It was another strong night for Joe Gibbs Racing with all three cars starting in the top ten for the second consecutive week and, like Bristol just one week ago, a strong run by Denny Hamlin would once again end in victory lane. While Hamlin led the way with his Series leading fourth win of the season in Sunday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch put together another strong run for a sixth-place finish and Joey Logano battled back from a flat right front tire and a stomach virus to finish 18th.
Hamlin started the No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota in seventh and was good from the drop of the green flag as he raced into the top five in the opening 10 laps, took fourth on lap 12, third on lap 15, and was into second by lap 17. Hamlin would finally take the lead on lap 34 and, like last week in Bristol, it became a familiar spot as he would lead a race-high seven times for 105 laps.
The Sport Clips Camry would become a bit tight in the center of the turns, but it still proved fast throughout the night as Hamlin remained in the top three. Hamlin was running third late in the race when the No. 1 car would blow a right front tire, bringing out a late caution. All the leaders made the move to come down pit road for four tires and a splash of fuel, but it was the 11 crew that put together an incredible stop to put their driver out in front of the field for a final restart and a green white checker finish. From there Hamlin took over, grabbing the lead and then holding off the No. 24 car of Jeff Gordon to claim the win.
Busch started the No. 18 Doublemint Toyota in the third position and also quickly proved to have one of the best cars on the track as he went to the front of the field on lap 16. Much like his teammate Hamlin, Busch would find his way to the front of the field several times, leading four different times for a total of 101 laps. Busch would battle inside the top five throughout the night but tight conditions late would cost him some track position and he would be running sixth when a final caution on lap 320 came out.
The 18 team pitted with many of the leaders and when a few made the decision to take two tires, Busch was left to restart in ninth for a final green white checker finish. Busch would make up the lost ground over the final two laps to finish with a strong sixth-place run. Busch is currently 12th in points and remains in the second of two wild card positions with one race to go before the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship is set.
Logano’s weekend proved to be a difficult one before he even went behind the wheel of his No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Sunday night. Logano qualified the car ninth on Friday night, but then had to battle a stomach illness that caused him to miss the final two practices of the weekend. Logano spent much of the early portion of the race battling tight conditions as he raced just outside the top ten. On lap 147, he would radio in that he would be coming down pit road to change a right front tire that was going flat.
The No. 20 Home Depot Camry made it to the pits for the change, but it left Logano a lap off the pace and with a long green flag run, he would eventually go down two laps to the field. From there it became a battle just to return to the lead lap, which he was able to do late in the race. Despite the illness and the setback of the flat tire, Logano still managed to fight for an 18th-place finish. He remains in the Chase hunt with one race to go and likely needs a victory in Richmond to claim a spot.
Jeff Gordon was second behind Hamlin, while Brad Keselowski was third, Martin Truex, Jr. fourth and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 31 laps with 18 lead changes among seven different drivers.
The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship will be set following next weekend’s race in Richmond. The race will be held next Saturday night, September 8 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. ABC will provide live high-definition coverage of the race starting at 7 p.m. Eastern. Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90 and MRN Radio will also provide live coverage.
Information was provided by JoeGibbsRacing.com
Chris Creighton is a NASCAR Media member and a writer for RantSports.com. You can follow him @FlagofCaution on Twitter for all the latest updates in NASCAR.