For the fourth time in his career, Kurt Busch earned a perfect driver rating of 150.0 according to NASCAR's loop data, continuing his reign as the only man to earn more than one perfect rating among the eight instances since the loop data statistics were instituted in 2005.
Busch's #2 Miller Lite Dodge held off Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon in a dramatic overtime finish to win the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, having survived the attentions of Brian Vickers prior to a late-race caution.
“That was an incredible race, unbelievable,” said Busch, who won for the second time in Atlanta, “Penske p-p-p-power, it's back and it feels awesome.”
The yellows waved with three laps to go as tyre and bodywork debris flew from Robby Gordon's car, setting up a dramatic ending. All the leaders pitted, including a fuel-concerned Busch and second place man Vickers, but it was Carl Edwards who, having taken just two tyres to his rivals' four - emerged from the pits in the lead.
When the race restarted for a green-white-chequered finish, however, Busch and Gordon made quick work of Edwards' old rubber, blasting by him exiting turn two. Gordon had a run outside for the lead, but Busch blocked and swung high to shut the door, cementing his first win of the season.
“I had a run on the #2, but he saw me coming, and we just about got in the fence going in [turn] one,” Gordon said, having had to back off to save his car.
That opened the door for Edwards, who reclaimed second place as they took the white flag, and the battle for second gave Busch enough of a cushion to seal his win, even as Gordon closed in again during the charge to the chequer.
“It's great to be back in Victory Lane and hoist that trophy,” said Busch, who won for the first time since June 2008 and celebrated with a victory lap driven entirely in reverse.
“Knowing that we went through some hard times last year, today leaves me speechless because of how much hard work has gone in,” he noted.
by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service