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Kyle Bush holds off Martin at Bristol

by Pete McCole
Saturday, August 22, 2009

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Kyle Busch celebrates winning the Sharpie 500, completing the season sweep at Bristol
John Harrelson/Getty Images

Kyle Busch breathed new life into his bid to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup with a hard fought victory in Saturday night’s Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Busch led the final 68 laps, including a final four-lap shootout holding off a furious charge from Mark Martin to sweep both Bristol races for his 16th-career Sprint Cup victory and his fourth of the 2009 season, earning some critical points he needs to vault him into contention for the championship.

Marcos Ambrose, making only his second Bristol start, came home third, followed by Greg Biffle and Denny Hamlin.

Coming into Saturday night’s race 70-points out of the 12th and final qualifying spot to make the Chase, Busch needed a decent finish to have any chance of making the cut for the Chase with just two races remaining.

“We didn’t have the best car tonight, but we had a car capable enough of doing it if I could drive it hard enough,” said Busch. “I gave it everything I had. This is pretty crazy – we wanted to win here for so long.

Mark Martin tries to pass Kyle Busch in the closing laps
Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR
“Mark Martin—what a class act. He deserved to win this race. I’m sorry he came home in second. I know how he feels. He had a chance. He could have done it (moved Busch out of the way). But he didn’t. He raced me clean.

Martin, making his 1,000th-career NASCAR start, came into the race desperately holding onto the 12th spot in the points after a disastrous 31st-place showing last weekend at Michigan.

He had hoped to celebrate the occasion in victory lane, but would take the runner-up finish and the all-important point that came with it.

I'd first like to say that it was incredible what the fans did here tonight,” said Martin. “In my opinion, a thousand starts ain't no big deal.  But what they did made me cry.  It's pretty cool.  Almost get emotional thinking about it again.

“Yeah, we ran second, but I bet we had the fans on their feet those last few laps.  You know, that's cool.”

Martin, who led five times for a race-high 240 laps, duked it out with Busch through the over the final 45 laps before Michael Waltrip brought out the final caution on lap 493, forcing NASCAR to throw the red flag to clean up the mess.

On the restart, Busch chose to restart on the high side and pulled away slightly from Martin at the start, but Martin powered by and got under Busch with one lap to go.

It appeared that Martin was in a perfect position to punt Busch out of the way and claim the victory for himself, but the veteran Martin ran the young gun clean and fell behind Busch as they came out of turn four for the checkered flag.

“That was pretty exciting,” said Martin. “What can I say? Kyle (Busch) gave me room and I didn't get the pass.

“We were both racing hard for it. That inside was tough and I took my shot at it. I just about slid up into him and wiped us both out. He gave me plenty of room there. He didn't crowd me at all and I needed the room because I slipped the back end and I did everything I could. I wanted to get him but just couldn't pull it off.”

With the victory, Busch moves up two positions in the points to 13th, just 34 points behind Matt Kenseth in the 12th and final spot for the Chase.

“I’m hoping this just isn’t a fluke to get in the Chase,” said Busch. “We need to run well in Atlanta and again at Richmond, and then we can do it.”

For others, though, Saturday night proved to be a night to forget.

Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson led 107 laps, but saw his chance for a victory fade away following a critical miscue on pit road that dropped him deep in the field.

The night was equally a disappointment for series points leader Tony Stewart, who suffered through electrical problems that plagued him all race long, relegating him to a 33rd-place finish, while Kevin Harvick’s terrible luck continued as he was forced to retire early following a collision with teammate Clint Bowyer.

Bowyer, a championship contender a year ago and now on the outside looking in, was involved two of the 11 caution flags on the night, finishing 21st to drop to 15th in the points and all but out of the championship picture.

“We had a good run going…. but got hit from behind and that took us out of contention,” said Bowyer. “We're not out of this thing yet (running for the Chase). We'll keep fighting over these last two races.”

Winning Team Quotes

Kyle Busch

How does it feel to win tonight at Bristol?
"To race in the Sprint Cup Series with all these guys is really an honor.  Mark Martin, what a class act.  He deserved to win this race and I'm sorry he came home second - I know he feels.  I drove as hard as I could and he had a chance, he could have done it, but he didn't.  He raced me clean.  We didn't have the best car tonight, but we had a car capable enough of doing it if I could drive it hard enough.  I gave it everything I had.  This is pretty crazy - we wanted to win here so long.  Really have to thank M&M's, Toyota, Interstate Batteries, everybody at Sprint and of course Tom Murphy (Senior Vice President for Sprint) - our thoughts go out to those guys.  Thank DIRECTV, Marquis Jets and the fans.  It's mixed emotions, but there's a lot of good, there's definitely a lot of good and we love all of them."

How much did you have to adjust on your race car tonight?
"It was big - I tried giving everything I had to Steve (Addington, crew chief) and sometimes it's just frustrating when you work on your car, you make changes and you don't get it quite the way you want it.  It takes time sometimes and we still didn't have the best there tonight, but we had a good enough car where we made it.  I'm so proud of these guys - all these M&M's team guys that do so much work at the shop.  They work their butt off here at the race track.  We had good pit stops all night, there were a couple flaws, but we were pulling rubbers and stuff that we lost spots on.  We made a lot of adjustments tonight and that paid dividends and I'm hoping this just isn't a fluke to get in the 'Chase.'  We need to run well in Atlanta and again at Richmond, and then we can do it."

What do you think about the final two tracks coming up before the 'Chase?'
"There are - Atlanta earlier this year wasn't great for us, we really have to work it out there.  We feel like Richmond will be really strong and we feel like we can do the same thing we did here tonight at that place.  Atlanta we'll work on and try to make the best that we can out of it.  We seem to run well at the high-banked mile-and-a-halves so hopefully we can go back to some notes from last year and make something happen to come out with another top-five."

What was it like to race with Mark Martin throughout the race and especially the closing laps?
"It's fun when you're able to race around the guys that respect you and that you respect back.  So Mark (Martin) is one of those guys.  I mean, you know, I go up to Mark (Martin) all the time and I talk to him all the time.  I look up to him a lot.  He wasn't the guy that I always looked up to when I was growing up at a kid.  But since I've gotten here, he's been one of the closest drivers I've been able to spend time with -- him along with Jeff Burton.  Besides the young ones like (Scott) Speed and (Denny) Hamlin, the veteran guys, those are the two most guys I probably go to.  It was a blast.  I mean, I can't say enough about Mark (Martin).  I tried giving him enough room so we could try to race side-by-side and have a good strong run for the fans there. Like coach said, they were electric tonight.  When the red flag came out, they didn't stop.  Heck, you would have thought the racing was still going on.  They were doing the wave and everything.  They were fired up tonight for sure."

STEVE ADDINGTON, crew chief, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

What was tonight's race like from your perspective?
"It was nerve-wracking.  Made some adjustments and it didn't respond like we thought it would.  Just kind of trying to figure out what it was going to take to make the right adjustments to get him to beat the 5 (Mark Martin) car and the 48 (Jimmie Johnson). That was the biggest thing, just trying to figure out what he needed to get going there."

JOE GIBBS, owner, Joe Gibbs Racing

From a coaching perspective, how would you compare Kyle Busch to Tony Stewart when he started with you?
"I think as a coach, I've always wanted to be the guy that was the good athlete.  I wasn't, so I wound up being a coach.  But I think you work with all different kinds of athletes.  We talked about football.  The thing that in the end that you really want from your players or drivers or crew members or crew chiefs is a real passion for what they do.  I think that if you got that in your players and you obviously can deal with the different personalities, and everybody is a little different, you know.  You go back to Tony (Stewart) when he was first here, he wore everything on his sleeve.  If you remember, some of the same statements we made about Kyle (Busch) we were making about Tony (Stewart).  It was that first 10 minutes when he got out of the car when we had a few problems, and then the next day he was great.  I do wish this.  I've said to people, I wish they could see Kyle (Busch) the way we see him, away from the race track, just sitting around talking, having fun, or maybe over at NASCAR theme park where he's bought the night out for some kids."

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 15 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 190/5 500 Running
2 1 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet Pop-Tarts / Carquest 180/10 500 Running
3 25 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Clorox / Kingsford / Bush's Beans 165/0 500 Running
4 2 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 165/5 500 Running
5 41 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Ground 155/0 500 Running
6 9 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army 150/0 500 Running
7 13 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 146/0 500 Running
8 21 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 147/5 500 Running
9 27 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Amp Energy Sugar Free / National Guard 138/0 500 Running
10 5 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Dewalt 134/0 500 Running
11 17 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Irwin Vise-Grip 130/0 500 Running
12 14 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 127/0 500 Running
13 7 07 Casey Mears Chevrolet Jack Daniel's / USO "Toast to the Troops" 124/0 500 Running
14 23 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 121/0 500 Running
15 3 82 Scott Speed * Toyota Red Bull 118/0 500 Running
16 32 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 115/0 500 Running
17 18 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 112/0 500 Running
18 37 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 109/0 500 Running
19 10 43 Reed Sorenson Dodge Valvoline 106/0 500 Running
20 34 12 David Stremme Dodge Penske Racing 103/0 500 Running
21 6 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Hamburger Helper 100/0 500 Running
22 24 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 97/0 500 Running
23 33 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 94/0 500 Running
24 39 98 Paul Menard Ford Peak / Menards 91/0 498 Running
25 11 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 88/0 498 Running
26 42 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Stanley Tools 85/0 498 Running
27 28 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 82/0 498 Running
28 29 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 79/0 497 Running
29 26 4 Scott Wimmer Chevrolet Alpha Natural Resources 76/0 496 Running
30 40 34 John Andretti Chevrolet Taco Bell 73/0 494 Running
31 36 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 75/5 490 Running
32 31 7 Robby Gordon Toyota Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas / The Rogue Joint 67/0 490 Running
33 30 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Old Spice 64/0 489 Running
34 8 20 Joey Logano * Toyota The Home Depot 61/0 485 Running
35 38 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Mobil 1 58/0 472 Running
36 20 96 Bobby Labonte Ford Ask.com 55/0 461 Running
37 19 44 A.J. Allmendinger Dodge Hunt Brothers Pizza 52/0 452 Running
38 16 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 49/0 438 In Pit
39 12 171 David Gilliland Chevrolet TaxSlayer.com 46/0 354 In Pit
40 22 08 Terry Labonte Toyota Carter / Simo Racing 43/0 244 In Pit
41 43 187 Joe Nemechek Toyota NEMCO Motorsports 40/0 48 In Pit
42 35 37 Tony Raines Dodge Long John Silver's 37/0 27 In Pit
43 4 66 Dave Blaney Toyota Prism Motorsports 34/0 8 In Pit
* Denotes Rookie

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