Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In NASCAR, those who do learn from it find themselves in victory lane.
With another first time winner, plenty of bumping and banging, more hot tempers and a post-race confrontation on pit road, it seemed history was repeating itself, and those who remember their history reaped the reward.
Kurt Busch won his first career Winston Cup race with a win in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, running on the same set of tires for the last 162 laps.
In his 48th start, Busch and his team used lessons learned by watching Elliott Sadler win this same race last year. In that race, Sadler's team elected not to pit in the late stages of the race and went on to win.
"I saw Elliott Sadler do it last year." Busch said, "These tires last forever. The line in Vegas? 50 to 1, 10 to 1, I don't know. My mom always puts money on me. I tell her not to, but I'm glad she did today."
Busch was running second with 93 laps to go when the 13th caution flag flew. Busch stayed out while Earnhardt, Jr. pitted, handing the lead to Busch.
Busch, who started 27th, also used some lessons learned from past Bristol winners like Dale Earnhardt, using his front bumper to get back out front.
On lap 443, with Busch slowed by lap traffic, Jimmy Spencer managed to get around Busch. On the following lap, Busch gave Spencer a push and muscled his way past to retake the lead, a lead he never relinquished.
A late caution flag set up a 15 lap sprint to the finish, but Busch held on to become the fifth driver to score their first win at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Spencer hung on for second place, although upset about Busch's move.
"Kurt Busch just smashed right into me, and that's OK. I never forget." Spencer said, "The only thing is when I smash back, he won't finish."
"The (#41) team has done a heck of a job since Daytona. I'm really proud of my guys. We had great pit stops today, and we had a good car. I wanted to win really bad, and we didn't get it."
"Jimmy Spencer forgot about what he did to me last year at Phoenix," Busch said, "I'm not going to say I don't forget things, I just didn't think I should give up the lead that easily."
Ricky Rudd finished 3rd, his best finish of the year, while Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Bobby Labonte rounded out the top five.
Series point's leader Sterling Marlin finished a lap down in 19th after cutting down a tire, ending his streak of eight straight top-10 finishes. He leaves Bristol with a 99-point lead over Matt
Most were expecting a race filled with wrecks, after the previous day's Busch Grand National race produced a record 14 caution flags, resulting in wrecked racecars and hot tempers. They weren't disappointed as 13 caution flags slowed the pace.
Pole sitter Jeff Gordon's season-long woes continued despite winning his first Bristol pole. After leading the many of the early laps, Gordon got loose on lap 158, hitting the outside wall. Gordon spent several laps behind the wall, finishing 31st.
"We had the car to beat." Gordon said, "The car was a little bit twitchy getting into the corner all day long and I come up on a lapped car and I got out of it early and arced it in there and that front end grabbed and it just spun right around."
"It was unfortunate because I don't know if I've ever had that good of a car here."
Last year's winner of this event, Elliott Sadler, got tapped in the rear by Kyle Petty and hit the wall on lap 343, putting him out of the event. He finished 41st.
Tony Stewart, making his first start since being injured in a crash last weekend at Darlington, drove in pain through most of the race. Stewart finally yielded to relief driver Todd Bodine on lap 368.
As happened last year, this year's race also featured some post-race action as Robby Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. tangled on pit road following the race.
Earnhardt, Jr. had attempted to pass Gordon, who was a lap down, several times during the final laps. After the checkered flag, Earnhardt bumped Gordon on the cool down lap. Gordon then retaliated, spinning Earnhardt around on pit road in a situation very similar to an incident involving Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart in this same race last year.
"He moved me out of the way early and it cost me about 20 positions. After the race he comes in and runs in the side of me, so I hit him back." Robby Gordon said, "I don't think that hurt me as much as when Junior turned me sideways early in the race."
Robby Gordon, who started outside of pole-sitter Jeff Gordon, led the first lap of the race but was black-flagged for jumping the green flag. He ended up finishing 20th.
With his win today, Busch becomes the fifth different winner of the 2002 season, and is now eligible for this season's Winston. His win today is the second of the year for Roush Racing, as well as the second for Ford.
At 24 years old, Busch becomes the youngest driver to win a Winston Cup race since 22 year-old Jeff Gordon won the 1994 Coca Cola 600.
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