‘Have at it,boys’ Kurt Busch wins in dramatic Kobalt Tools 500
By RICK MINTER / Cox Newspapers
NASCAR’s new “Have at it, boys” approach to racing played a major role in the finish of Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But none of the late-race wrecking seemed to slow Kurt Busch, who got his third career Sprint Cup victory at AMS and his second straight in the spring race.
Busch was cruising at the front, finally having dispatched his chief challenger, Kasey Kahne, when Carl Edwards, running 156 laps in arrears, appeared to use his front bumper to retaliate against Brad Keselowski for a Lap 41 incident between the two of them.
Keselowski’s Dodge flew upside down and into the wall, but he escaped unhurt. Edwards was parked for the remainder of the race and summoned to NASCAR’s mobile office afterward.
The wreck was eerily similar to the one between the two of them at Talladega last year, where it was Edwards who flew into the fence after contact with Keselowski, who won that race.
“It was a wild ride, uncalled for,” Keselowski said of his AMS crash. “It could’ve killed somebody in the grandstand or on the track. We will hurt someone either in a car or in the grandstand.”
NASCAR vice president Robin Pemberton told reporters Sunday night that the Edwards-Keselowski crash looked like payback on Edwards’ part. He said officials will meet at the NASCAR facility in Concord, N.C., early this week to contemplate further penalties.
“It’s always a concern when you see retaliation and there are different levels of it,” he said. “We don’t rush to judgment on Sunday nights and make penalties. That’s why we take our time and go back and talk it about it some more.”
Edwards all but said he wrecked Keselowski intentionally. He was way behind at that point, having wrecked on the start after contact with Keselowski, contact he at first indicated was not his foe’s fault.
Afterward, he wasn’t so gracious.
“Brad knows the deal between him and I,” he said. “The car went airborne, which wasn’t what I expected. I wish it wouldn’t have gone like it did.”
The wreck bunched the field, sent the race into overtime and allowed the top running drivers to hit pit road for fresh rubber. Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray took just right-side tires and lined up in the first three spots, with Busch fourth, leading a string of drivers who took four. When the green flag dropped, Busch bolted in between Bowyer and Menard and sprinted away.
Busch said he knew Menard would be protecting the bottom and Bowyer would be looking out for his territory on the outside.
“We were on offense and shot through there like a slingshot,” Busch said.
Matt Kenseth finished second, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya and Kahne.
A wreck that same lap set up a second try at a green-white-checkered finish – a new wrinkle in the rules this year allows up to three tries – and Busch prevailed over the final two laps to get the victory in a race that wound up being 525 miles long. It was the third straight win at AMS for Dodge, and the 22nd of Busch’s career. He pushed his streak of winning at least one race a year nine consecutive seasons, and he also got his first victory with his new crew chief Steve Addington. The crew boss worked with the other Busch brother, Kyle, before being released late last season. Kurt Busch gave Addington much of the credit for his team’s latest success, and Addington seemed to appreciate the unwavering support of his new driver.
“It’s a good feeling to know your driver wants you to go to work for him,” said Addington, who got his first Cup win at AMS with the other Busch in the spring of 2008.