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Kurt Busch Gets First Victory Of The Season

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, June 26 2011

Kurt Busch celebrates the first road victory of his career. It came Sunday afternoon at Infineon Raceway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)


Kurt Busch led 75 of 110 laps and won the Save Mart 350 Sprint Cup Series race at Infineon Raceway on Sunday.

The victory was the first of the season for the Penske Racing driver. It was the 23rd of his career.

The victory gave him his second podium finish in his last three races as he finished second at Pocono.

“It was an unbelievable setup,” Busch said. “Once we got into the groove with this car, it seemed to get better after lap five or six. Our cars have never done that before.  I’m real proud of this Dodge team, everybody from Shell and Pennzoil.  If that doesn’t inspire you to go get a SRT8 Dodge Charger, I don’t know what will.  That was an awesome handling Dodge. I’m so proud of these guys for really stepping up after what we’ve been through.  Man, we’ve been on a high these last few weeks.”

The victory was the first for Busch on a road circuit.

Loved it, he said.

“That’s been big on my list over the years,” Busch said. “I really want to get one of those plate wins.  We had a good Speedweeks at Daytona, now I want to go there and get the big July 4th win.”

Jeff Gordon finished second in a race that had five cautions, numerous off-course

Kurt Busch covers the field at Infineon. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

excursions and 13 lead changes among nine drivers.

“It was nuts,” Gordon said.

Carl Edwards was third and Clint Bowyer was fourth.

Edwards increased his lead over Kevin Harvick from 20 to 25 points wit his finish.

“It was just a crazy race and for us to be able to work our way up to where we finished just says a ton about my Aflac crew and Bob and everyone,” Edwards said. “To be able to escape out of here with a top three is a good day with us, especially considering everything that went on out there.”

Fifth was Marcos Ambrose.

Rounding out the top 10 were Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.

Polesitter Logano led the first five laps. But on lap six, Denny Hamlin made the pass and took the lead.

Hamlin led seven laps before being hunted down and passed by Busch.

Hamlin moved back to the lead on lap 32 when Busch and Penske teammate Keselowski pitted under green.

Shortly thereafter, a caution came out. Hamlin stayed out while most of the others in the field pitted. On the restart, Hamlin led and Busch was second.

Busch, on fresher tires, took the lead in Turn 3.

On the same lap, a big wreck in the middle of the pack brought out another caution. It appeared to start when Kyle Busch was forced off the track by Juan Pablo Montoya. Also in the melee, Tony Stewart slammed Brian Vickers from behind.

On his radio, Busch said of his blast through the grass, “That was Dukes of Hazard shit right there.”

Among others caught up in the wreck were Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Gordon

A fire broke out in the pit stall of Paul Menard Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The ensuing restart was clean. Busch jumped out to a good start and began to pull away. He pulled further way when, in Turn 11, his closed pursuers – Hamlin, A.J. Allmendinger and Truex Jr. – tangled but survived.

A couple laps later, the caution came out for debris.

On the restart – lap 50 – Bowyer made it past Busch and into the lead.

Five laps later, Busch recaptured the lead. Also getting past Bowyer was Stewart.

On lap 59, Bobby Labonte was spun to bring out a caution.

Some drivers pitted. Hamlin, however, went to the garages and his hopes for a victory died. He had led 12 laps.

Busch kept the lead after the restart on lap 65.

With 39 laps to go, green flag stops began. Busch gave the lead up to Stewart when he pitted. Three laps later, Stewart pitted.

With about 30 laps to go, Harvick inherited the lead as drivers began messing with pit strategies. He lost the lead a couple laps later, however, to Regan Smith, who also opted to go out of sequence.

A couple laps later, Stewart, running top five, was punted by Vickers. Vickers admitted it was payback and Stewart’s car ended up with rear end up on a tire barrier and rear wheels three feet off the ground.

“It’s going to be hard for me to drive off of this,” Stewart said on his radio.

Of the payback punt job, Stewart said,  “I dumped him earlier for blocking and he got me back later on. If they block, they are going to get dumped. It is real simple. I mean I don’t blame him, I don’t blame him for dumping us back. But, I don’t race guys that way, I never have. If guys want to block then they are going to wrecked every time. Until NASCAR makes a rule against it, I am going to dump them every time for it. He did what he had to do, I don’t blame him, there is nothing wrong with it.”

Out came the yellow. Busch stayed out and had the lead when the race restarted with 19 laps to go. Chasing him were Truex, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards.

That chase toughened as Busch blew out to leads of 4 seconds and more.

His final margin of victory was 2.7 seconds.

Edwards said there was no catching Busch at the end.

“In the end on the restart they were telling me his lap times and he was kind of easing around there,” Edwards said. “Every once in awhile he would blister off a fast lap. His car was extremely good and he did a good job managing it. I think he had just a very fast car.”

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, June 26 2011
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  • Ed Smith says:

    Kurt Busch did some NHRA pro drag racing earlier in the year at Gainesville, FL. Looks like the lessons learned there did him well on his re-starts!