Busch Rallies from Early Race Troubles to Notch Solid Top-Five Finish at Atlanta Pedigree Driver Clinches Spot in 12-Driver Chase for the Championship, Remains Third in Points Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota for Joe Gibbs ...
Busch Rallies from Early Race Troubles to Notch Solid Top-Five Finish at
Pedigree Driver Clinches Spot in 12-Driver Chase for the Championship, Remains Third in Points
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), rallied from an early pit road speeding penalty in Sunday night's Emory Healthcare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to bring home a solid fifth-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
It was Busch's seventh top-five effort of the season, and more importantly, it locked him into the elite 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship with just one race remaining before the Chase field is set.
"We fought through an awful lot," said Busch, who earned a spot in the Chase for the fourth time in his six-year career after narrowly missing the Chase by just eight points in 2009. "It's good to come home with a run like that for the Pedigree guys and the whole Pedigree team. Have to thank all the Mars associates and everyone on this team. They did a good job. We fought through a lot. We just could never get the car exactly the way I wanted it. We battled hard and made some good adjustments. We came from almost two laps down today and got back on the lead lap. Have to thank Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys on pit road for good pit stops. What more could you ask for?"
Busch qualified a solid third and sat within the top-five during the first run of the night, showing early that he had one of the strongest cars in the 43-car field. But as Busch brought his Pedigree Toyota to pit road for service on lap 49, he couldn't get his No. 18 Toyota slowed down quickly enough to meet the 45 mph pit road speed, and was subsequently penalized by NASCAR. The infraction forced Busch to come back down pit road three laps later to serve a pass-through penalty.
Compounding the problem was that shortly thereafter, Busch radioed that he had a loose rear wheel and asked the Pedigree over-the-wall crew to be ready if he needed to dive onto pit road to fix the problem. That call came on lap 70, as the Las Vegas native brought his No. 18 Toyota back in for four tires to remedy what turned out to be a loose left-rear wheel.
At that point, Busch returned to the race in 36th position, one lap behind the leaders. But the talented 25-year-old and his team also knew it was a long race and there was plenty of time to make up the lost ground. Patiently, Busch carved his way through the field and found himself in 17th on lap 140, the first car one lap down. And when the yellow caution flag waved on lap 143, Busch was the "lucky dog" recipient and allowed to gain his lap back.
Busch quickly worked his way up to 12th by lap 152 and sixth by lap 162 and, suddenly, found himself right back in contention. While he rose to as high as second, his Pedigree Camry was just too tight in the center of the track's corners. Despite Rogers throwing an assortment of track bar and air pressure adjustments at the No. 18 machine in an effort to try and remedy the tight-handling condition, they could never find the right balance to make it challenge for the lead. But considering all that happened early in the race, Busch was pleased to bring home a solid top-five result.
"It was a hard-fought battle, and that's what it's going to take the next 10 races is to come back like this," said Busch, whose best point finish of fifth was earned in 2007. "We have good cars and we had a great racecar today. It was really fast in the early portion of the race and some guys made some adjustments and got a little bit better than we did. We never really picked up any time, we just kind of bounced back and forth with the balance of the car. I can't thank the Pedigree guys enough and the whole Pedigree team, all the Mars associates and everyone that's helped us get to where we are and clinch a spot in the Chase. Hopefully, we can go out and carry this momentum into next week and have another strong run at Richmond, then go after these final 10."
Busch's JGR teammates -- Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin -- finished 31st and 43rd, respectively.
Tony Stewart won the Emory Healthcare 500 to score his first Sprint Cup win of the season, the 38th of his career and third at Atlanta.
Carl Edwards finished 1.316 seconds behind Stewart in the runner-up spot, while Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five. Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 53 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish.
With 25 of 36 races in the books, Busch continues to lead the Team Interstate trio in the championship point standings. He held onto his third spot and now has 3,325 points, 260 markers behind series leader Kevin Harvick. Hamlin dropped five positions in the standings to fall to 10th. He has 3,147 points and is 438 points arrears Harvick. Logano maintained his 21st spot in the standings and has 2,718 points, 348 points back of 12th-place Bowyer, who currently holds the final spot in the Chase.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Sept. 11 Air Guard 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.