FONTANA, CA - Kurt Busch powered the No. 97 Roush Ford to victory lane at California scoring his first career win at the 2-mile oval. It is Busch's sixth career victory, and second this season. Busch is now this year's only two-time winner. "It...
FONTANA, CA - Kurt Busch powered the No. 97 Roush Ford to victory lane at California scoring his first career win at the 2-mile oval. It is Busch's sixth career victory, and second this season. Busch is now this year's only two-time winner.
"It was a great car today," said Busch. "This Ford was awesome with the way we were able to maintain. We'd come into the pits and my crew got me back out. We just pieced ourselves into a position where we could pass Rusty on that one restart. Then we got by the 42 and got by the 18.
"I mean, it was just an awesome show. We had to strategize a little bit as far as how we were gonna get by the guys and it worked out in our favor - sticking it to the bottom. I didn't even look up; I just laid it down and went."
Busch took the lead after a fiery crash on lap 231, involving Dale Jarrett, Johnny Benson, Larry Foyt, Joe Nemechek and Jeremy Mayfield.
The ensuing caution, the eighth of the day, set up a twelve lap duel to the finish between leaders Kurt Busch, Bobby Labonte and Rusty Wallace. While Labonte and Wallace duked it out for position, Busch retook the lead at lap 239 and checked out to a full second advantage over the field.
It was all Busch as the cars took the white flag to signify the final lap of the event, but intense head-to-head racing for positions caused the No. 48 Hendrick Chevy of Jimmie Johnson to connect with the No. 6 Roush Ford of Mark Martin. Both cars were running in the top-five at the time of the incident. Johnson wound up 16th and Martin 17th.
"The day was great," said Johnson. "I'm just real bummed that once again we had a great car, a great effort, and then we get to the very end - the last lap - and something else happens. It's no one's fault. On this deal, I got into the wall. I just want to know what it is going to take to get this monkey off our back."
Labonte beat Wallace back to the start/finish line for runner-up honors.
"My car was good on the get-go today after that long caution flag cooled the tires off," said Labonte. "I tried to burn the right rear up under yellow there because it was so tight. It was a good day for us.
"We were junk yesterday. We had good pit stops and made good decisions. It was a good battle for us all day. Yesterday, we were 19th. I still think my better job racing was today."
Wallace, who has not won a race since this event in 2001 nailed third.
"We were so close," commented Wallace. "We've got a winning team. We just haven't won yet. The only problem I had out there was Dale Jr., and he was trying to get his lap back. I would have been doing the same thing. He got up underneath me and got me loose and I fell from the lead back to about fourth.
"That's racing. I'm not disappointed about nothing. I had a good opportunity to win the race."
Rounding out the top five were Bill Elliott and Jamie McMurray.
"My car wasn't the best those first two runs," said McMurray the races highest finishing rookie. "Then it started to get tight and lose grip. We never could adjust on it and get the balance right. We freed the car and it would be too loose at the beginning and too loose at the end. The race track changes and I kept looking for the groove.
"At the beginning of the race I ran up high the whole time, and then I think everybody started running up there. It took some grip away and I had to start moving my line around. We just needed long runs."
Pole sitter Steve Park's day was cut short after the No. 1 DEI Chevy squeezed the No. 12 Penske Dodge of Ryan Newman into the turn two wall on lap one bringing out the day's first yellow. The No. 1 team was able to bandage Park's damaged right front quarter-panel and get the DEI Chevy back on the track several laps in the rears. Newman's Dodge suffered more severe wounds and spent 127 laps in the garage making repairs.
Park finished 40th, Newman 42nd.
"I don't know if somebody got into the 1 car or not," commented Newman. "But all I know is the 1 car got loose and got up and shoved me into the wall. That was pretty much it. He came up, and I don't know if he didn't have control or lost control or what. He just got up into me and shoved me into the wall.
"It happened on the first lap, but I knew the car was going to be good.It's just one of those things. It seems like we can't buy a break lately and we get involved in everybody else's bad breaks, too."
Defending Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart's day wasn't much better. Stewart's car looked strong in the races early goings, leading 100 laps. The No. 20 team's day soured when the Gibbs Chevy broke an engine rod on lap 129. Stewart's car was retired from the race, he finished 41st. This is Stewart's second DNF in his last three races.
"I broke a rod," said Stewart. "So, I slowed down and got out of the way. The car just went down the backstretch. We had a heck of a car today. The crew did a great job with the short amount of practice.
"We had been by ourselves the whole day and he was the first guy to come up and challenge. I wasn't just going to let him go. It was the most fun I had all day was racing with Jamie.
"I think we had a shot at McMurray," Stewart continued. "We were going to make a couple more adjustments. We had a car good enough to beat him today, that's for sure."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continues his bid for the championship with another strong run. Earnhardt, whose team made a race morning engine change, started from the back of the pack; but systematically worked his way into the top-five.
A pit stop difficulty, however, would force Earnhardt to re-pit after his team missed a left rear lug nut. Earnhardt restarted at the end of the lead lap line of cars, but managed to slice through the competition and come home with a sixth place finish.
"We messed up in the pits," Earnhardt commented. "We all got on my team pretty bad. We were able to get a lap back and finish sixth - had that wreck at then end and I got a couple of spots.
"I raced a couple guys back to the caution there with 30 laps to go. I threw the "gentleman's agreement" right out the window there, but I was trying to get back what we could have got.
"I'm pretty happy with the finish we got. That's a real good points day for us."
Earnhardt retains second place in series standings, just 44-points behind leader Matt Kenseth. Jeff Gordon remains in third followed by Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson.
There was a track record eight cautions for 34 laps, the previous record was six set at this race last year.