Kyle Busch spent the first 300 miles of the Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway complaining about his race car. First, it was "plowing." Then it was "way too loose."
By end of the 500 miles, though, Busch was the man out front, as he held off a fast-closing Joey Logano to win his fourth race of the season and clinch a spot in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The complexion of the race changed with 37 laps to go when Jimmie Johnson ran into the back of Jeff Burton, who had slowed to make a pit stop. This brought out the seventh caution flag of the evening.
Busch won the race off pit road to vault into the lead, and he was able to hold onto the top spot through three restarts.
Logano, who led a race-high 78 laps, was fifth with 15 laps to go, and he was second with three laps remaining. However, he ran out of time in his bid to catch and pass Busch.
Martin Truex Jr., who was racing with a broken right wrist, finished third followed by Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers.
Kurt Busch moved into the top 10 in the point standings with his fourth-place finish. After the next race, Saturday at Richmond, Va., the top 10 in the standings will make the Chase as well as two wild cards. The wild-card entries will go to the two drivers with the most wins who rank 11 through 20th in the standings. Kasey Kahne and Truex hold those two spots.
Harvick, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch all clinched spots Sunday night, bringing the total of drivers who are guaranteed spots in the Chase to six. The first three to clinch were Jimmie Johnson, Bowyer and Matt Kenseth.
Clint Bowyer began the night one of three drivers who had clinched a spot in the Chase for the Championship. As a result, Toyota and the team agreed to run a different engine combination than the rest of the Toyota teams in hopes of getting an edge for the Chase. For 192 laps, the decision looked like a great one, as Bowyer dominated the first half of the race. However, on lap 193, while leading by a comfortable margin, Bowyer suffered engine failure.
The resulting yellow flag, the fifth of the evening, was a big break for Logano. Logano had to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 101 for a "bad vibration." It turned out that the vibration was caused by three loose lug nuts on the left rear wheel.
Logano was able to get back on the lead lap when the rest of the lead-lap cars made their scheduled pit stops, and he led for a while before Bowyer ran him down. Logano was within a couple of laps of being forced to pit when Bowyer had his engine problems. Logano was running second at the time and was able to get back on the same pit cycle as the rest of the top 10.
The top five off pit road during that yellow flag were Carl Edwards, Gordon, Logano, Jamie McMurray and Brad Keselowski. The green came back out on lap 198, and by lap 202, Logano had raced his way to the front.
Two laps later, Paul Menard punted Denny Hamlin, sending Hamlin spinning to bring out the sixth yellow flag. Logano and Edwards decided not to pit while the rest of the lead-lap cars all pitted for four tires.
The restart came on lap 212, and Keselowski immediately raced his way to the top spot.
The top five with a 100 laps to go were Keselowski, Logano, Newman, Harvick and Marcos Ambrose.
On lap 244, Keselowski lost a cylinder and fell off the pace. He was forced to limp his way around the track in hopes of getting to the finish.
Keselowski's night ended with 15 laps to go when the engine finally stopped running. He finished 35th.
"We can't control engine problems, and we were doing pretty well with what we could control," said Keselowski, whose chances of making the Chase were all but eliminated. "We were leading when it broke. There is nothing more we could have done."
Keselowski, the reigning Sprint Cup champion, started the race in 11th place in the standings. He is now 28 points out of the top 10 with only one race to go before the drivers for the Chase are determined.
With 100 miles to go, the top 10 was Logano, Newman, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Earnhardt, Gordon, McMurray, Ambrose, Montoya and Burton.