The curse has been lifted from the No. 97 Roush Ford of Kurt Busch: after an up-and-down start to the year, the reigning Nextel Cup series champion Kurt Busch pulled into victory lane for the first time in 2005 at Phoenix International ...
The curse has been lifted from the No. 97 Roush Ford of Kurt Busch: after an up-and-down start to the year, the reigning Nextel Cup series champion Kurt Busch pulled into victory lane for the first time in 2005 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Busch was the class of the field all evening. He was challenged at times by the No. 15 Chevy of Michael Waltrip, but ultimately no one had anything for the fast Ford of Busch who beat the field by a margin of 2.3 seconds.
This is a much-needed rebound for the 97 team. Busch has been involved in several accidents in the last month that left the defending champ battling minor injuries.
"It's been a tough few weeks," said Busch. "You need time to repair and rebuild and gather yourself and then the next week something else would happen. We really needed this."
It is the 12th of his career and the first at PIR. He is the third different Roush racing driver to win a race this year.
Despite brushing the wall several times in the closing lapsm Waltrip held on for second, driving the car the Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won with here last year. It is Waltrip's first top five run of the season.
"I just ran out of talent," said Waltrip. "I saw Kurt and I just wanted to win so bad. I ran out of brains there at the end and hit the wall a couple of times.I did all I could."
Jeff Burton earned his best finish of the year with third.
"We had a good car," said Burton. "Based on Friday's practice we knew we were going to be better in the dark. So, we had to suffer a little bit through the daytime.
"I am real proud of my guys, the last few weeks we have really gotten what we deserved. I am really proud of everyone keeping there heads up."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Brian Vickers complete the top five.
"It was a great race for us," said Vickers. "We had a chance there at the end. This means a lot to finally get our first top five for this GMC Racing team. We ran out of tires there at the end. We've had good cars; we just haven't had the finishes. Lance (McGrew, crew chief) and the guys have put good cars on the track and had good pit stops. We just had luck on our side today."
Busch took the lead on the first lap and ran virtually unchallenged until lap 147 when Greg Biffle motored past the No. 97.
Biffle's view from the catbird seat would not last long. Busch powered back passing Biffle a lap later to reclaim the lead. Biffle continued to catch Busch, but a tough break in the pits on lap 165, damaged Biffle's chances at victory.
Biffle made contact with the No. 0 of Mike Bliss coming out of his pit. A piece of Bliss' car lodged into the nose of Biffle's Ford causing nose damage on the No. 16. Biffle fell from second to 26th. Biffle was forced to the garage to fix radiator damage to his Roush ride.
On that round of pit stops, a two-tire stop by the No. 5 Chevy of Kyle Busch grabbed him the lead of the event from his brother. Kurt Busch fell to fourth. Busch led until teammate Brian Vickers maneuvered past the No. 5 Chevy on lap 179.
Vickers led through lap 207, but after an incident that wrecked the No. 2 Dodge of Rusty Wallace brought the leaders to pit road, Michael Waltrip stayed out and inherited the lead of the event.
Waltrip led until lap 222 when he pitted and gave up the front position to Jeff Gordon. Gordon's reign at the top did not last long; Kurt Busch sailed past with 85 laps to go to once again place the No. 97 Ford out front.
Busch and Waltrip would trade the lead a few times but in the end Waltrip could not catch the Roush Ford.
The inaugural April night race at Phoenix International Raceway was not without glitches. Heavy rains and winds deluged the race track Saturday afternoon delaying the start of the race. On lap 142, the race was red-flagged due to a power outage that crippled NASCAR scoring and timing, the press box and the caution lights.
The failure lasted for just under seven minutes.
Jimmie Johnson continues to lead series standings. Kurt Busch (-173), Greg Biffle (-208), Jeff Gordon (-233), Elliott Sadler (-251), Mark Martin (- 263), Ryan Newman (-266), Carl Edwards (-281), Sterling Marlin (-292) and Rusty Wallace (-300) complete the top ten.
There were nine cautions for 43 laps and 16 lead changes among nine drivers.