Kyle Busch Wins Atlanta, Locks Up Chase Spot
HAMPTON, Ga. -- With a big hand from his pit crew, Kyle Busch locked up his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship with his fourth victory of the year Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Busch emerged with the lead after a rapid-fire series of caution flags near the end, and he held off hard-charging Joey Logano to win by 0.740 seconds.
Martin Truex Jr., racing with a broken right wrist, was third on the 1.54-mile trioval, followed by Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman.
The rest of the top 10: Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers.
Kyle Busch was among four more drivers locking up their spot in the Chase heading to Richmond next weekend, where the 12-car field will be set for the playoff. He was joined by Harvick, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne. .
Points leader Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth had already claimed playoff berths before Atlanta.
That means the final five will be determined at Richmond.
Busch earned his 16th win of the year in NASCAR's top three series. He has nine victories in Nationwide and three in trucks.
Logano had the fastest car on the track at the end of the race, but ran out of time to run down Busch.
Bowyer was dominant through the middle of the race, leading 48 laps, but he radioed his crew that that something didn't seem right in his No. 15 car. On Lap 193, those fears became reality when smoke started pouring from the back of his Toyota going into Turn 1. He managed to creep back around to pit road, but he headed straight for the garage, any hope of winning the race snuffed out.
At least Bowyer won't have to worry about the poor finish -- he wound up 39th -- costing him a spot in the Chase.
That wasn't the case for defending Cup champion Brad Keselowski.
Winless for the year and on the Chase bubble, he took over the lead and looked as if he had a shot at a much-needed victory. But his engine dropped a couple of cylinders and began dropping back, finally sputtering to a stop 18 laps from the finish. He finished 35th and will go to Richmond knowing he likely needs a victory to even have a shot at taking a second straight title. He slipped to 15th in the standings, 28 points behind 10th-place Kurt Busch.
Truex made it through the grueling race, which lasted some four hours, even though his cast was in the tatters at the end.
After a pre-determined yellow flag came out on Lap 25 so NASCAR officials could check tire wear, Gordon had trouble getting up to speed on the restart.
That set off a chain-reaction series of collisions behind the No. 24 car, which resulted in Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kahne smashing his radiator and smoking badly. Another Hendricks car, driven by Johnson, also sustained damage, as did Mark Martin and Jeff Burton. Kahne limped straight to the garage for repairs and finished 36th, while the other battered cars spent extended time on pit road.
But Kahne locked up at least a wild card because he has two victories on the year.
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