HAMPTON, Ga. -- On a night when the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski saw his hopes of making this year's Chase for the Championship all but go up in smoke, Kyle Busch came out of nowhere Sunday to win the Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Keselowski, in need of a win to boost his hopes of making the Chase, was leading the race on lap 244 when his engine started to go sour. After dropping a cylinder, Keselowski tried to limp his way home, but the engine finally expired with 15 laps to go. He finished 35th to drop to 15th in the standings, 28 points out of the top 10.
Busch, meanwhile, clinched a spot in the Chase.
Once Keselowski exited, Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano took command, but a caution flag with 37 laps to go changed the complexion of the race.
Logano went into the pit leading but came out third behind Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman.
Busch spent the first 300 miles complaining about his car. His early comments were about the car "plowing." Then he said it was "way too loose." But crew chief Dave Rogers kept making adjustments, and the final one "made the car a rocket ship out front," Busch said. "The crew won me this race, getting me off pit road first and with all the changes they made."
Busch survived three restarts and a fast-closing Logano, who had dropped to sixth with 20 laps to go. Logano raced his way back to second with three to go, but he ran out of time in his bid to pass and catch Busch.
The victory was Busch's fourth of the season.
Martin Truex Jr., who raced with a broken right wrist, finished third, followed by Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers.
"I wasn't happy with the race car at all at the beginning of the race, but the guys made some great calls and got us some great adjustments to get us back up front," Kyle Busch said.
Logano said, "I had the race-winning Ford here; it was so fast. It just took me seven, eight laps to get going. I just wish there were five or six more laps. It's just so frustrating."
Kurt Busch moved into 10th place in the standings in his bid to make the Chase, while Harvick and Carl Edwards, who ended up 20th after leading four times for 68 laps, also clinched spots in the Chase.
With one race left before the Chase begins, six drivers have clinched a spots: Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Harvick and Edwards.
The top 10 in the standings after Saturday's race in Richmond, Va., will make the Chase along with two wild-card entrants. The wild cards will go to two drivers with the most wins among those ranked 11 through 20th in the standings. Kasey Kahne, with two wins, and Truex, with one win, hold those spots heading to Richmond. Newman, who also has one win, is only five points back of Truex.
"It was a hell of a battle," Truex said of Sunday's race. "It was pretty tough there for a while, just hanging onto the car with my wrist. It hurt pretty bad for a while. Third's a good night for where we were all weekend."
Bowyer was leading the race when he suffered engine failure on lap 193. He came in 39th place. Toyota decided to run a different engine combination in Bowyer's car in hopes of getting an edge for the Chase. The decision looked like a great one as Bowyer had the dominant car for the first 250 miles.
"We knew we needed a win and decided to do some gambling," Bowyer said. "It just didn't work out for us."
Kahne's hopes of adding another win to his total ended on lap 29 when his Chevrolet ran into the back of teammate Johnson on a restart following a competition yellow flag. After replacing his radiator and oil cooler, Kahne returned to the race and finished 36th.
The yellow flag for Bowyer's blown engine, the fifth of the evening, was a big break for Logano. Logano had to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 101 for a "bad vibration." It turned out that the vibration was caused by three loose lug nuts on the left rear wheel.
Logano was able to get back on the lead lap when the rest of the lead-lap cars made their scheduled pit stops, and he led for a while before Bowyer ran him down. Logano was within a couple of laps of being forced to pit again when Bowyer had his engine problems. Logano was running second at the time and was able to get back on the same pit cycle as the rest of the top 10.
On lap 212, Keselowski quickly made his way around Logano to grab the top spot.
The top five with a 100 laps to go were Keselowski, Logano, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick and Marcos Ambrose.
"We can't control engine problems, and we were doing pretty well with what we could control," Keselowski said. "We were leading when it broke. There is nothing more we could have done."