Step aside brother, Kurt Busch is now in the spotlight
Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Look out, Kyle Busch. Big brother is making a bold statement in the early 2009 Sprint Cup Series season - he's back.
After winning Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 with a dominating performance at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kurt Busch has established himself as a strong contender for the "Chase for the Sprint Cup" after the first four races this year. The 2004 Cup Series champion led a career-high 234 laps at Atlanta, eclipsing his total of 164 laps led during the 36-race campaign in 2008.
Despite his strong outing at Atlanta, Busch had two slight encounters with the wall, putting a couple of scrapes on his No.2 Dodge, but the Penske Racing driver still prevailed for his first victory since June at New Hampshire, his only win of the 2008 season.
"This place I love it, feels like Darlington, the old Rockingham - You race the racetrack," Busch said. "Our car was dynamite. At times it got a little loose, I overdrove it, got into trouble. Brushed the wall, scraped the wall."
Debris from Robby Gordon's blown tire set up an overtime finish. Busch held the lead when the 11th caution flag waved, but Carl Edwards moved in front after he took two tires only and was the quickest off of pit road.
Busch, who grabbed four tires on his final stop, passed Edwards for the lead just after the green-white-checkered restart. He then held off a hard-charging Jeff Gordon at the finish by 0.332 seconds for his 19th career victory in the series and his second at the 1.54-mile track.
After taking the checkered flag, Busch,30, celebrated his victory in an unique style by spinning his car around at the start/finish line and then shifting it into reverse for a backwards victory lap. Busch later called his celebratory lap "The Don Johnson," referring to the famed actor who played the flashy undercover police detective, "Sonny Crockett," in the 1980's hit television drama "Miami Vice."
Kurt Busch now sits third in the Sprint Cup standings.
"I just kept focus like Don Johnson would coming around the start/finish line, flipped a 180, did a little Miami Vice action," he said. "It was a real blast. Happy to do something like that today and create a statement. That could be the name for it, 'The Don Johnson'".
Last week, Kyle Busch captured the attention in the brothers' hometown of Las Vegas, as he won the Shelby 427 after starting from the rear of the field due to an engine change. At age 23, the younger Busch has spent more time in the spotlight than his sibling, as he is arguably the most talented driver in NASCAR today. Last year, he set a NASCAR record for combined wins in the three national series with 21.
But the focus maybe changing towards Kurt Busch as he now sits third in the Sprint Cup standings and trails leader Jeff Gordon by 46 points. Busch finished 18th in points last year.
"I felt like I needed to hold my end of the bargain," Busch said. "I'm real proud of (Kyle), and real happy for him. He's done a tremendous job transitioning to Joe Gibbs Racing, to be up front every week like he has, to run strong."
Kyle Busch, in his second year with Gibbs, finished three laps behind in 18th at Atlanta and fell to seventh in points (-120).
"We just missed the setup from the start, and we couldn't dig ourselves all the way out," said Kyle Busch, who won at Atlanta one year ago for his first of eight Sprint Cup victories during the 2008 season.
With Bristol the next track on the schedule in two weeks, Kurt Busch has momentum heading in his direction. He is a five-time winner at the half-mile Tennessee track, sharing the lead with Gordon for most victories among active drivers there.
In the meantime, the older Busch will enjoy the spoils of his Atlanta victory during the off-weekend.
"It does give us bragging rights because we have an off weekend," Kurt Busch said. "We get to definitely to pour the Miller Lites for a week, then get backed focused again heading to one of my favorite tracks, Bristol."