Kyle Busch felt like he needed a win this weekend to keep his championship chase hopes alive. He got it but it was anything but easy. Busch waited out a late-race red flag stop and then held off a hard-charging Mark Martin in the closing laps to...
Kyle Busch felt like he needed a win this weekend to keep his championship chase hopes alive. He got it but it was anything but easy.
Busch waited out a late-race red flag stop and then held off a hard-charging Mark Martin in the closing laps to claim the checkered flag in the Sharpie 500 and complete the sweep at Bristol Motor Speedway this season.
"I gave it everything I had," said Busch, who claimed his third career win here. "This was pretty crazy."
Busch wasn't a factor through most of the race but came on strong during the last 100 laps. He took the lead shortly after a red flag stop for a brief rain shower and held it until the checkered flag. Martin got inside his rear quarter panel several times in the final five lap segment but Busch held the high line and held off Martin's bid for the win.
"Racing in the Sprint Cup Series with all of these guys is a real honour," said Busch, who also won the Craftsman Truck Series race here on Wednesday. "Mark Martin - what a class act. He deserved to win this race. I'm sorry he came in second - I know how he feels. But man, I drove as hard as I could. He had a chance - he could have done it (spun Busch for the win) but he didn't. He raced me clean."
Busch started 15th and wasn't happy with the handling of his car in practice but crew chief Steve Addington said that they hit on something in their set-up in the final practice session and that made a big difference in their performance in the race.
"We didn't have the best car tonight but we had a car capable enough of doing it if I drove it hard enough," said Busch. "I gave it everything I had."
The win moved Busch up to 13th in the championship standings. He trails Matt Kenseth by 34 points for the final spot with two races left before the cut off.
"I'm hoping this isn't just a fluke to get into the Chase," Busch said. "We need to run well at Atlanta and again at Richmond. We feel like we can do it."
Martin sat on the pole here for the second straight race but had a loose handling car and surrendered the lead to Greg Biffle on the first lap. Biffle led 76 laps before Martin took the lead for the first time on lap 77. Martin, who was looking for his first win here in 11 years, led until lap 314 when he surrendered the lead to Jimmie Johnson.
Martin dropped back in the field during pit stops but worked his way back to the front of the field and battled Kyle Busch for the lead in the closing laps.
"I wanted to get him - he gave me room," said Martin, who was making a bid to become the oldest winner here. "I'd have liked to have won it. He gave me room to pass him and I couldn't do it."
Marcos Ambrose started 25th but had a great race and finished third.
"It was just a really great day for us," said Ambrose, who got his best finish on an oval after finishing second at Watkins Glen two races ago. "We're a brand new team and to get this result tonight just feels great. I feel really proud of my team - it's just been a great night."
Biffle and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.
Johnson led 107 laps but surrendered the lead when he came in for fresh rubber with the field under caution for a brief rain shower on lap 418. Michael Waltrip stayed out under the yellow flag and inherited the lead which he held for nine laps. The field was put under the red flag soon after when Waltrip hit the wall hard after cutting a tire and leaving debris across the track.
Points leader Tony Stewart started 30th and dropped all the way to the back of the field early in the race when he was forced to pit under caution to fix a radio problem. He later dropped off the lead lap while trying to replace his radio and was already three laps behind the leaders when his car quit in the front stretch while the field was under caution late in the race. He ended a miserable day with a 33rd place finish but maintained first place in the standings by 220 points over Johnson.
Clint Bowyer was working his way towards the front of the lead lap when he was caught up in a wreck with nine laps left in the race. That relegated him to a 21st place finish that all but eliminated his hopes for making the Chase for the third straight season.
"It was pretty frustrating," Bowyer said.
Meanwhile Brian Vickers followed up last week's win in Michigan with a 12th place finish but still dropped one spot in the standings to 14th. He trails Kenseth by 39 points for the final spot in the Chase for the Championship.