Now It's The Other Busch's Turn
MIKE HARRIS The Associated PressLOUDON, N.H. - LOUDON, N.H. - Kurt Busch had strategy and luck on his side. Tony Stewart had neither.
Published: June 30, 2008
Published: June 30, 2008
That's how Busch wound up ending his 29-race winless string Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the rain-shortened Lenox Industrial Tools 301, while the frustrated Stewart simply added another disheartening loss to his own winless string that has reached 31 races.
"Sometimes you just don't win 'em the right way," Busch said. "I think we can honestly say that, but we had a lot of work and a lot of effort put in today and we'll take it."
It is the first victory for the Penske Racing driver since September at California Speedway, and it came on a day when two-time Cup champion Stewart dominated, leading 132 of 284 laps, only to see the hard luck that has dogged him all season continue.
Busch hasn't had much to celebrate this season, either.
Since finishing second to teammate Ryan Newman in the season-opening Daytona 500, the 2004 Cup champion had finished in the top 10 only once and came into this event 22nd in the points. But Sunday turned out to be his day, thanks to crew chief Pat Tryson's decision to keep his No. 2 Dodge on track when Stewart and several other lead cars pitted during a late caution.
When rain eventually ended the race 17 laps short, with the field under a red flag on pit road, Busch had his 18th career victory and Stewart was an unhappy 13th.
"I've been on the flipside of it plenty of times," Busch said. "There's those times when you just grit your teeth and go, 'What could we have done different? Why did it happen this way?' So it isn't pretty, but we'll take it.
"That's the beauty of Sprint Cup racing is the competition level is always at its best. Sometimes the guys that have fast race cars don't win because they got outdueled in the pits with pit strategy. You take 'em when you can get 'em because you get burned plenty of times the other way."
Runner-up Michael Waltrip, who had not finished better than 23rd this season, used the same strategy as Busch. The two-time Daytona 500 winner said he was hoping the race would go to the end because he believed he had a faster car than Busch. But Busch believed he could hold the top spot.
"I felt like it was going to be a great duel down to the end with everybody on old tires, everybody would have been slipping and sliding," Busch said. "I felt we had track position and I felt like my fire and desire was going to overcome anything today to get into Victory Lane.
"Once I saw that we were leading and we were out in front with 26 laps to go, that good old Kurt Busch jumped up on the wheel and I told myself, 'Don't let your team down. This is what you live for. This is what you race for, and that is to get into Victory Lane.'"
Tryson said Busch could have won even if the race hadn't been cut short.
"To be honest, we were rooting for it not to rain because we had the fuel mileage to make it to the end and the other guys were going to have to pit, so we weren't really counting on the rain," he said. "It just kind of worked out that they all pitted there and then it rained. But it could have worked out the other way, too."
Stewart, who dominated the second half of the race on the 1.058-mile oval, held off a challenge from two-time reigning Cup champion Jimmie Johnson late in the race and appeared on the way to his first victory since August at Watkins Glen, N.Y. But Stewart and most of the other drivers who had been racing at the front of the pack did not have enough gas to get to the end.
MONTOYA PENALIZED: Juan Pablo Montoya was hit with a two-lap penalty Sunday after he intentionally ran into NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Kyle Busch during a late caution period at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Montoya spun out Busch, but the move backfired when Busch's car came back across the track and hit Montoya's.
The former open-wheel star, in his second full season in NASCAR, was called to the NASCAR hauler after the race for a talking-to, although officials said there would be no further penalties. The penalty dropped Montoya to 32nd place, while Busch finished 25th.
Neither were contenders Sunday.