Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Busch locks up Chase spot, wins in Atlanta


HAMPTON, Ga. — With a big hand from his pit crew, Kyle Busch locked up his spot in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship with his fourth victory of the year Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Busch emerged with the lead in the Advocare 500 after a rapid-fire series of caution flags near the end, and held off Joey Logano to win by 0.740 seconds.

"My boys on pit road," Busch said. "They're amazing. I would do anything for them."

Martin Truex, racing with a broken right wrist, was third on the 1.54-mile trioval, followed by Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman.

Kyle Busch was among four drivers locking up their spot in the Chase heading to Saturday's regular-season finale at Richmond. He was joined by Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne, who fell four spots to 12th in points but clinched no worse than a wild-card spot thanks to his two victories this season.

The top 10 in points plus the two drivers with the most victories from spots 11-20 earn berths. Aside from Kahne, 13th-place Truex also holds a wild-card spot.

Points leader Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth had already claimed playoff berths before Atlanta.

Jeff Gordon, Juan Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Harvick and Brian Vickers rounded out the top 10 in the race. Tampa's Aric Almirola finished 20th, two laps down, and Zephyrhills' David Reutimann was 32nd.

Busch earned his 16th win this year in NASCAR's top three series. He has nine in Nationwide, three in trucks.

Busch took the lead with 36 laps remaining during a pit stop under caution, beating Newman and Logano off pit road, and led the rest of the way. Logano came into pit road with the lead.

Logano had the fastest car at the end, and led a race-high 78 laps, but ran out of time to catch Busch.

"It's just frustrating," Logano told ESPN. "But in the grand scheme of things, it's a big points day for us to get into the Chase going to Richmond. This helps us a lot. A win would've helped a lot more."

Bowyer, who led 48 laps, radioed his crew at about halfway that something didn't seem right in his No. 15 car. On Lap 193, smoke started pouring from the back of his Toyota going into Turn 1. He headed straight for the garage.

"I don't think they wanted to believe me," Bowyer said about his crew. "But I was pretty sure what I was hearing."

At least Bowyer won't have to worry about a poor finish — 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 the lead on Lap 213 of 325 and held it for 31 laps. But his engine dropped a couple of cylinders and the car fell back, finally sputtering to a stop with 18 laps to go. He finished 35th and likely needs a victory at Richmond to even have a shot at a second straight title. He slipped to 15th in the standings, 28 points behind 10th-place Kurt Busch.

"There's just some things you can't control," Keselowski said. "I guess we'll look at the positive. We were leading the race when it broke. We were doing all the right things. We just didn't put all the pieces together."

Truex made it through the three-hour, 42-minute race, though his cast was in tatters at the end.

"It hurts like hell when you're steering the car," he said.

Sprint Cup points

After 25 of 36 races, including Sunday's Advocare 500 at Atlanta. The top 10 in points plus two wild cards after 26 races (with Saturday's race at Richmond being the cutoff) make the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

^Jimmie Johnson 837—

^Clint Bowyer 809 28

^Kevin Harvick 795 42

^Carl Edwards 795 42

^Kyle Busch 786 51

^Matt Kenseth 768 69

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 750 87

Joey Logano 729 108

Greg Biffle 727 110

Kurt Busch 719 118

Jeff Gordon 713 124

^Kasey Kahne* 709 128

Martin Truex* 704 133

Ryan Newman 699 138

Brad Keselowski 691 146

^ — Clinched a Chase spot * — Wild-card leaders Note: NASCAR posts official results today

Up next

Federated Auto Parts 400, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

TV/radio: Ch. 28, 102.5-FM


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