In A Nutshell: Richard Childress Racing seems to own the Busch Series this year, and Saturday’s race at Atlanta did nothing to change that perception. Jeff Burton made it back-to-back wins for RCR with a victory in the Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. And, just like in Vegas, Burton won at Kyle Busch's expense. The No. 5 car driven by Busch dominated the day, but was relegated to the back of the field after a miscue on the final pit stop, leaving Burton free to drive off to the win. The No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet was followed to the line by his RCR teammate Kevin Harvick; Busch rallied for third, followed by points leader Carl Edwards and Casey Mears to round out the Top 5.
Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch. Burton might have been the one in Victory Lane, but to be honest, he spent most of the day swapping second place with Matt Kenseth while Busch drove off into the sunset. It was a missing lugnut on the final pit stop that left Busch in 15th when the green flag flew for the final time with 21 laps remaining, and it proved too big of a deficit for what was easily the best car on the track to overcome. Busch led 143 of the 195 laps before the pit problem and charged his way through the field to end up third.
Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend
1) What was with all the hard hits?
It was a tough day out there for the Busch-only drivers, with several ending their days with hard crashes. Jason Leffler bounced off the wall after a tire failure and collected Reed Sorenson, causing heavy damage and spreading so much debris across the track that the field has to be taken down pit road during the caution. Steven Wallace and Jon Wood also got together hard, destroying both cars in the process and ending what could have been promising days for both. And in perhaps the most bizarre incident of the day, Lucky Dog recipient Kyle Krisiloff was moving past the field during caution to come around and get his lap back when he collided hard with the back of Tony Raines, who swerved in front of him while warming his tires. It seems that while the fast speeds of Atlanta produce great racing, they also can cause things to go dangerously wrong in a hurry.
2) Was it luck or skill?
Jamie McMurray spun on the frontstretch after contact from behind from David Stremme, but managed not to hit a thing and get his car back under control. At one point, both back wheels of McMurray’s car were off the ground, so that would lead one to conclude it was pure luck. Whatever the case, it sure looked cool.
3) Will Juan Pablo Montoya get his wish and win on an oval soon?
Montoya had a lot to learn about stock cars, but so far, he’s proven a quick study. While he won on the road course at Mexico, Montoya was expected to do well there; certainly, ovals are a whole different animal. But Juan Pablo made a good case to prove his worth on the “circle tracks” in Atlanta, finishing eighth on a track he'd never seen before.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle:
The highest finishing non-Cup regular was Indy Racing League star Sam Hornish, Jr., coming home 15th for his career high Busch Series finish. The best performance among regular Busch Series drivers was Mike Wallace in 17th. Juan Pablo Montoya wrapped up Raybestos Rookie of the Race honors with an eighth place result.
Carl Edwards is still holding strong atop the Busch Series points standings while Kevin Harvick moves back up to second, 144 points behind Edwards, in spite of running one fewer race so far. Dave Blaney remains third, 169 points behind the leader. Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin round out the Top 5. Tony Stewart, Raybestos Rookie contender Marcos Ambrose, Mike Wallace, and Jeff Burton are sixth through ninth. Juan Pablo Montoya, another Raybestos Rookie, completes the Top 10.
Buschwhackers in this race: 26
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 108 of 213
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10: 10
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10 YTD: 40 of 50
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 5 of 5
Buschwhackers ranked in Top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 8
"We ended up 17th and what we did, we were good enough that we stopped and topped off with fuel. We stayed out and played the fuel gamble and it paid off. We were getting ready to get bit by it but it didn't happen. We stayed out so long the other guys had new tires and had so much time on us, but then they crashed on the back straightaway. It worked out well. Sometimes you're not the fastest, you just try to be the smartest [smiles]." Mike Wallace
"It's just one of those racing things. It's absolutely stupid. It shouldn't have happened. NASCAR tells you to go to the outside, that's where you supposed to go, and we were going along on the outside. The spotter is supposed to tell the driver to pull over and Tony [Raines] just didn't know and whether he was talking to his crew chief, he didn't get the message. It's nothing that he did. That kind of stuff just shouldn't happen. It's really tough to swallow. We just don't have that many cars, so to wreck one doing something like that, it really hurts. In that situation, the driver is definitely not to blame. He was warming up his tires. In your mirror you can see a little bit behind you but your spotter has to tell you â€˜Lucky Dog is coming to the outside, move over.' I'm not mad at Tony at all. It's one of those racing things and it really, really hurts." Kyle Krisiloff
"For me this is probably bigger than winning in Mexico City. Honestly, it's huge." Juan Pablo Montoya
"I felt pretty happy with how we ran today. Definitely think we could have been better but had that small problem, the speed violation. That's really my first green-flag pit stop in these kind of cars and it takes some getting used to. I'm just happy that Penske Truck Rental came on and helped us out this weekend. It's nice to be able to put the car in the trailer in one piece and not a bunch of bent up sheet metal. It makes us look forward to coming back and trying it again." Sam Hornish, Jr.
Next Up: The Busch Series does some short track racing at its finest with a trip to Bristol Motor Speedway. The Sharpie Mini 300 can be seen on Saturday, March 24th at 3:00 PM ET on ABC.
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