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Pedley: KuBu Gets A Monster Victory In Dover

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 4 2011

Kurt Busch helpt revamp the 2011 Chase on Sunday at Dover. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

The Second Day Lede:

Kurt Busch was in anything but a win it or wreck it mood the middle of last week. In fact, light and laid back, he was barely in a Kurt Busch mood.

Perhaps it was the hunting trip he had been on at a private farm in central Kansas. Or maybe the thick, hardwood smoke that rose from the grill on which he was cooking heavily marinated shrimp and beef  had done a job on his neurons.

Or, more likely, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion was trying on a new attitude for the race track at Dover that had kicked his butt so many times in the past.

Because when asked about his game plan for Dover, the third race in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, the normally intense Busch said something about wanting to have just “a nice, smooth day” at the Monster.

Busch’s race at Dover on Sunday registered about a six on the smooth meter, but  it pegged the needle on nice. He led laps early, struggled a bit in the middle, beat Jimmie Johnson for the lead on a restart with 42 laps to go, beat the five-time champ on another restart a couple laps later and got the victory.

And suddenly, the 2011 Chase had been re-configured.

For Tony Stewart, who had won the first two Chase races but slipped from first to third in points and from first to who-knows on the list of championship favorites.

For Johnson, who went from washed-up to new-favorite with his second-place finish.

For Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards, who will are tied in points at the top of the standings and appear ready to get their first victories of the Chase.

For Brad Keselowski, who learned what life is like for the little people.

For a host of favorites/hopefuls like Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman who only succeeded in burning dwindling chances of being this year’s big story.

And for Busch, who became the man of the moment as he returns to Kansas for this weekend’s race No. 4 of the Chase.

After Sunday’s win, which was his second of the season, the high-strung Busch continued on with his laid-back attitude toward Kansas and the weeks ahead.

“We have a long journey ahead of us,” The Other Busch said. “Today is just awesome. I mean, this is sweet. The guys are all pumped up. They know they know how to do their jobs. They are all tied together right at the belt loops. And everyone is so positive with the way they feel about their position and the way that Steve is leading these guys that we are not looking back, yet we are not looking too far ahead, because this is a long Chase.”

As a result of a game-changing day at Dover , here is the new top-three list of Chase favorites:

1. Jimmie Johnson

2. Carl Edwards

3. Kurt Busch

Broad experience

Tony Stewart often cites short-track experience for some of his success in Cup. Jimmie Johnson has talked about how his off-road past has helped him.

On Sunday, Kurt Busch also credited a bit of non-NASCAR past for his being able to out restart Johnson late in his victory at Dover on Sunday. Oddly, it was his NHRA Pro Stock experience that Busch credited.

“You know, the drag racing is a lot of fun, and there’s a lot of technique in what you have to do to get your tires warm and to feel the traction when you’re coming up through the gears.

“And it’s important. I love racing, no matter what it is, and the way that you can get an advantage on guys on restarts is to feel the rear traction, and if it’s slip to go not be full throttle and to really baby that throttle pedal perfectly; and I felt like that was the difference maker today. I was able to wrestle the lead away from Johnson on the outside and then on the final restart when we had the inside lane, pull away off of a great launch right out of the hole.

“So pro stock racing, I have to thank all of those guys for having fun and doing that. But it’s all a matter of how the setups up is for your oval car, but you have to get that throttle pedal just right on restarts, and I’ve always tried to pride myself on trying to get good restarts and not lose spots.”

Power outage

A year ago, it looked like Will Power was well on his way to winning his first IndyCar Series championship when he stumbled and hit a wall at Homestead-Mimai Speedway in the season finale and Dario Franchitti was there to pick up the trophy.

Something like that could very well be happening again. The Franchitti part and everything.

Team Penske’s Power had a slim lead heading into Sunday’s penultimate 2011-season race at Kentucky Speedway. And when he won the pole for the race,  and led the first 48 laps, things looked great for a reversal of fortune.

But a pit road incident with Ana Beatrice knocked Power back to a 19th-place finish and to second place in the standings.

“It’s really too bad,” Power said. T”he Verizon car was so fast – that was the fastest car I’ve ever had,” said Power. “As we were coming into the pits (Beatriz) just ran into my car as she was coming out. It put a big hole in the side of the car and we tried to fix it but we just lost a lot of speed as a result. We lost about four miles an hour. We were just holding on, trying to do our best after that. It’s very tough, but it happens in racing.”

The season concludes at Las Vegas Motor Speedway 0n Oct. 16. Power will arrive 18 points behind Franchitti, who finished second at Kentucky.

Happy ending

The IndyCar win at Kentucky went to Ed Carpenter but perhaps more importantly, to Sarah Fisher.

The victory was the first for Sarah Fisher Racing and a feel-good job it was. Fisher had been away from tracks the last three race having a child. She also had learned recently that her primary sponsor, Dollar General, was not coming back.

And then there was the fact that Carpenter beat two-time Indy 500 winner and series champion Dario Franchitti of the mega Target Chip Ganassi Racing team by .0098 seconds.

“Just to see Ed drive his tail off is just so amazing,” Fisher said with tears in eyes. “We figured out that next year, Dollar General is not coming back, so maybe they’ll change their mind now. But, you know certainly it was just a great weekend.”

The victory was the first for Carpenter, as well.

“It felt way better than I ever thought it was going to feel,” he said.

Finally…Sad, if true

Kansas’s Scott Tucker came up a winner as a driver/owner at the Petit Le Mans over the weekend at Road Atlanta, but a loser in a long investigative piece recently posted on the website i Watch News.

In the story, written by Pulitzer Prize finalist and Polk Award winner, David Heath, it is alleged that Tucker has help fund his race team with a shady web-based payday lending operation. The story contends Tucker has used affiliations with American Indian tribes to exploit sovereign immunity for the business and that at least one state, Colorado, has been investigating Tucker and the payday loan operation.

The story, with sidebars, paints Tucker as a pretty sleazy operator.

I interviewed Tucker about his race team, Level 5 Motorsports, a couple years ago. I found him intelligent, knowledgeable and passionate about racing. I also recall not getting a straight answer when I asked the Kansas businessman about his businesses.

Here is hoping it is all a mistake … for Tucker’s sake and for racing’s sake.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 4 2011
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