Busch wins Homestead, Stewart champion

Busch wins Homestead, Stewart champion

HOMESTEAD, FL. - Kurt Busch led the first ten laps and the last ten laps, bringing home his fourth win of the 2002 season in the ...

HOMESTEAD, FL. - Kurt Busch led the first ten laps and the last ten laps, bringing home his fourth win of the 2002 season in the #97 Roush Racing Ford. "Just another awesome day," said Busch. "This is unbelievable...awesome year! We can't wait for next year."

The break of the race for Busch came with 11 laps left as he shot to the inside of leader Ryan Newman for the winning pass.

Driver of the #25 Hendrick Chevrolet, Joe Nemechek posted a second place finish after leading a race high 111 laps. Roush Racing's Jeff Burton scored 3rd.

Kurt Busch.
Photo by Autostock.

Mark Martin's bid for his first NASCAR championship fell short by 38 points. Martin ran strong all day in the #6 Roush Racing Ford, grabbing 4th spot. "We gave it everything we had," commented an exhausted Martin post race. 'Those guys were just a little stronger than us, but what an effort man .We came from the back of the pack and wrestled ill handling all day. We got it right at the end. My only regret was that I could have provided more leadership for this team so we could have scored an extra 100-150 points somewhere along the line all together - but we didn't. And, I couldn't. I did all I could and I am proud of what we accomplished."

Jeff Gordon, who took the first provisional of his Winston Cup career, went down a lap early in the race. Teammate Joe Nemechek, however, allowed Gordon to get back on the lead lap while out front. Gordon garnered a fifth place finish and is fourth in final standings. "I'm really excited about being fourth in points," said Gordon. "And testing the new 2003 Monte Carlo tomorrow, and come out next year strong."

Tony Stewart took a conservative approach to the Homestead race. Instead of battling for the win, Stewart decided to points race and preserve his lead in the championship.

"The last race of the year, you points race," commented Stewart. "We haven't done that yet, but when there's no next race, you've got to pay attention to the points." Eighteenth place would be enough for Tony Stewart to land his first career Winston cup title. But it didn't come easy.

The Joe Gibbs racing #20 Pontiac, however, started strong but began to fall back through the field at the races midpoint. Stewart would go a lap down, and run as low at 23rd mired back in the pack.

With 43 laps left, Stewart would get his lap back after the Roush Racing #17 Ford of Matt Kenseth blew an engine brining out the races fiftith caution. Kenseth finished 40th in the race and 8th in standings. Stewart would rally and be able to bring the #20 Pontiac home to an 18th place finish and his first career Winston Cup championship.

Tony Stewart.
Photo by Thomas Chemris.

A tearful Stewart commented, "I'm glad the rollercoaster is over. It was ugly but we got through it. Unbelievable. This was an ugly day. It was just like Rockingham a couple of weeks ago but you know we never gave up. We got a lap down there and the pit crew did a great job getting us out first. This car liked clean air but it didn't like being the back of the pack. We just ran hard there and got our lap back, and got the spots we needed to stay ahead of Mark. So, just really happy."

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s bid to make it into the top ten in championship points failed, as Earnhardt's car suffered valve spring problems slowing the DEI #8 Chevrolet. Earnhardt finished 21st, he will chart 11th in season end standings.

Two fiery moments in today's event, the first of which came on lap 75 pit stops, when the Joe Gibbs #18 gasman, Peter Jellen caught fire. Jellen was treated and released from the infield care center, and rejoined his team on pit lane. The second incident came at lap 196 when the #41 Ganassi Dodge of Jimmy Spencer cut a left read tire and careened into the wall backwards. Spencer's Dodge exploded into flames as Spencer struggled to extricate himself from the vehicle. Spencer was unhurt in the crash.

Rookie of the year contenders Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson both finished the race in the top ten, as well as the points standings. Johnson will finish out the year one position and seven points higher than Newman on the final tally.

Rounding out the top ten are Ryan Newman (6), Bill Elliott (7), Jimmie Johnson (8), Elliott Sadler (9) and Bobby Hamilton (10).

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Jimmy Spencer , Joe Nemechek , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Elliott Sadler , Mark Martin