Rain and lightning fast pit stops helped Kurt Busch score the victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Busch, the 24-year old native from Las Vegas, also won last week at Martinsville making this the third time this season a driver has scored...
Rain and lightning fast pit stops helped Kurt Busch score the victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Busch, the 24-year old native from Las Vegas, also won last week at Martinsville making this the third time this season a driver has scored back-to-back victories (Bill Elliott did it at Pocono and Indianapolis, and Jeff Gordon did it at Bristol and Darlington).
"This one felt much sweeter - it's just that much smoother, drinking a Coke. Now I can enjoy it," said Busch. "We were perfect. Two in a row for Rubbermaid. It's just awesome."
This is Busch's third win of 2002. The 97 Ford was stealth all day, Busch #led 4 times for 84 laps. With this win, Ford Racing has clinched the 2002 Winston Cup Manufacturer's Championship.
"This is awesome," said Busch. "We just kept digging and kept working and things are running smooth. This week, we had a fast car all race long. We got to start up front and it was a matter of making ends meet and that was getting a great pit stop, pitting quick - a little short pit - and that got us out in front."
The big story of the weekend was weather. After running just 26 laps, rain began to pepper the track, and the red flag was displayed. The rain delay lasted two-hours-twenty-six-minutes. Rainstorms Friday also washed out qualifying for the third time in the last four races. Owner points, placing all the championship contenders at the front of the starting grid, set the field. Drivers made it to lap 242, before the race's last caution for heavy rains dampened the track. NASCAR made the decision to end the race under caution at lap 248, 83 laps shy of the advertised distance.
Second biggest story of the day, was the championship battle. Stewart, who rebounded from early lug nut problems that caused him to loose 30 spots, charged his way back to the front and finished fourth. "They can't accuse me of points racing by any means. I mean we went for it," said Stewart. "You know we were sideways a lot trying to go from second to first. I could have cruised and rode then, but I was going for the win still."
Contender Jimmie Johnson's day went from bad to worse. Johnson spun in turn 4 on lap 139 and flat spotted 3 of 4 tires. He would pit on lap 141 take on 2 tires and the #48 Chevy team would work to repair left front fender damage. Johnson managed to stay on the lead lap and restart in 19th. He would slowly began to work his way back to the top 10, but a lap 230 spin on the backstretch in front of the leaders put Johnson a lap down. He finished 22nd.
Johnson slips to third in the championship race. He now sits 150 points out of the lead. He was only 82 points out in second entering Atlanta. "This was no heartbreak, we had a loose race car and spun out twice. Luckily, I didn't hit anything. I came close," said Johnson. "Before we had a shot at controlling our own destiny and now that opportunity is flying out the window. But hey, we're rookies and we're not supposed to be here."
Joe Nemechek, driving the #25 Hendrick Chevrolet, led three times for 57 laps finishing second. "It was definitely a good day for the #25 UAW/Delphi Chevy team," said Nemechek. "My car was really, really good on new tires, I mean awesome on new tires. I think we were a little bit better than Kurt, but whenever you could get out front you could go a little bit better than behind. We just needed a few more laps."
After a victory in the Busch race Saturday, Jamie McMurray, driving the #40 Dodge for the injured Sterling Marlin, continues his fantastic streak of good fortune, finishing seventh. "What a weekend," said McMurray. "I won the Busch race, seventh in the Cup race. That's awesome."
Mark Martin's eighth place finish moves him back up to the second spot in the championship. "I'm real proud of this team," said Martin. "They've just dug in and done what it takes to win the championship. Whether we win or not, it doesn't matter to me because the effort has been spectacular by this team." Martin is 146 points behind Stewart.
Rookie Ryan Newman puts more points on the board in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year race. Finishing 10th, he leads Johnson 338 to 318. "We were fast on the long run, which we didn't really anticipate," Newman said. "That's been one of our struggling points this year, but we struggled with the race track at the start of the run. It was an up-in-the-air deal with the whole situation with the rain and the racetrack not changing as much as it typically did in the spring race. It was hard to figure out what exactly to do."
There were five cautions for 50 laps, and 19 lead changes among nine drivers. Rounding out the top 10 are Dale Jarrett third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fifth, Jeff Gordon sixth, and Busch's Roush Racing teammate Matt Kenseth in ninth.