Photo by Heather Middleton
By Doug Gorman
Sunday's Kobalt 500 looked a little bit like a demolition derby in the final three laps of the race.
In the end, however, the winner of last year's Kobalt 500 was also the winner of this year's race, as Kurt Busch overcame two caution flags in the final three laps, winning under a green-white finish after starting the race 11th.
NASCAR allows three attempts for a green-white finish and Busch finally crossed the finish line on the second attempt.
Once racing resumed after the last caution flag, Busch jumped out to a fast start, holding off second-place finisher Matt Kenseth and Juan Pablo Montoya, who was third.
"I'm just so happy to bring this car to victory lane," Busch said. "With Steve Addington (crew chief) and all his new ideas, I never knew how we could mesh them together and how soon we were able to do it. We were able to get it right and hit just perfect with the marks today."
Busch became the first driver since Cal Yarborough in the 1960s to win back-to-back spring races in Atlanta.
It would be hard to blame Busch if he felt like he had to win the race three times because of the green-white finishes.
"I said that sarcastically on the radio, a lot of times it comes over the wrong way," Busch said. "In years past, the leader would have took the yellow, won the race, and it would have been done. Now, we have gone to multiple green and white checkered flags. You have to adjust to whatever the circumstances to win these races.
With Sunday's victory, Busch has won 21 races on the Sprint Cup circuit, including three times in Atlanta.
The late-race fireworks started when Carl Edwards, who was 156 laps downs, got into the back of Brad Keselowski, bringing out the first of the final two yellow flags with three laps to go. The crash spoiled a solid day for Keselowski who was running sixth a the time.
Keselowski, who went airborne after the crash, finished 36th.
Edwards' was pulled out of the race and ordered to meet with NASCAR officials in what could have been perceived as a revenge move between Edwards and Keselowski.
"Brad knows the deal between him and I. The scary part was his car went airborne, which was not what I expected. At the end of the day, we are here to race and people have to respect one another and I have a lot of respect for people's safety,"Edwards said.
Another caution flag involving a dozen cars came out on lap 335, again delaying the end of the race again.
Nobody exactly dominated Sunday's 500-mile "joy ride" as 13 different drivers led the race that featured 31 lead changes.
Kasey Kahne was out front the longest, leading eight times for 144 laps, but the winner of last fall's Atlanta race settled for fourth place.
For Busch, it his second top-10 finish this year. He has won at least one race in nine consecutive seasons.
Busch led six time for 129 laps, including at the end en route to the victory.
Kevin Harvick, who was ninth in the Kobalt Tools 500, left Atlanta first in the Sprint Cup points chase with 644 points. Jimmie Johnson, who has won the points title four straight years, was 11th at AMS after winning the past two weeks. Pole sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr, never led a lap Sunday and finished 15th.
Local drivers Joey Logano was 35th and David Ragan was 37th.