MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Kurt Busch is officially back.
Busch overcame an early on-track altercation with Brad Keselowski and then outraced Jimmie Johnson in the finals laps to win Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500, ending an 83-race winless streak in Sprint Cup competition.
“I didn’t know if we’d be able to do it,” said Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart Haas Racing. “The 48 car (Johnson) is king here.”
It was truly an up and down day for the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. It started with a down when Busch was involved in a pit road incident on lap 40 with Keselowski and Kasey Kahne. The three drivers made contact, with Keselowski’s Ford getting the worst of the damage.
After spending several laps in the garage, Keselowski returned to the track without his front fenders. Almost as if on cue, he fell in line ahead of Busch and the two began to rub fenders while Keselowski told Busch he was “number one” out the driver’s side window.
While Busch and Keselowski were mixing it up, Johnson was doing what he usually does at Martinsville – lead laps. Johnson dominated the 500-lap event, occasionally swapping the lead with a multitude of different drivers during the day.
As the laps wound down Johnson found himself losing grip in his Chevrolet, allowing other drivers to make moves on him. Clint Bowyer was among those taking a shot at Johnson, snatching the lead away from Johnson with 51 laps left when Johnson slipped up the track in turn two.
Bowyer looked like he was pulling away from Johnson in the following laps, but fifth-place Carl Edwards went for a spin in turn two to bring out the 14th caution flag of the day.
All the lead lap cars came down pit road for fresh tires during the caution period, with Johnson beating everyone off pit road to regain the lead. He was followed by Joey Logano, Busch, Aric Almirola and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Bowyer, who entered pit road as the leader, came out of the pits in 10th after a problem changing a tire during his pit stop cost him valuable seconds.
The field returned to racing with 35 laps left and Johnson quickly returned to the front, but behind him Busch was lurking. Busch quickly dispatched second-place Logano and chased down Johnson with 30 laps left.