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Atlanta Race Recap

Denny Hamlin led Joe Gibbs Racing with an eighth-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway this afternoon. Teammates Kyle Busch and Joey Logano would finish 23rd and 24th respectively on a rare Tuesday race following two days of heavy rains from Tropical Storm Lee that forced a postponement from Sunday night’s scheduled running.

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The heavy rains over the previous two days would mean a change in track conditions from what the teams had practiced on over the weekend. A heavy cloud cover and several stoppages for a light mist would further play havoc with the conditions on the track.

Denny Hamlin started the No. 11 Charter Communications Toyota in the 13th position and when an early caution came out on lap 11, Crew Chief Mike Ford made the call to remain out and gain track position. The call was a good one as Hamlin restarted fifth and jumped to third on the next lap. Hamlin had his Camry up to second on lap 22 and took the lead just one lap later. He would go on to battle tight handling conditions on the No. 11 Charter Communications Toyota throughout much of the day but still managed to remain inside the top 10. Ford called for adjustments to help the car turn better, but several quick cautions due to on and off light rain would make it difficult to get a clear picture. When the team did have a longer green flag run it was clear Hamlin had one of the better cars on the track. A final pit stop under the green flag on lap 285 allowed one more adjustment, but the No. 11 was just a bit too loose on the final run of the day and he would go on to finish eighth. It was a solid finish for Hamlin who enters the final weekend of racing that will determine the 12 drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship in the second of two wild card positions.

Kyle Busch started the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota in the third position and proved to be one of the strongest cars through the early going. Busch would pit following the day’s first caution on lap 11 which moved him from second to 17th, but the improvements made on the stop clearly benefitted him, as he raced his way back to 10th by lap 19 and was in the top five by lap 22. Busch was racing second on lap 24 and took his first lead of the day on lap 27. For much of the first half of the race Busch clearly had one of the top cars on the track as he went to the lead several times. Just before the midpoint of the race however his car appeared to suddenly lose the handle that had made it so dominant through the early going. Busch would make contact with the wall and drift back in the field to just outside of the top 15. Several light rain showers would bring out a number of cautions causing several short runs. The 18 team would make several adjustments to help improve the handle of the Camry and although it appeared to help Busch turn better toward the end of the race they would have to settle for a 23rd place finish.

Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the 24th position and found his car to be extremely tight through the early portion of the race. Crew Chief Greg Zipadelli would bring the No. 20 Camry down pit road following the day’s first caution on lap 11. Logano would restart in the 27th position, but it didn’t take him long to race his way up inside the top 20. However the tight conditions on his Home Depot Toyota would continue to persist throughout much of the day and made it difficult for Logano to gain track position. His Home Depot crew worked hard with each stop down pit road to make improvements to the car, but with several cautions and stoppages for light rain showers over the second half of the race the team never got a long green flag run until the end. By then the car had moved to being tight in the center of the turns and extremely loose off. Logano managed to keep the car out of trouble despite the handling issues and finished 24th.

Jeff Gordon captured the victory and moved into third-place with 85 career victories in NASCAR, while Jimmie Johnson was second, Tony Stewart third, Kurt Busch fourth, and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. There were nine cautions for a total of 64 laps and 35 lead changes among 14 different drivers over the course of the 325-lap race.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Richmond International Raceway for a Saturday night race that will finalize the field for the Chase For The Nascar Sprint Cup.  Coverage of the race will start on Saturday, September 10 at 7 PM ET on ESPN (race starts at 7:30 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius Radio NASCAR channel 90 and MRN Radio.