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Toyota rises to top in NASCAR

HAMPTON, Ga. — It was like the good old days for Joe Gibbs Racing on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway when newcomer Kyle Busch put the No.  18 in Victory Lane.

But there was a new twist — the first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory for Toyota. And Busch and teammate Tony Stewart also gave the Japanese automaker its first 1-2 finish.

It was the first win in Toyota's 40 Cup starts and confirmed that the company's signing of the power­house Gibbs team in the winter will make its Camrys, which struggled in their 2007 debut, competitive with other top teams.

"We were all apprehensive at the start of the year," said team owner Gibbs, who returned to racing full time after retiring late last year as Washington Redskins coach. "There was a huge amount of work we had to go through."

The win put the No.  18 back on top at Atlanta, where former Gibbs driver Bobby Labonte won six races in that car and was a perennial contender.

The significance was not lost on Busch.

"The 18! The 18 is back at Atlanta," Busch screamed on the radio. "Congratulations, (crew chief Steve) Addington, it's your first one."

Former crew chief Jimmy Makar, the first person Gibbs hired when he decided to go racing, radioed the winner, "Kyle Busch, this is Jimmy. Thank you for bringing the 18 back."

Busch, winning for the first time since March  25 at Bristol, took the lead for good with 50 laps to go when Carl Edwards, trying for a third straight victory, went out with a broken transmission.

Toyota's win is the first by a foreign manufacturer since Al Keller's victory in a Jaguar in Linden, N.J., in June 1954.

"It means a lot of go out and win any race any time, but especially here in Atlanta," Busch said. "This place has been such a struggle for me; I haven't had a top 10 finish here."

Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. passed Greg Biffle in the final laps to take second and third, respectively, with pole-sitter Jeff Gordon fifth.

But though Busch led 173 of the 325 laps, he deferred to Edwards as having the best car.

"Whatever he's got, it's scaring us," Busch said. "Whether it's the car or the way he's driving, we've go to figure it out."

There was plenty of speculation that Roush Fenway Racing used shady methods to win the previous two races after the No.  99 car failed inspection March  2 at Las Vegas. The lid on the oil tank was missing, which might have meant an aerodynamic advantage.

Team owner Jack Roush insisted there was nothing intentional about the violation, but NASCAR docked the team 100 points and suspended crew chief Bob Osborne for six weeks.

With four fresh tires, Edwards was fourth on a Lap  236 restart. He was first within four laps and built a lead of more than seven seconds.

"There's been a lot of stuff said, but I think this shows we have a fast car and they're going to have to deal with us every week," Edwards said.

.FAST FACTS

Sprint Cup

point standings

Through four of 36 races. The top 12 through 26 races qualify for the Chase for the Champion­ship.

Driver Pts. Back

Kyle Busch 665—

Greg Biffle 592 73

Kevin Harvick 574 91

Ryan Newman 571 94

Jeff Burton 555 110

Dale Earnhardt Jr. 531 134

Kasey Kahne 528 137

Tony Stewart 525 140

Brian Vickers 491 174

Kurt Busch 478 187

Martin Truex 471 194

Matt Kenseth 470 195

Note: Points unofficial; NASCAR posts official standings today

Toyota rises to top in NASCAR 03/09/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:34am]
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