Sunday, March 7, 2010

Kurt Busch Wins Atlanta For Second Straight Year, 3rd of Career

Associated Press

HAMPTON, Ga. -- Kurt Busch has won again at Atlanta Motor Speedway, pulling away on a second restart after a couple of wild wrecks to capture the Kobalt Tools 500.

Busch won the spring race at the 1.54-mile trioval for the second year in a row, beating Matt Kenseth to the line by nearly half a second Sunday. Juan Montoya was third, followed by Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard.

The race went 16 laps past its scheduled 325 because of two big crashes. The first came when Carl Edwards, running 156 laps behind, clipped Brad Keselowski and sent him flying toward the grandstands upside down. Keselowski was OK, but NASCAR ordered Edwards to park his car and summoned him to its trailer for a tongue-lashing.

Kobalt Tools 500 Notes & Quotes

HAMPTON, Ga. — Forty laps into Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500, three fairly prominent drivers — Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski — were in a crash that was particularly costly for Edwards and Logano.

It wasn’t costly for Keselowski, whose Dodge made contact with Edwards’ Ford, which in turn sent the No. 99 skidding up the banking into Logano’s Toyota.

“I thought he (Keselowski) would give me just a little bit of room, and he didn’t, and we ended up overlapping,” said Edwards, who was charitable. “I know Brad has made his career on being super-aggressive.

“We both had a part in it, and it’snot his fault, but it’s just a little too aggressive, overall, I think, for that early in a race, and it caused us to wreck.”

It wasn’t over, though.

While Kurt Busch was attempting to hold off Juan Montoya for the victory, on lap 322, Edwards apparently picked a dangerous moment for a payback. His nudge of Keselowski’s Dodge sent it tumbling in front of the front-straight grandstands.

The irony, of course, is that the roles were reversed at Talladega almost a year ago, when Keselowski claimed his only Sprint Cup victory to date by touching off a crash that sent Edwards’ Ford into a spectacular series of flips. NASCAR officials parked Edwards’ car shortly thereafter.

Keselowski opined, referring to Talladega, “At least I didn’t do it intentionally,” and called it “a wild ride that was uncalled for.”

Edwards didn’t apologize for the crash, per se, but just said he was sorry at how it turned out.

“The scary part was that the car went airborne, which wasn’t what I expected,” he said.

Latest disaster — Struggling driver-owner Robby Gordon has seldom, if ever, “started and parked,” but the depiction is sort of academic where Gordon’s season to date is concerned.

Gordon crashed, apparently as a result of tire breakdown, on the fourth lap of the Kobalt Tools 500.

Gordon completed 207 of the 208 laps in the Daytona (alleged) 500, finishing 28th. He then placed 33rd at Auto Club Speedway, retiring due to “overheating.” Gordon was 32nd in Las Vegas, finishing five laps down.

Fox’s Mike Joy made reference to “Robby’s star-crossed year,” but it’s far beyond a mere run of bad luck. Gordon has one top-20 finish in his last 28 races.

As the laps turn — Other potential contenders faded into oblivion early, as well. For pole winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., it was an unscheduled pit stop For Mark Martin, it was a spin through the trioval grass on lap
115. For Jeff Gordon, it was a pit-road speeding penalty at lap 158.

Whatever it takes — On lap 226, after a search of the front straight that would’ve made Homeland Security proud, a safety crew member actually found a very small chunk of something on the front straight that might have been debris.

The search blunted a Kasey Kahne lead of nearly eight seconds.

Encore: Kurt Busch won the AMS spring race for the second year in a row, giving Dodge its third straight victory at the track.

Inevitable: The “not one, not two, but a possible three green-white-checkered finishes” rule once again produced an untidy mess at the end, though a seven-car crash required only one do-over. Somehow the race inexplicably drifted 16 laps, 24.64 miles, past its scheduled distance.

In hot pursuit: Crossing the finish line in order behind Kurt Busch were Matt Kenseth in a Ford, Juan Pablo Montoya in a Chevrolet, and Kasey Kahne, Paul Menard and A.J. Allmendinger, all in Fords. Brian Vickers was seventh in a Toyota.

Disappointments: Jimmie Johnson 12th? Really. Mark Martin was 33rd, Joey Logano 35th, Carl Edwards 39th and David Reutimann 40th. And the pole winner? Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 15th.

Notable numbers
21 — Kurt Busch’s career victory total.

5 — Drivers (Busch, Bobby Labonte, Benny Parsons, Jack Smith and Jeff Burton) with 21 career victories.

9 — Consecutive seasons in which Kurt Busch has won at least one race.

3 — Consecutive Dodge victories at this track.

.332 — Kurt Busch’s career Sprint Cup races.

.063 — Busch’s career winning percentage.

Quotable quotes

“Even with all the restarts at the end, I still think we had the car to beat, regardless.” — Kurt Busch

“The restarts were crazy … just a mess.” — Kasey Kahne

“I would’ve bet anything there’d be a wreck on the first one because you had so many people on different tires.” — Juan Pablo Montoya

“Even at a big track like this where you can pass, track position is still big. We knew we probably weren’t going to hold off (drivers who had changed) four tires, but there was some excitement there at the end and we were in front of it.” — Paul Menard

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