penske Racing Ford of Brad Keselowski looked to be the cars to beat through various stages of the race.
"It was a hell of a battle for us," Truex said. "Our car wasn't very good most of the night. We were probably one or two adjustments away from having something for Joey and Kyle."
Edwards dominated the race early after taking the lead on a restart that followed the second caution of the race on lap 30. He led most of the laps but a few to his teammate. However Logano was on a different pit sequence.
Thus, Logano would make his way toward the front, only to lose positions on pit road the first couple of stops.
He was able to maintain his position on pit road during the fourth caution of the race on lap 70, but then was forced to head down pit road for an unscheduled pit stop on lap 100 for a loose wheel.
Several laps later, though, the field cycled through green flag pit stops. Logano stayed out several more laps than everyone else after having recently made a stop. He stayed off-sequence through another green-flag cycle before getting back on the same schedule as everyone else when Bowyer lost his engine and brought out a caution on lap 193.
Several laps before the blown engine, Bowyer had taken over as the race dominator. He moved into the lead on lap 139 and raced out to a three-second lead. He remained up front, with the exception of a few laps during a cycle of green-flag stops just past lap 160. He was still leading when his engine expired.
Logano then returned to the front for several laps, and Edwards joined him at the front. Both drivers opted to stay out during a caution on lap 106. The call worked for Logano but not so much for Edwards. Keselowski moved to the front on the restart, but Logano was able to maintain the second spot. Meanwhile, Edwards slid back several positions and never recovered.
Keselowski continued to lead and was running up front when he began losing power around lap 144. Falling off the pace, Keselowski slid back through the field, handing the lead back over to Logano. Keselowski continued on for several laps before his engine finally went away, completely.
"What can you do?" Keselowski said. "You can just sit here and be mad and stomp your feet and be a jerk about it, but it just broke. That's racing. It's kind of been the story of our year."
Logano led until the caution with 37 to go during which Busch took the lead by getting off pit road first. Logano dropped back to third. Truex and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet of Kurt Busch each spent some time in the second spot before Logano retook the position with about two laps remaining. At that time, Logano had the fastest car on the track, but he didn't have enough time left to catch Kyle Busch.
"Wish it was five or six more laps," Logano said of the race distance. "Big picture it’s great. I just feel like I had the race-winning Ford."
Kurt Busch finished fourth, and the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Ryan Newman was fifth. Finishing sixth through 10th were the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon, the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet of Juan Pablo Montoya, the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick and the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota of Brian Vickers.