Sunday, March 7, 2010
Updated: May 6, 11:59 AM ET
Wild finish steals spotlight from Busch
By David Newton
HAMPTON, Ga. -- We had Brad Keselowski going airborne and Carl Edwards being parked for helping him go airborne, maybe even facing a fine or suspension over the next two days. We had two green-white-checkered finishes because of a multicar wreck on the first one.
We had the No. 3 in the top 10 on the infield scoring tower.
Yes, it was a crazy day at Atlanta Motor Speedway, much crazier than it needed to be.
The postrace news conference was just as bizarre, as winning crew chief Steve Addington got as much, maybe more, attention than driver Kurt Busch did for winning this Sprint Cup event for the second straight year.
Not to take away from what Busch accomplished, but he, as one spotter said during the closing laps before all hell broke loose, was "driving his b---- off." He took the lead with a spectacular move through the middle of two cars on the first green-white-checkered and never gave runner-up Matt Kenseth and third-place finisher Juan Pablo Montoya a chance on the second.
But it was Addington who seemingly got more pleasure in the victory because of what happened late last year.
Let me refresh your memory: Addington was the crew chief for Kurt's younger brother, Kyle Busch, at Joe Gibbs Racing. With three races remaining, he was replaced despite winning four races that season and 12 over the better part of two seasons. (Only four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson had won more.)
He handled it graciously, biting his lip instead of saying how much it really hurt.
On Sunday, when asked if he felt vindication, he let go.
"If I denied that I would be lying," said Addington, flashing a smile that said it all. "It feels good. It honestly feels good to be with this race team, with Kurt as the driver and come back and win before the 18 has a chance to win. That's a personal deal.
"I'm still great friends with Kyle and everything, but it's a good feeling. It's a relief in a certain way."
Addington went on to praise his Penske Racing team, seemingly his way of saying how much better he has it with the elder Busch instead of his temperamental brother.
"He's been awesome to work with," Addington said of Kurt. "Great feedback. The thing that I enjoy about it is we can sit in that lounge three hours after practice, and after he finally looks through all that stuff ... he'll go, 'All right, what do you want to do now?'
"It's very satisfying to be working with Kurt right now. I'm looking forward to it. I think that great things can happen with this race team."
Not much great happened for Addington and Busch in the first three races. Busch finished 23rd in the Daytona 500 after qualifying 10th and leading 33 laps. After a sixth at California, he finished 35th at Las Vegas after sitting on the pole.
After what we saw on Sunday, perhaps they have the right chemistry to take Busch back to the level he was at in 2004, when he won the championship. Perhaps Addington's calm demeanor that never could sooth Kyle is what Kurt had been missing.
There certainly were times on this mostly sun-splashed day when Busch could have lost his cool and thrown a profanity-laced fit like he's prone to, but he didn't. Addington constantly was there telling him he was the best and that he believed he would win.
Maybe that's because Busch believed in Addington when he needed it most last year.
"I'm at a point, let's move on past that," Addington said. "But this guy right here, he's the first one that called. So it's a good feeling to know that the driver wants you to come over here and go work for him.
"That's the most satisfying thing, to get him to Victory Lane."
There were times when it appeared that might not happen, particularly with two laps remaining when Montoya had closed to within half a second before the Keselowski-Edwards incident triggered the first green-white-checkered finish.
Montoya easily could be as mad at Edwards as Keselowski, who called for Edwards to be suspended. There was no reason for Edwards, 156 laps behind, to punt Busch's Penske Racing teammate even though Keselowski triggered an early race incident that put him so far behind.
Had that not happened, Montoya may have gotten past Busch on the final lap to collect his first Cup win on an oval.
"I thought if I got anywhere close to him, I'm sure I could make a move," Montoya said.
That would have made for a fantastic finish without all the chaos at the end. Eight cars were trashed during the first lap of the initial green-white-checkered finish, and you knew it was going to happen because of the way the field was shuffled with fast cars on four new tires and cars with no chance on two or none.
"The first time I saw the replay was on the Speed Channel Victory Lane show," Busch said. "I was a bit disturbed by what I had seen. To see a guy that's a hundred laps down take out a guy that's run really well, that was a tough, tough pill to swallow."
But Busch never thought he was going to lose, even when Montoya was closing on him.
"It was about to get interesting," Busch said. "I saw the gap I had back to him, you know, starting to decrease a little bit. He could have gotten to our outside coming to the checkered, but there was no way he was going to get by the Miller Lite Dodge."
That's the finish we should have seen.
But because of an ill-conceived move by Edwards, we were deprived. Because of it we had a wild finish that overshadowed Busch's win and even Addington's revenge.
It was a crazy day at Atlanta Motor Speedway, much crazier than it needed to be.
|The No. 2 crew helped fuel Kurt Busch's march to Victory Lane at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday.|
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.