Atlanta Wrap-Up: Rowdy Turns It Up & Locks Up Chase Spot

Kyle Busch came up one spot shy of the win Saturday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but made up for it in a big way by taking the checkered flag in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series main event. 

In a race dominated by Joey Logano, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing pit crew were able to get the job on pit road, while he took care of business on the track. 

Taking his fourth win of 2013, Busch is now locked into the Chase and tied with Jimmie Johnson with the second-most wins of the season.

"Tonight was a great night," Busch said. "Now we go to Richmond, one of my favorite places, so hopefully we can capitalize there with another strong run, and just kind of keep the momentum going."

Leading 78 of the 325 laps, Logano looked as if he was on track to earn his second win in three races. However, struggles on pit road cost the Penske Racing driver valuable track position on a night when restarts were key to success.

Despite missing out on the win, Logano jumped two spots in the standings to eighth, 10 points ahead of 10th-place Kurt Busch.

"I feel like with three straight top 5s right now we have a really shot at (being a favorite to win the Chase)," Logano said. "I think you can’t count us out right now."

Perhaps the award for toughest driver in Sunday’s race should go to Michael Waltrip Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. 

The driver of the No. 56 Toyota recorded a much-needed third place finish while driving with a cast. Truex Jr. suffered a broken wrist following a hard wreck last Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. Undeterred, he not only finished third, but contended for the win late in the race.

"It hurts like hell when you’re in there just steering the car," Truex Jr. said. 

He will undoubtedly face another test next weekend at Richmond International Raceway as he attempts to race his way into the Chase. 

Truex Jr. may have been the toughest driver in the field, but there’s no doubt Kurt Busch had the most, well, let’s call them guts.

Looking for his first win for Furniture Row Racing and give the team its first spot in the Chase, Busch was on a mission Sunday night. Incredibly, he drove from 10th to second in just two corners on a restart, leaving many to simply watch in awe – almost everybody. 

The elder Busch went on to finish fourth and move to 10th in the standings.

While these drivers had a solid night in Atlanta, that was not the case for everyone. 

Hendrick Motorsports’ summer woes continued, as three of their drivers – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne – were all involved in one incident when Jeff Gordon (also a Hendrick car) spun the tires on a restart. 

Kahne certainly got the worst end of the deal, as he was forced behind the wall for repairs. 

Johnson’s night would not get any better, as he would later hit the carcass of a tire cut by Paul Menard, and then spin trying to avoid Jeff Burton as he entered pit road. 

Clint Bowyer’s night was looking on the up-and-up after Johnson’s struggles, as the Michael Waltrip Racing driver was leading the race and poised to take command of the points if all went according to plan. Unfortunately for Bowyer and his No. 15 crew, that was not the case.

A blown motor while leading ended their hopes at victory and sent the team packing for the night. 

Defending champion Brad Keselowski shared in Bowyer’s pain, as a promising night also went bad while leading. The Penske Racing driver was looking to gain ground in the points, but instead would end the night in the garage and fall to 15th in the standings, 28 points behind Kurt Busch in 10th.

But perhaps it was Denny Hamlin that ultimately had the worst night in Atlanta. 

Already suffering his worst season to date, Hamlin’s night got off to a rough start when he and Paul Menard got together on the track. 

While making repairs on pit road, the No. 11 team made adjustments to the car outside the pit box and NASCAR issued a penalty. A miscommunication with the team and NASCAR sent Hamlin off in the car, while crew chief Darian Grubb pleaded their case with the officials. 

Things only got worse for Hamlin, as he was later spun by Menard and turned into the outside wall. Hamlin ended the day 38th, with his sixth DNF of the season. 

Next week, it’s off to the short track in Richmond, Va. where the 12-driver Chase field will be set. There’s sure to be plenty of action, as drivers fight to be part of the championship battle.