HAMPTON, Ga. — It was like the good old days for Joe Gibbs Racing on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway when newcomer Kyle Busch put the No. 18 in the Winner's Circle.
But there was a new twist — the first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory for Toyota. And Busch and teammate Tony Stewart also gave the Japanese automaker its first 1-2 finish.
It was the first win in 40 Cup starts for Toyota, and it confirmed that the company's signing of the powerhouse Gibbs team over the winter will make its Camrys, which struggled in their 2007 debut, competitive with the other top teams.
"First for Kyle, first for (sponsor) Mars and then, of course, first for Toyota. ... I think we were all apprehensive," said team owner Gibbs, who returned to racing full time after retiring late last year as coach of the Washington Redskins. "We started the year, there was a huge amount of change, everything we had to go through. So we really appreciate the way everybody worked."
The significance was not lost on Busch.
"The 18! The 18! The 18 is back at Atlanta," Busch screamed on the radio after crossing the finish line ahead of teammate Tony Stewart. "Congratulations, (crew chief Steve) Addington, it's your first one."
Former crew chief Jimmy Makar, the first person hired by Joe Gibbs when he decided to go NASCAR racing, radioed the winner, "Kyle Busch, this is Jimmy. Thank you for bringing the 18 back."
Busch took the lead for good with 50 laps to go when Carl Edwards, trying for a third straight victory, went out with a broken transmission.
The victory was the first in NASCAR by a foreign manufacturer since Al Keller drove a Jaguar to a road course win in Linden, N.J., in June 1954.
"Kyle has been very close since the beginning of the year," said Jim Aust, president of Toyota Racing Development. "Starting with the Daytona 500 and what could have been. To have Kyle come in and take this one and Tony finish second, wow! The feeling can't get any better than that. Finishing one-two for our first Cup win — I don't know how you improve on that."
It was the fifth Cup victory for Busch and the first since last March 25 at Bristol for the driver who will turn 23 on May 2. He became the youngest winner on Atlanta's 1.5-mile oval since Jeff Gordon won in 1995 at 23 years, 6 months.
Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. both passed Greg Biffle in the final laps to take second and third, with pole winner Gordon fifth.
Stewart, who complained about the Goodyear tires after blowing a right front and hitting the wall hard the previous week in Las Vegas, was even more upset after Sunday's race.
"Most pathetic racing tire in my career," he said after climbing out of his Toyota.
Stewart added, "If I were Goodyear, I'd be really embarrassed about this weekend and what they brought us here."
Atlanta NASCAR results
1. (6) Kyle Busch, Toyota
2. (32) Tony Stewart, Toyota
3. (2) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet
4. (13) Greg Biffle, Ford
5. (1) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet
6. (7) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet
7. (8) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet
8. (38) Matt Kenseth, Ford
9. (35) Brian Vickers, Toyota
10. (15) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet
*start position in parentheses