Kurt Busch Uses Late Pass To Win Martinsville
Kurt Busch held off Jimmie Johnson over the final 12 laps and went on to win Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway.
The victory was Busch’s first of the season, second at Martinsville and first as a driver for Stewart-Haas Racing.
It was his first win since the fall race at Dover in 2011. And it came after trouble in the pits just 44 laps into the 500-lap race caused him to tell his crew their day was over.
“We got a win and we’re moving forward,” Busch, who finished on the outside of the top-20 in the first four races of the season, said.
Johnson finished second after leading 296 laps.
Third was Dale Earnhardt Jr., Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
Joey Logano of Team Penske was fourth.
Fifth was Marcos Ambrose of Richard Petty Motorsports.
Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing was sixth. Rounding out the top 10 were Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard.
The lead went back and fourth between a number of drivers during the first half of the race. But after the mid-point of the event, Johnson took control.
Johnson took the lead on lap 288 and nobody was able to put serious pressure on him until Busch moved in on about lap 435 and that pressure lasted all of two laps.
A couple laps later, Bowyer moved in and with 51 laps to go, took the lead when Johnson strayed from the bottom of the track.
Once in the lead, Bowyer began to pull away.
Bt with 41 laps to go, Carl Edwards spun to bring out a caution.
On the ensuing pit stops, Bowyer had big trouble. Retaking the lead was Johnson while Bowyer dropped to 10th for the restart, which came with 35 laps to go.
On the restart, Logano made a move for the lead but could not complete the pass. He fell to third and Busch moved to second.
With 28 laps to go, Busch got under Johnson and took the lead.
Johnson, however, kept the pressure on Busch and with 18 laps to go, moved under Busch and was back in the lead.
Then it was Busch’s turn to pressure Johnson and with 12 laps to go, went low on the track and into the lead.
Johnson couldn’t counter one last time and Busch became the sixth driver to win a Cup race in 2014.
“I didn’t know if we’d be able to do it,” Busch said. “The 48 car is king here, him and the 24 (Jeff Gordon, who also has eight Martinsville wins). This is the old theory ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’ I had a Hendrick chassis prepared by Stewart-Haas Racing, a Hendrick motor. So thanks to those guys and Chevrolet.
“I’ve been on this journey for a while, and every time you come to Martinsville, you kind of draw a line, like ‘There’s no way I’ll be able to challenge those Hendrick guys or be up in the top 10.’ These Stewart-Haas guys gave me a car to do it.”
Johnson, who has been having uncharacteristic difficulty closing out races of late, did everything possible to keep Busch at bay.
“That’s all I had,” Johnson said. “I ran the rear tires off the car. I flipped every switch and knob I could to get front brake and turn fans off to try to help bring the balance back. But it was still too loose to get the win.”
(This story will be updated shortly)One Comment