With a lot on the line Sunday night with only two races left until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set Kyle Busch finished strong to win the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch clinched a spot in the Chase and picked up his fourth win of 2013 and 28th overall in his Sprint Cup Series career.
His pit crew got him the lead on a stop with just under 40 laps to go and Busch held off a late charge by Joey Logano, who led the most laps in the race with 78.
"My boys on pit road," Busch said in victory lane. "They just, that's the same group since 2008. They're amazing, I'd do anything for them."
Martin Truex Jr finished third racing with a cast on his broken right wrist, Kurt Busch was fourth, and Ryan Newman fifth.
The 325 lap race started with Ricky Stenhouse Jr on his first career pole but it was Juan Pablo Montoya, who started third, that led the opening lap over Carl Edwards and Stenhouse. Montoya continued to lead until Joey Logano passed him on lap 25 for the lead. Logano had charged from his 11th starting position.
On lap 26 the first caution came out as NASCAR threw a competition caution due to some rain earlier in the day at the track. Montoya regained the lead on the pit stops as Logano dropped to sixth with a slow pit stop. Ryan Newman also suffered some right-front fender damage when he made contact with Aric Almirola exiting pit road.
On the lap 30 restart Jeff Gordon lined up on the outside of Montoya but stacked up the outside line when he spun his tires. In the stack up Kasey Kahne ran into the back of Jimmie Johnson who ran into the back of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jeff Burton slammed into the back of Kahne and Mark Martin clobbered the back of Burton. The contact broke Kahne's radiator and oil cooler and sent him behind the wall for repairs. He finished in 36th and dropped to 12th in the points. Kahne did end up still clinching a Chase spot as he can do no worse than the second wild card due to his two wins on the season.
Johnson's damage also had him a bit off the pace along with Martin for the rest of the race while Burton's crew kept him up to full speed and in contention.
On the lap 40 restart Carl Edwards grabbed the lead from Montoya on the outside. On lap 53 Denny Hamlin forced Paul Menard up into the outside wall and Menard had to pit. No caution came out at the time but the third caution did come out on lap 58 when debris came off Menard's car. Jeff Gordon, who had driven up to second before the caution, got off pit road with the lead ahead of Edwards and Montoya.
He led for the lap 66 restart. Denny Hamlin had to serve a one lap penalty for pitting outside the box during the previous caution. The fourth caution then flew on lap 75 when Paul Menard's right-rear tire carcass came off and Jimmie Johnson ran over it.
Carl Edwards took the lead this time on pit road with Gordon coming off second for the lap 82 restart. At the lap 100 mark it was Edwards leading over Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, and Jamie McMurray. Joey Logano pitted on lap 102 for a vibration that was caused by three loose lug nuts on one of his tires. Matt Kenseth then pitted on lap 106 for what he thought was a tire issue but his crew did not find anything wrong with the set that came off the car.
Green flag pit stops for the rest of the field started on lap 119. Edwards and Keselowski pitted on lap 122 which gave the lead to Ryan Newman for a lap before he pitted on lap 123. That gave the lead to Joey Logano who was off sequence. On lap 133 Matt Kenseth pitted again not liking the handling of his car.
Clint Bowyer had driven down Logano with fresher tires and on lap 139 took the lead for the first time in the race. On lap 150 Bowyer led over Logano, Edwards, McMurray, and Keselowski. Logano then pitted on lap 151. Green flag stops for everyone else started on lap 163 and Clint Bowyer pitted from the lead on lap 166 which put Logano back in front. On lap 173 Bowyer ran down Logano and regained the lead.
He was pulling away when he radioed in that he thought his engine was giving up. On lap 193 the fifth caution came out when Bowyer blew the experimental engine package they were running in the No. 15 Toyota. Bowyer had already clinched a Chase spot entering Atlanta so his 39th place finish was not too devastating.
After pit stops Carl Edwards led over Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano for the lap 199 restart. On lap 201 and 202 Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon ran side-by-side for the lead until Edwards drove Gordon high and forced the driver of the No. 24 to lift. That allowed Logano to take the second spot. Then on lap 204 he took the lead from Edwards.
The sixth caution of the night flew on lap 205 when Denny Hamlin was spun in a retaliation move by Paul Menard. Hamlin had a lot of damage to his right-front when the tire came apart driving back to pit road. His team called it a night and Hamlin finished in 38th.
Joey Logano and Carl Edwards did not pit while every other lead lap car did. Jeff Gordon's team had a slow stop which dropped him from the first car to pit to the fifth car off pit road and seventh on the lap 213 restart. Brad Keselowski was the first off pit road and used his third place position to jump to the lead in Turn 3 by his Penske Racing teammate. Logano held his own in second on the older tires while Edwards fell through the pack like a rock. On lap 243 Keselowski led over Logano, Newman, Kevin Harvick, and Marcos Ambrose.
On lap 244 Keselowski suddenly slowed and Logano took the lead. Keselowski was experiencing engine issues as he was well off the pace and began dropping back.
Edwards pitted on lap 247 from the 18th position as the last lead lap car. Logano then pitted on lap 252 from the lead which gave it to Newman for a lap until he pitted. Montoya led and then pitted on lap 254 and Logano was back in front on lap 255. At lap 275 with 50 to go Logano led over Ryan Newman by 3.1 seconds. Kyle Busch was showing his strength for the first time and was up to third, Harvick was fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr fifth.
The seventh caution flew on lap 287 when Jeff Burton slowed to pit and Jimmie Johnson spun while trying to avoid running hard into the back of Burton. Johnson would finish in 28th. Carl Edwards had just pitted which caught him a lap down. On pit road Kyle Busch's No. 18 team gained him the lead ahead of Ryan Newman and Joey Logano.
Busch led for the lap 292 restart but the eighth caution came out when Brian Vickers spun off Turn 4 and through the infield grass. Amazingly Kurt Busch drove from ninth to second on the one lap under green and restarted on lap 297 next to Kyle on the front row. Dale Earnhardt Jr was the first car to pit from the tenth place. He and Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, and Greg Biffle put on four new tires.
On the restart the ninth caution flew when in Turn 3 Jeff Burton had a tire go down and he got up into Austin Dillon and the wall. Burton would have a lot of damage and finish in 34th.
On the lap 304 restart Martin Truex Jr made a strong move from third and battled with Kyle Busch for the lead. Busch prevailed though.
Brad Keselowski's Chase hopes took a huge hit on lap 309 when his engine let go all the way which forced him to the garage and a 35th place finish. Meanwhile on the track Kyle Busch led with 15 laps to go over Truex, Kurt Busch, Montoya, and Logano. Logano was on the move and got into second on lap 321 but did not have enough time to run down Kyle Busch for the win.
Truex finished in third, Kurt Busch fourth, and Ryan Newman fifth. Jeff Gordon charged on his fresh tires to finish in sixth. Juan Pablo Montoya took seventh, Dale Earnhardt Jr eighth, Kevin Harvick ninth, and Brian Vickers tenth. Jamie McMurray was 11th, Matt Kenseth 12th, Marcos Ambrose 13th, AJ Allmendinger 14th, Greg Biffle 15th, Ricky Stenhouse Jr 16th, and David Gilliland was the last lead lap car in 17th.
Carl Edwards was 18th, Austin Dillon 19th, and Aric Almirola 20th. Danica Patrick was 21st, Casey Mears 22nd, David Ragan 23rd, Paul Menard 24th, Mark Martin 25th, Dave Blaney 26th, Travis Kvapil 27th, Jimmie Johnson 28th, David Stremme 29th, JJ Yeley 30th, Timmy Hill 31st, David Reutimann 32nd, Mike Bliss 33rd, Jeff Burton 34th, Brad Keselowski 35th, Kasey Kahne 36th, Landon Cassill 37th, Denny Hamlin 38th, Clint Bowyer 39th, Joe Nemechek 40th, Josh Wise 41st, Michael McDowell 42nd, and Scott Speed 43rd.
Seven drivers have clinched a Chase spot heading to Richmond. Jimmie Johsnon leads the points by 28 over Clint Bowyer. They are both in, along with Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth who are third through sixth in points. Kasey Kahne dropped four places to 12th but locked a Chase spot as he can be no worse than the second wild card.
Dale Earnhardt Jr will enter Richmond seventh and 37 points ahead of 11th. Joey Logano is eighth, 16 points to the good. Greg Biffle is ninth and 14 points in. Kurt Busch holds the tenth spot and is six points ahead of 11th. Jeff Gordon is 11th and only six points out of a playoff spot. Kasey Kahne can climb into the top ten at Richmond but right now is the first wild card and 10 points out of tenth. Martin Truex Jr is 13th in points and holds the second wild card. He is 15 points out of the top ten. Ryan Newman is only five points behind Truex for the second wild card berth. Brad Keselowski is 15th in the points and 28 out of the top ten. The defending champion is in major trouble heading to Richmond.
The Chase deciding race can be seen on Saturday night, September 7th from Richmond International Raceway.
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