The two races contested in 2008 at Atlanta Motor Speedway were very kind to Kyle Busch.
In March of that year, Busch raced all the way to victory lane at Atlanta, ending a 147-race drought for Joe Gibbs Racing’s (JGR) No. 18 team and notching the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win for Toyota as a manufacturer, as well as his first of 20 total NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins for JGR.
In October 2008, Busch continued his strong season at Atlanta as he brought home a solid fifth-place finish.
In the five Sprint Cup races contested at Atlanta since 2008, however, the 1.5-mile oval has not been too kind to Busch and the No. 18 team, with only one top-10 finish to their credit.
With that in mind, the driver of the No. 18 Doublemint® Toyota Camry for JGR and his entire team will be rolling up their sleeves and getting to work this Labor Day weekend in hopes of rekindling some of that 2008 magic at Atlanta as the series returns for Sunday night’s AdvoCare 500.
An Atlanta resurgence would come at a very opportune time for Busch, who hopes to protect the wild-card berth he currently holds into the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship with two races remaining before the Chase begins Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
Only the top-10 in points are locked into the 12-driver, 10-race Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. In the event of multiple drivers having the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
The talented 27-year-old jumped back into the final wild-card spot after his sixth-place finish Saturday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Busch’s victory on April 28 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, combined with his 13th position in the point standings – which is higher than his fellow single-race winners in the top-20 in points – Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Marcos Ambrose and JGR teammate Joey Logano – has earned him a Chase berth for the time being.
While a win á lá March 2008 would certainly be a boost for Busch’s Chase hopes, he knows just a solid run could well put him in the driver’s seat.
With one of his best racetracks coming up next weekend at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, where his average finish is a series-best 4.7, Busch and the Doublemint team are highly motivated to go to work in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend bent on improving their recent results there. They don’t necessarily have to repeat their 2008 victory, by any means, but it sure could make the following weekend’s visit to Richmond for the final regular-season race a whole lot less stressful.