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Sunday, March 8
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Kurt Busch Dominates Atlanta
HAMPTON, GA. -- The other Busch won this one. Big Brother. Kurt. The Busch that won a championship before his little brother hit the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series scene a few years ago.
Last week in the Busch Brothers' hometown, Las Vegas, it was young Kyle winning the race.
Sunday, in Atlanta, it was Kurt's day to shine and shine he did. Literally driving the wheels off his Miller Lite Penske Dodge, Kurt led a whopping 234 of the 325-lap Kobalt Tools 500, banging into the outside retaining wall several times in the process.
It was the elder Busch's first win of the season and he did it in very convincing fashion.
Kurt Busch (2) leads a pack of cars en route to hisKobalt Tools 500 win...Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
When the 10th caution of the day waved with just three laps remaining and Busch leading, it set the stage for an exciting green, white, checkered flag finish. All the lead cars pitted for tires and Carl Edwards beat Busch and Jeff Gordon back on the track.
Busch, however, was not to be denied as he threw caution to the wind and zoomed around Edwards in the first turn of the restart. Gordon also passed Edwards to claim second spot. Edwards was next, trailed by Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers.
Rounding out the top 10 were Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex, Jr.
Winner Busch scraped the outside retaining wall several times en route the victory, which was indicative of just how hard he was racing. Runner-up Gordon also dodged several close calls to finish second.
Driver after driver came out of turn four sideways, Running loose and sliding on the slippery surface at 180 miles an hour.
Gordon even said the track reminded him of Darlington, where drivers sliding is a regular part of the dance.
The weather for the race was in stark contrast to last years snow, nearing perfection when the 43-car field broke the balmy stillness with a mighty roar shortly after three o'clock.
This one, a 500-miler over Atlanta Motor Speedway's one-and-a-half mile, super-fast tri-oval, was billed as anybody's race but 50-year-old Mark Martin won the pole and streaked away from the field at the drop of the green flag.
The field didn't get very far before Reed Sorensen's Dodge turned right into the first turn wall, prompting the first caution of the afternoon without a single lap being completed. Something apparently broke on Sorensen's car.
When the race resumed on Lap 5, Martin took up where he left off. Kurt Busch, however, passed Martin before they got to Turn 1.
Bobby Labonte lost the handle on his Ask.Com Ford on Lap 11, bringing out another caution. With just 12 laps complete, Busch led, followed by Martin, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman.
The race resumed on Lap 15 with Newman in front after a quick stop. Busch regained the lead several laps later.
Busch was still leading at Lap 62 after everyone made green flag stops. Hamlin was second.
It was a caution-filled afternoon with 10 slowdowns, including one ill-timed safety caution when a crew member ran after an errant tire out in the track's tri-oval area. NASCAR threw a caution under the circumstances, which changed the entire strategy of the race for many of the teams.
A third and ill-timed safety caution flew after a loose tire off Marcos Ambrose's Toyota rolled out into the tri-oval grass, which put only six cars on the lead lap due to pit stop sequences and changed the entire strategy of the race for many of the teams. NASCAR was forced to throw the caution when Jimmy Watts, a member of Ambrose's pit crew, ran out on the tri-oval to retrieve the errant tire, putting himself in harm's way.
Johnson was the leader after the caution with Clint Bowyer, Edwards, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Hamlin in tow. Martin and everyone else were at least one lap down at this point due to the runaway tire retrieval creating an unsafe condition.
Another caution at Lap 102, when Bobby Labonte spin through the tri-oval, slowed the field and put an additional four cars back on the lead lap. Martin, Brian Vickers and Gordon had passed the leader, Edwards. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the recipient of the free pass. Vickers was placed at the rear of the field for exiting pit road too fast.
When the green waved on Lap 107, Kurt Busch was leading. Edwards was next, followed by Bowyer, Johnson, Truex, Gordon, Hamlin, Martin, Earnhardt and Vickers.
Another caution fell on Lap 157 for debris on the track and Earnhardt once again was the beneficiary. At this point in the race, Kurt Busch was clearly the man to beat. Gordon was behind him in second by the halfway point of 163 laps and teammate Johnson was next. Behind them on the lead lap were Edwards, Bowyer, Martin, Vickers, Hamlin, Truex and Earnhardt Jr.
Following Atlanta Jeff Gordon leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with 634 points. Clint Bowyer (591) is in second followed by race winner Kurt Busch (588). Carl Edwards (547), Matt Kenseth (546), Tony Stewart (521), Kyle Busch (514), Kevin Harvick (511), Kasey Kahne (484), Greg Biffle (480), Brian Vickers (477), and David Reutimann (475) round out the top-12.
Complete Race Results click here
Post-Race Driver Point Standings click here
NASCAR Newscast - Atlanta Review click here
Kurt Busch drove his slightly banged up racecar in reverse for the Victory Lap...Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Carl Edwards No. 99 Ford was fastest in Saturday's final practice session for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500; less than 1.1-seconds
separated the fastest laps of entire 42-car field during the session...
Saturday Final Practice Speed Chart click here
Kobalt Tools 500 Starting Lineup click here
TV Broadcast Times*
Practice: Friday March 6 at 4 p.m. (SPEED)
Qualifying Time Trials: Friday March 6 at 7:30 p.m. (SPEED)
Practice: Saturday March 7 at Noon (SPEED)
Final Practice: Saturday March 7 at 1 p.m. (SPEED)
RaceDay, Pre-Race Show: Sunday March 8 at 12:30 p.m. (SPEED)
FOX Pre-Race Show: Sunday March 8 at 2:30 p.m./FOX
Kobalt Tools 500: Sunday March 8 at 3:16 p.m./FOX
*Times shown are AT - one hour ahead of ET, i.e. if it's 2 p.m./AT - it's 1 p.m./ET...
Green Flag Fast Facts
The Race: KOBALT Tools 500
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway; 1.54-mile tri-oval
The Time: 3 p.m. AT
The Distance: 325 laps/500.5 miles
TV: FOX , 2:30 p.m. AT
Radio: PRN and Sirius Satellite
2008 Polesitter: Jeff Gordon
2008 Winner: Kyle Busch
Schedule: (All times local ET) Friday—Practice, 3-4:30 p.m.; Qualifying, 6:45 p.m. Saturday—Practice, 11-11:45 a.m.; Final Practice, 12:20-1:20 p.m.
Year-To-Date Results & Point Standings click here
Qualifying Notes & Related News
Mark Martin won the Coors Light Pole Award for the Kobalt Tool 500 with a lap of 29.640 seconds,
Starting Lineup click here
An Interview With Polesitter Mark Martin click here
Photo Gallery - Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway click here
NASCAR Newscast - Atlanta Preview click here
NASCAR Beat Podcast - Atlanta Preview click here
- He joined Harry Gant as the only drivers to post a pole at over 50 years of age in
NASCAR premier series. Gant had three poles after turning 50. Martin's 50th birthday was Jan 9, 2009.
- This is his 42nd pole in 726 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
- Martin’s last pole was at Richmond on
May 5, 2001 – 281 races ago. Martin competed in 256 of those races.
- This is his first pole and third top-10 start in 2009.
- Martin posted six second-place starts in 2008 and
has one already this season (Daytona).
- This is his second pole in 47 races at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
- Martin has multiple top-10 starts in all
three national series at Atlanta.
- Kurt Busch (second) posted his third top-10 start of 2009 and his sixth in 17 races at Atlanta. Busch
posted his second runner-up start in as many races. He has started second four times now since his
most recent pole which came at Auto Club Speedway in September 2007.
- Jamie McMurray (third) posted his second top-10 start at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It is his second in
four races this season.
- Joe Nemechek (eighth) qualified for his third race of the season and posted his best start since he was
seventh at Talladega last October.
- Scott Speed (26th) was the fastest qualifying rookie.
- Drivers that failed to qualify include: Todd Bodine, Scott Riggs, Jeremy Mayfield and Geoff Bodine.
*Does not reflect adjustments that will be made prior to the race start because of the cars that need to go to the rear of the field due to engine changes...
- Top 12 Features Competitive, New Look...The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series just returned from Las Vegas … and, if folks could have cashed in on the odds of predicting what the series’ top 12 would look like after the season’s first three races, the payout would have been monumental.
Heading into the KOBALT Tools 500 this Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the top 12 features a new and competitive look.
Only five drivers who were in the top 12 at this point last year are in there now and there is a trio of drivers — David Reutimann (No. 00 Aarons Dream Machine Toyota), Bobby Labonte (No. 96 ASK.com Ford), and Michael Waltrip (No. 55 NAPA Toyota) — that would have been considered long shots to break into this illustrious group at the beginning of the season.
Reutimann is coming off a career-best fourth-place finish at Las Vegas and has moved up to fifth in points. A year ago, Reutimann was 31st in points after the first three races.
Labonte turned in his first top-five performance since 2006 by finishing fifth at Vegas and is 10th in points — he was 15th this time last season.
Waltrip stayed in the top 12 for the third straight week. Consider: Has 34th at this stage a year ago. Clearly, he is answering the self-imposed pressure he applied during the preseason when he said that if his 2009 results weren’t considerably improved, that he would retire.
Call it parity; call it balanced competition. But however you frame it up, the new blood in the 1op 12 certainly has made for some interesting early-season conversation — and speculation about whether these teams will be among the elite later in the season.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Labonte, the 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, following his run at Las Vegas.
“I can’t wait to get back in it and go. We’re taking it one race at a time, so I’m excited. I just feel like we’ve got all of this confidence on our side right now.”
- Jeff Gordon Returns to Familiar Position — Atop Standings...Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) is back in familiar territory.
The four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion finds himself atop the points standings heading into this week’s action at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It’s the first time since Oct. 28, 2007 that Gordon has been the series’ points leader. And, it is the first time since his championship season of 1997 that he has been the points leader after the year’s first three events. Gordon has parlayed solid finishes through the season’s first three events, including 13th at Daytona, second at Auto Club Speedway and sixth at Las Vegas, to take over the points lead.
“Three weeks in a row, I’ve felt like we have had the car that can win and that’s quite a change from last year,” said Gordon, who went winless in 2008, snapping a 14-year stretch in which he won at least one race per season.
At Atlanta this Sunday, Gordon will be looking for his first points victory since Oct. 13, 2007 (Lowe’s Motor Speedway), a winless streak of 44 races. Atlanta is the site of Gordon’s first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start (Nov. 15, 1992) and has historically been a strong track for the highly decorated driver. In 33 career starts at the 1.54-mile venue, Gordon has posted four wins, 13 top fives and 21 top 10s.
Gordon has 81 career victories — sixth most in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history. At Las Vegas this past Sunday, he eclipsed the 20,000 laps led mark and heads into Atlanta ranked seventh all-time with 20,006 laps led.
Gordon’s last series championship came in 2001. He is seeking his first title under the Chase format, after finishing seventh (2008), second (2007), sixth (2006), 11th (2005) and third (2004) in the previous five Chase seasons.
- Sunday’s Race Marks 100th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Event At Atlanta Motor Speedway...This Sunday’s running of the KOBALT Tools 500 marks the 100th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. And, if Sunday’s race is anything like the previous 99, one can expect an exciting and dramatic afternoon of competition.
Here’s a look at some of the most memorable races at AMS:
July 31, 1960—Fireball Roberts wins the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Nov. 5, 1978—Richard Petty thought he had defeated rival Cale Yarborough to win the race, however, a scoring snafu is discovered afterwards and the victory is awarded to Donnie Allison.
Nov. 15, 1992—Alan Kulwicki may have finished second in the race, but it was good enough for him to overtake Bill Elliott and claim his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship by a slim 10-point margin. Many deemed this race to be one of the greatest NASCAR races ever. It also marked the final race for Richard Petty and was the first career race for Jeff Gordon.
March 12, 2000—Dale Earnhardt beats Bobby Labonte to the checkered flag by .01 seconds to record his ninth and final victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Earnhardt’s nine wins at AMS is the most of any driver.
March 11, 2001—Kevin Harvick holds off Jeff Gordon by .006 seconds to record his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. The victory came on the heels of the tragic loss of Dale Earnhardt at Daytona just a few weeks earlier. Earnhardt’s famed black Chevrolet had been painted white and re-numbered 29, with the rookie Harvick given the daunting task of driving the car. It was an emotional win for owner Richard Childress and marked the second straight win for his team at the Atlanta spring race.
- He's back - Kyle Busch Wins At Vegas; Defending Race Winner At AMS...Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota) demonstrated once again last Sunday that he will be a force to be reckoned with in 2009.
Busch hit the jackpot at his home track in Las Vegas, winning for the first time there. His 13th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory moved him up to sixth in the points standings. Busch, who won a record 21 races across all three national series a year ago, is the defending race champion at this Sunday’s KOBALT Tools 500 in Atlanta. Knowing that he won eight times last year at the next 17 tracks that the series competes should provide reason for heartburn for the rest of the competitors.
“We didn’t let Daytona haunt us,” said Busch, referring to his car getting caught up in an accident towards the end of the race after being so dominant throughout the day. “We went to California and ran a smart race and finished third. We came here (Las Vegas) and ran a smart race and won. This could have been a 1-3-1 season thus far, but it is what it is. We’re really looking forward to getting back to Atlanta this weekend and defending our race title.”
RCR Team Posts Strong Showing At Las Vegas — Richard Childress Racing posted three top 12 finishes last week at Las Vegas. Clint Bowyer (No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet, 2nd), Jeff Burton (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, 3rd) and Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Reese’s Chevrolet, 12th) came on strong and all moved up in the points standings. Bowyer is now second, having moved up four spots and now trails leader Jeff Gordon by just 18 points. Harvick moved up five spots to 11th, while Burton jumped 13 spots to move into 18th in points.
“Rocket Man” Looks For Record Friday At Atlanta — Ryan Newman (No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet) will be shooting for his eighth career pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway this Friday, which in turn would move him past Buddy Baker for the all-time pole winner record at Atlanta. Newman has 43 career poles, a total that ranks 11th all-time.
Footnotes — Bobby Labonte has six victories at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the most of any active driver … Rookie Joey Logano (No. 20 Home Depot Toyota) posted his best NSCS finish to date last week — a 13th-place showing at Las Vegas … Carl Edwards (No. 99 AFLAC Ford) has three wins at AMS, including his first career series win in 2005 … Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford) blew an engine after only six laps at Las Vegas and dropped from first to third in points.
- Crunch Time Approaches For Top 35 Positioning...For the first five races of the season, the top 35 teams from the final 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner points get guaranteed starting spots. After the first five weeks, the guaranteed berths are based on the 2009 owner point standings. With two races remaining before the 2009 top 35 owner points come into play, there are some intriguing stories that continue to be followed:
For example: the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota driven by Joey Logano and owned by Joe Gibbs is 32nd; the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet driven by Ryan Newman and owned by Tony Stewart is 33rd; and the No. 5 CARQUEST Chevrolet driven by Mark Martin and owned by Rick Hendrick is 34th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Rebounds At Las Vegas — Dale Earnhardt Jr. posted his first top-10 finish of the season at Las Vegas last week, placing 10th. The performance moved Earnhardt up six spots to 29th in the points standings. Earnhardt still has an uphill climb, as no driver has come back from that far back (29th) after three races to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. In fact, only three drivers have made the Chase from positions lower than 25th after three races — Jeremy Mayfield from 26th in 2005; Martin Truex Jr. from 27th in 2007 and Matt Kenseth from 28th in 2005. Earnhardt remains cautiously optimistic.
“We really needed that top-10 finish,” said Earnhardt. “We know that we have to put together six or seven good weeks to give ourselves a shot at getting back into the battle for the Chase. We’ve got some good tracks coming up where we can do just that. We’ve got to keep our heads on straight and be smart.”
Earnhardt has one win (2004), eight top-five and 10 top-10 finishes at Atlanta.
- Milestones...Career milestones this week include: Bobby Labonte will be making his 550th start in NASCAR Sprint Cup
Series competition. Jeff Gordon will look to add to his 20,006 career laps led total — currently seventh on the all-time list. Clint
Bowyer has the active running at the finish record (76) — second on the all-time list. His last DNF was at Phoenix in November, 2006.
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