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Kurt Busch makes the most of it with new crew chief Steve Addington, winning Atlanta

  Kurt Busch puts Roger Penske's Dodge in victory lane at Atlanta Motor Speedway, in a wild -- too wild? -- finish (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   When NASCAR's Brian France declared a few weeks ago that NASCAR is a contact sport, and he expected contact, well, this is what NASCAR wanted:  A wild, slam-bang race, a zany finish....
   But Sunday's Atlanta 500 was a bit over-the-top.
   And driver Brad Keselowski, whose aggressive driving in his few months on the tour has made him more than a fair share of enemies, warned that unless NASCAR officials handle things well, in the fallout of this race, someone in the grandstands might get killed by a flying car.
   So now what?
   Kurt Busch – now powered by new crew chief Steve Addington -- beat Matt Kenseth, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kasey Kahne to win Sunday's Atlanta 500, in the second overtime.
    Busch was on the point for the final restart, after surviving a crash-marred first overtime. And when his challengers jammed up behind him, Busch was all but home free, holding off Kenseth for a four-length win.
   However, it was the Carl Edwards-Keselowski battling that may be the real storyline. And Keselowki, remember, is Kurt Busch's new teammate.
   When NASCAR officials a few weeks ago said 'Boys, have at it,' in announcing a new 'hands-off' policy of policing on-track bumping, they said they were going to let drivers police themselves.
   But here Sunday things might have gone over the line, a little out of hand, in two crashes involving Edwards and Keselowski.
   The second crash was eerily similar to the crash these two had the final lap at Talladega last spring when battling for the win. In that race Edwards was leading the last lap and Keselowski was trying to pass down low; when Edwards moved low to block, Keselowski, remembering the penalty NASCAR threw on Ragan Smith in a similar situation the race before, for going below the yellow out-of-bounds mark, held his line despite Edwards' move, and Edwards got airborne, ripping into the grandstand fencing.
   Kurt Busch, after watching that replay, said "I was a bit disturbed by what I saw...a guy over 100 laps down taking out a guy running really well," Kurt Busch said. "Now at Talladega they were both racing for the win.
   "This definitely needs to be reviewed. I saw his gloves (Edwards') moving to the right...and I'm going to defend my teammate in this."
     Ryan Newman said Keselowski's flying car – seemingly somehow related to the rear wing affecting aerodynamics – was just what he had predicted after last year's two Talladega crashes involving flying cars. NASCAR plans to abandon the wing in a few weeks and go back to the traditional flat-blade spoiler.
   "I hope NASCAR's got that sorted out," Newman said of the rear spoiler aerodynamics. "From what I've been told, it looks just like what happened to me at Talladega (where Newman was involved in both frightening crashes).
     "I said after Talladega 'It's going to happen at an intermediate track (like this one).' But that window of opportunity is only at the end of the straightaway. At Talladega it's all the way around the track.
   "I guess I proved myself right.
     "Luckily it wasn't me this time."
   Sunday's win, Addington said, was personal vindication, for him to win a Sprint Cup tour race before his former driver, Kyle Busch, won.
   "I'd be lying if I said otherwise," said Addington, who got surprisingly bounced late last fall, despite having led Kyle Busch to more wins the past two years than anyone but Jimmie Johnson.
   "The thing I feel good about, is that when all that stuff went down last year, this guy right here (Kurt) was the first one to call.
   "He's been awesome to work with. We can sit in that lounge for three hours after practice and talk about all sorts of stuff.
   "I think great things can happen with this race team."
    Tires were an issue throughout the race, but it wasn't quite clear what the issue was – Goodyear said some teams were too aggressive with their chassis setups, contributing to some tire issues. On the other hand there weren't complaints about no grip here....and lack of grip was such an exceptionally heated issue here two years ago, when Goodyear brought very hard tires to this abrasive track in order not to have wear problems.
   This time around Goodyear brought a tire with good grip, and it was up to teams to figure out how not to abuse that.
   But some drivers, like Jeff Gordon, complained that Goodyear didn't bring the right tire: "I think it's one of those things where when they come here and test, and you expect them to build a tire that we can abuse, and that we can race hard with. That obviously wasn't the case.
    "There is a good chance we were too aggressive, but until we go back and analyze everything it's hard to say."
    Once the race started, and the tire situation was more clearly seen, Gordon said there was only one thing he could do: "Slow down."
   But then
   "On Friday, we were fast in qualifying trim, and when you have that, it means the tires are really grabbing hold of the track...and when you have speed like that on a track that is so abrasive, you've got be careful to have a balanced car," Kurt Busch said.
    Newman, one who had tire issues, didn't see it that way and he was critical of Goodyear:   
    "Goodyear's got some work to do. It's a safety situation.
    "We popped one. There are a lot of guys who popped one.
     "It was too sensitive for the guys who didn't get it right.
     "The guys who had their cars just right, yeah, they didn't have any issues.
     "But either way, they've got a little bit more work to do here.
      This is a challenging place for Goodyear and we'll come back and test for them if they'll let us.
       "We didn't blow tires last time here; we just had really bad inconsistencies.
     "So we went from inconsistent tires to tires that were popping in the right front, and that's not good.
     "It's not any gain...especially a safety issue.
       "Inconsistent tires are still safe. Tires that blow out are not safe."
       Goodyear pointed to 'aggressive chassis setups,' but Newman wasn't buying that: "Sounds pretty par. That's what they always say, right?
      "I guess the drivers should probably slow down too and save their tires."


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