Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent
Busch holds off Johnson & Keselowski in green-white-checker finish
Kyle Busch stayed out front during a green-white-checker finish in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on Sunday to win in the Pure Mohican 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Jimmie Johnson battled back to the front in his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet after pit road issues early in the race to finish second, and Brad Keselowski finished third in the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge.
“It’s so awesome to finally win here at Michigan.
The win was Busch’s fourth of 2011 and his first-career win at Michigan International Speedway.
“It’s so awesome to finally win here at Michigan,” Busch said in victory lane. “We unloaded well and had a really fast car, but it would only run around the top. Today, it would run at the bottom and at the top.”
Johnson lost several positions during a caution on lap 29 when he had to make multiple pit stops to get the handling right on his race car.
“We had a tough start to the race on pit road and on the race track,” Johnson said.
Greg Biffle started the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford on the pole and dominated the early stages of the race, at times pulling out to a five-second lead, only to see those cushions erased by the yellow flag. Bush took the lead away on lap 101, just before the caution came out for debris on the next lap.
Kasey Kahne took only two tires for his No. 4 Red Bull Racing Toyota during the caution to get off pit road first and restart the race in the top spot, but Matt Kenseth quickly got by him in the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford to claim the lead. Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet also got by Kahne to assume to second position.
Gordon got out front with 86 laps to go and led for several laps before reporting to his crew that his water temperature was going up. He gave up the lead to Kenseth in an attempt to get debris off the grill of his car. With most of the grill cleared, Gordon reclaimed the top spot with 74 laps to go.
The field cycled through green flag pit stops with about 64 laps to go and Kenseth cycled back around to the front. Busch and Gordon eventually got by Kenseth to claim the front two spots in the running order.
Johnson headed down pit road with 33 laps to go to begin the final cycle of green flag stops. The No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet of Dave Blaney slowed on the race track and brought out another caution as Johnson’s car was being serviced on pit road.
Johnson headed back onto the race track and remained on the lead lap. He inherited the lead when everyone else pitted under the caution. Kenseth took two tires to get off pit road first and restart the race alongside Johnson on the front row.
Johnson drove out to the lead on the restart as Gordon, Busch and Kenseth went three-wide in a battle for second. Busch ended up with the position, and Keselowski made his way into the third spot.
Busch took the lead from Johnson with 13 laps to go. His brother, Kurt Busch in the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge, lost a right front tire and hit the wall with four laps to go to bring out the fifth and final caution of the race.
Most of the drivers on the lead lap from eighth position back headed down pit road as the frontrunners stayed out for a green-white-checker restart. Busch and Johnson restarted on the front row, and Keselowski and Mark Martin in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet got back to racing from the second row in the third and fourth spots.
Busch said after the race that he considered pitting under the final caution but then decided that he’d rather hold everyone else off than try to race back to the front.
The top-four drivers held their positions to finish the race in the same order they restarted for the final two laps. Ryan Newman made his way up to fifth with two new tires in the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, and Gordon finished sixth.