Busch outruns Johnson for Martinsville win|
Martinsville, VA (SportsNetwork.com) - Kurt Busch rebounded from an incident
with Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne early in the race and then passed Jimmie
Johnson for the lead in the closing laps to win Sunday's STP 500 at
Busch, who edged Johnson at the finish by just 0.263 seconds, became the sixth
different winner in as many Sprint Cup Series races this season. He also ended
his 83-race winless drought in NASCAR's top series. His last victory came in
October 2011 at Dover, driving for Roger Penske's team at the time. Busch is
in his first season as driver of the No. 41 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing,
a team co-owned by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas.
Johnson, who won at Martinsville for the eighth time one year ago, led the
most laps with 296.
"I didn't know if we'd be able to do it," Busch said. "The 48 car [Johnson] is
king here - him or the 24 [Jeff Gordon]. The old theory is if you can't beat
'em, join 'em."
During the competition caution on lap 44, Keselowski drove into the back of
Kahne while Kahne was entering his pit stall. At the same time, Busch plowed
into Keselowski. All three drivers sustained damage to their cars. Keselowski,
who had the worst of the damage and spent 30 laps in the garage for repairs,
blamed Busch for the incident.
"Typical Martinsville stuff; it's lap 50 and everybody's got to give and take
on the racetrack and on pit road," Keselowski said. "The 5 car [Kahne] was
pitted in the stall in front of me. I saw him checking up, and I started to
check up, and I just barely got into the back of him. Then Kurt just
accelerated and drove through us, absolutely drove through us.
"I'll tell you, I'm about tired of his recklessness. Kurt tore the whole
suspension off of the car, so it won't turn or do anything. So thanks, Kurt, I
appreciate it, bud."
Busch thought at the time that his race was "done." But Busch went on to lead
a total of 23 laps, including the final 11, as he scored his 25th career win
in Sprint Cup, including his second at Martinsville. His first victory at this
0.526-mile short track came in the fall of 2002.
"I've been on this journey for a while," he said. "Every time you come to
Martinsville you draw a line through it like there's no way I'll be able to
challenge those Hendrick [Motorsports] guys or challenge for a top-10. This
Stewart-Haas team gave me a team to do it."
Shortly after he returned to the track, Keselowski slowed up and hit the
brakes when Busch was right behind him. Both drivers then raced side-by-side,
with Keselowski bumping into Busch multiple times to express his displeasure.
They continued interfering with each other until lap 103 when Ricky Stenhouse
Jr. lost control and slapped the wall while trying to pass them, forcing the
fourth of 14 cautions in this race.
"I can't believe [Keselowski] overreacted, and he's as upset as he is," Busch
said. "The 5 car was trying to pull into his box, Brad ran into the back of
him. I steered right to go around Brad, and then he clobbers our left-side
door. Accidents happen on pit road. It's congested. It's not a place to race
because of all the pit crew guys down there.
"So I didn't think much of it, and then once we were back out running, he
targeted us. He was aiming for us. He tried to flatten all four of my tires."
Keselowski ended up finishing 38th. Busch and Keselowski were teammates at
Team Penske from 2009-11.
This race featured a track record 33 lead changes. Busch first passed Johnson
for the top spot with 28 laps remaining, but Johnson came roaring back 10 laps
later to reclaim the position. Busch stayed right behind Johnson and then
maneuvered around him to take the lead for good with 11 laps to go.
"I'd been loose in the final third of the race and was hanging on there,"
Johnson said. "When Kurt got back by me, I was hoping that he'd wear his stuff
out, and I could get back by him. He did, but I couldn't hold him off. I
started to get looser and looser. That's all I had. I ran the rear tires off
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third, followed by Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose.
Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, who is Busch's teammate at SHR, Aric Almirola,
Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard completed the top-10.
The six different winners to start this season is the most in the Chase for
the Sprint Cup championship era (2004-present) and the longest streak to begin
a season since 2003.
Busch joined his younger brother, Kyle, as well as Earnhardt, Harvick,
Keselowski and Carl Edwards as those drivers who have all but guaranteed
themselves a berth in this year's Chase.
"We're not guaranteed in the Chase, but we have a win, and we're moving
forward," Kurt Busch said.
Kyle Busch won last weekend's race in Fontana, Calif.
03/30 20:35:39 ET