By Joe Dunn
On a beautiful sunny Sunday in Hampton, Ga, Dale Earnhardt Jr took the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. But that lead would fall to Kyle Busch by the time they got back to the line.
Robbie Gordon’s day ended only four laps into the race when a flat tire put him into the wall. Carl Edwards suffered extensive damage after a tap by Brad Keselowski sent the 99 Aflac Ford up into the 20 Home Depot Toyota of Joey Logano. Logano was able to get service and remain on the lead lap, but for Edwards it would be a long afternoon in the garage.
It became evident early in the .race that the new Goodyear tire was not living up to expectations. Goodyear began dismissing the early tire failures to punctures, but on Kyle Busch’s situation, they insisted it was because of excessive camber. By 200 laps into the race, it seemed that all of the teams were dismissing Goodyear’s take on the tire. The tire wear was excessive throughout the race, but most would agree that the old track surface, that nobody wants replace is very coarse, which leads to tire wear.
By lap 250 it was clearly not a Hendrick day, except of course for Jimmie Johnson who was running third. The other three HMS cars were running 23rd, Mark Martin 1 lap down, 30th Jeff Gordon and 31st Dale Earnhardt Jr, both 2 laps down.
The eight caution of the day came out on lap 288 sending all the leaders to the pits. Jimmie Johnson loses several spots after overshooting his pit stall. When another caution waves on lap 293 Knaus calls Johnson back in for work on the right front. The tire taken off on the previous stop showed damage to the inside. On a previous caution, Johnson had driven up the track and into Ryan Newman, that apparently caused damage to the fender brace which began cutting the tire. Johnson returned to the track 18th.
With three laps to go, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski made contact near the start/finish line turning the 12 car that then went airborne and rolled side over side. That of course ended Keselowski’s day and NASCAR parked Edwards for the remainder of the day and called for him to the NASCAR hauler. Carl’s comment was “I didn’t mean for him to go airborne.” after a brief visit in the NASCAR ‘office’ Carl was last seen heading out the gate.
On the restart on lap 332 Jamie McMurray gets loose in turn 4 as numerous cars are involved, bringing out the 11th caution of the day and setting up the second Green/White/Checker attempt..
The final restart on lap 340 go clear all the way as Kurt Busch ran away from the field looking like he was out there by himself doing qualifying laps. Busch easily cruised to the checkered flag to take the win. Matt Kenseth finished a strong second, followed by Juan Montoya third, with Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard rounding out the top five. The sixth through tenth place finishers were A.J. Allmendinger, Brian Vickers, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick and Scott Speed.
The win moves Kurt Busch up 9 position to 10th in the points. Kevin Harvick continues to lead the points, followed by Matt Kenseth, (up 2 spots), Greg Biffle third, (up 3 spots), Jimmie Johnson , (who finished 12th moves up one spot) 4th. Clint Bowyer dropped 3 spots to 5th. Rounding out the top ten in points are Jeff Burton 6th, Mark Martin 7th, Tony Stewart 8th, Paul Menard 9th and Kurt Busch.