Monday, June 27, 2011

Kurt Busch wins NASCAR Toyota/Save Mart 350

-- Front-running is a big deal at Infineon Raceway. It helps avoid all the chaos that's following in your wake.
Kurt Busch enjoyed that position immensely Sunday. Making just two pit stops in the 110-lap, 219-mile race, he scored the first road-course win of his 12-year NASCAR Sprint Cup career by holding off a late-charging Jeff Gordon in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.
"To beat Jeff Gordon on a day like today - it's that much sweeter," Busch said, alluding to a run-in with

Gordon last year at Infineon that resulted in a flat tire for Busch and a 32nd-place finish.
Gordon had antagonized several drivers with allegedly overzealous racing last year but pointedly refused to apologize to Busch, whom he claimed had run him off the road on an earlier restart. "I didn't think I owed him an apology," Gordon reiterated Sunday.
Busch said Gordon "drove straight through us" in last year's race, although he said he still respected the Vallejo native.
"I'm not going to get sideways with a guy like that," he said, "but I'm going to let him know he can't walk all over me."
Busch had won 22 previous races in the series but hadn't won on a road course in 20 tries. He also broke an overall 38-race winless streak. His No. 22 Dodge posted an average speed of 75.4 mph and won by 2.7 seconds.
As was the case last year, there were numerous wrecks, especially at Turn 11, the raceway's infamous hairpin, which has become the Bermuda Triangle of NASCAR racing. After being spun by Brian Vickers in a retaliatory move for an earlier dumping, Tony Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet wound up with its rear end atop a tire barrier.
An estimated crowd of 93,000 saw five cautions lasting 17 laps. One came on lap 37 as a result of what Dale Earnhardt Jr. called "a big old mess," a seven-car accident - on Turn 11, of course. That one involved a who's who of NASCAR: Earnhardt, Stewart, Gordon, Vickers, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman.
Only Earnhardt wasn't able to continue, a victim of a hole in his radiator that drained the fluid out of it and ruined his engine. Nevertheless, he said, "The beating and the banging was kind of fun."
Busch was happy to stay out of the party. "I've been part of that chaos in the back over the years," he said.
He held the lead three times before taking it for good on lap 88. There were a dozen lead changes, and eight other drivers led at some point. Carl Edwards, who took third, slightly widened his points lead over Harvick in the series race.
Edwards was thankful that he had skipped his planned flight to compete in Saturday's Nationwide race in Elkhart Lake, Wis., because it allowed him to spend a couple of extra hours practicing at Infineon after qualifying 23rd on Friday.
"We got to really work on the car, and that's what made this a good day for us," Edwards said.
Not quite as good as Busch's, though. His previous best finishes at Infineon were a third in 2005, fourth in 2002 and fifth in 2006 after winning the pole.
He credited crew chief Steve Addington for making the fuel calculations that allowed for just two stops. "A lot of guys said that they couldn't make it on two stops," Busch said. "So we knew that there was going to be teams pitting around lap 10 or 15 to get those fresher tires."
He said he decided to race hard enough that those with fresh tires couldn't catch him.
"The race played out perfectly for us," he said.

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