HAMPTON, Ga. – Kurt Busch was running out front with three laps to go when things really got interesting.
First, a frightening crash that seemed intentional between two feuding drivers.
Then, another spinning, slamming melee before the white flag came out.
“We’ve got to win this race three times, maybe even four times,” a frustrated Busch said on his radio.
Not to worry. Busch survived a couple of overtime restarts and 16 extra laps to win again Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a race marred by accusations that Carl Edwards purposely wrecked Brad Keselowski’s car, sending it hurtling toward the main stands upside down.
Busch won the spring race at the 1.54-mile trioval for the second year in a row, beating Matt Kenseth to the line by nearly half a second in the Kobalt Tools 500. Juan Pablo Montoya was third, followed by Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard.
“The Deuce is back, baby!” Busch said after his No. 2 Dodge took the checkered flag.
The race went 341 laps instead of its scheduled 325 because of two big crashes near the end. The first one drew the most attention.
Edwards, running 156 laps behind, clipped Keselowski and caused his car to spin, then lift into the air at about 190 mph. It smashed into the barrier in front of the stands roof-first, then flipped back onto the track right side up. Keselowski was OK, but NASCAR ordered Edwards to park his car and summoned him to its trailer.
“That’s not cool,” Keselowski said. “He could have killed someone in the grandstands.”
NASCAR put off a decision on whether to discipline Edwards until at least today.
On the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, another crash took out seven cars coming through turns three and four. Finally, they got in two clean laps, and it was Busch all the way for his third career win in Atlanta.
“You have to adjust to whatever circumstances there are to win these races,” said Busch, who claimed his 21st victory overall and snapped Jimmie Johnson’s two-race winning streak. “I felt we won the race outright today.”
Keselowki and Edwards were involved in a spectacular crash while racing for the win at Talladega last year.
Early in Sunday’s race, there was more trouble between those two. Keselowski nicked Edwards coming through a turn, which sent him crashing into Joey Logano. Edwards spent much of the day in the garage, but returned to take out his frustration in what appeared to be an intentional tap on Keselowski coming across the start-finish line.
“Brad knows the deal between him and I,” Edwards said. “The scary part was his car went airborne, which was not what I expected at all.”
Johnson got as high as third, but a bad pit stop and a scrape with Ryan Newman cost Johnson a chance to become the first driver since 2007 to make it three in a row. He finished 12th.