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Kyle Busch dominates at Michigan

First to clinch berth in Sprint Cup Chase
Sunday, August 21, 2011

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Kyle Busch pulled away from Johnson over the final two laps
Mark Scheuern/AR1.com

Michigan finally unrolled the welcome mat for Kyle Busch, the first official member of the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Busch got his first Sprint Cup Series victory at Michigan International Speedway in his 14th start at the 2.0-mile track, holding off Jimmie Johnson in a green-white-checkered-flag finish to win Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400.

Busch beat Johnson to the finish line by .568 seconds to claim his series-best fourth victory of the season and the 23rd of his career. Busch kept Johnson winless at Michigan, one of five active tracks on the Cup circuit where the five-time champion hasn’t been to victory lane.

Brad Keselowski continued his recent surge with a third-place run, followed by Mark Martin and Ryan Newman. Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth completed the top 10.

Kyle Busch celebrates
Getty Images for NASCAR
Busch clinched his berth in the Chase by virtue of the fourth win, which guarantees him at least a wild-card berth in NASCAR’s 10-race playoff. He also claimed sole possession of the series lead, by 10 points over Johnson, after Carl Edwards finished 36th because of electrical problems and dropped from a share of first to fourth in the standings.

“It’s awesome,” Busch said. “That’s what we wanted. We wanted make sure that we could come out here and win races and have the opportunity to go for broke.”

Busch’s car wasn’t particularly good in practice on Saturday, but that changed dramatically when he and crew chief Dave Rogers put their heads together after the final session.

“Yesterday we practiced, we struggled a bit, and I kind of got down on things, and Dave was right there to help me out and pick it up,” Busch said. “We went over things last night and talked a lot about what we could do to the car to make it better, thought smartly about our changes for today, and we came out here strong.”

Busch held a comfortable lead over Johnson when Kurt Busch’s brush with the Turn 2 wall on Lap 197 caused the fifth and final caution of the race and forced a restart that took the event three laps past its scheduled distance of 200 laps.

By ducking into the pits for his final stop right before caution flew for the fourth time on Lap 168—after Dave Blaney slowed to a crawl on the backstretch—Johnson got his fuel and tire service out of the way and inherited the lead when everyone ahead of him came to the pits under the yellow.

Johnson chose the outside lane for a restart on Lap 173 and used the clean air to his advantage, pulling away to a lead of more than a second before Busch began to cut into his advantage. On Lap 188, Busch cleared Johnson into Turn 1 with what turned out to be the winning pass.

“(The car) was just really loose at the start of the race, and I drove up through the field, and (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) made a great call to get me to pit road before that caution came out,” Johnson said. “It gave us the shot at the win, but once I was up front in the clean air the balance of the car was a bit too loose.

“I got away from Kyle but I was loose, and I knew he was going to come at some point and he showed up. Disappointed that I didn’t win, but a very good effort for the Lowe’s team especially when you look at where we started the race (19th) and where we finished.”

As good a day as it was for Busch, it was every bit as bad for Denny Hamlin, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate. Hamlin brought his car to pit road on Lap 122 after scraping the wall in Turns 1 and 2. Hamlin finished 35th and dropped from 12th to 14th in the standings.

Though Hamlin still holds the second provisional wild-card spot, thanks to his victory at Michigan in June, he lost ground to the drivers pursuing him—one-time winners Paul Menard (18th) and David Ragan (20th).

Note: Busch is the fourth qualifier for the Sprint Summer Showdown, in which the winners of the five races leading up to the Sept. 4 event at Atlanta can earn a total of $3 million for themselves, a charity and a race fan ($1 million each) by winning that race.

Traditionally, MIS is the site for the first drivers to clinch a spot in the 12-driver Chase field. But with three races remaining before the 10-race Chase, Kyle Busch was the only driver to gain a spot in the field today.

Johnson jumped to second in the points standings behind Busch with Kevin Harvick third and Carl Edwards fourth, falling from second with a problem-plagued 36th-place finish. Jeff Gordon moved up from seventh to sixth with his sixth-place finish. Ryan Newman also gained a spot, up to seventh, while Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Tony Stewart retained their Top-10 status, respectively.

Results

FIN

ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 17 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Interstate Batteries 47/1 203 Running
2 19 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 43/1 203 Running
3 6 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 41/0 203 Running
4 5 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet Carquest / GoDaddy.com 41/1 203 Running
5 3 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Wix Filters 39/0 203 Running
6 9 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 39/1 203 Running
7 14 4 Kasey Kahne Toyota Red Bull 38/1 203 Running
8 35 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Cheerios / Hamburger Helper 36/0 203 Running
9 18 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Mobil 1 / Office Depot 35/0 203 Running
10 2 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Kroger 35/1 203 Running
11 29 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford Best Buy 33/0 203 Running
12 7 6 David Ragan Ford UPS "We Love Logistics" 32/0 203 Running
13 30 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row / Farm American 31/0 203 Running
14 8 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / Amp Energy 30/0 203 Running
15 26 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 29/0 203 Running
16 28 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Kingsford / Bush's Beans 28/0 203 Running
17 32 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar / Cat Financial 27/0 203 Running
18 15 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 26/0 203 Running
19 12 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 25/0 203 Running
20 1 16 Greg Biffle Ford Pure Michigan 26/2 203 Running
21 23 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 23/0 203 Running
22 24 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches 22/0 203 Running
23 10 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 21/0 203 Running
24 20 21 Trevor Bayne Ford JDRF / Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center 0 203 Running
25 25 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 19/0 203 Running
26 11 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Duracell / Menards 18/0 203 Running
27 16 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Stanley 17/0 203 Running
28 27 38 Travis Kvapil Ford Long John Silver's 0 203 Running
29 38 71 Andy Lally * Ford Interstate Moving Services 16/1 203 Running
30 42 32 Ken Schrader Ford Koma Unwind 14/0 203 Running
31 33 51 Landon Cassill Chevrolet Phoenix Construction / Thank A Teacher Today-Security Benefit 0 201 Running
32 39 34 David Gilliland Ford Front Row Motorsports 12/0 201 Running
33 34 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Accell Construction 11/0 198 Running
34 13 22 Kurt Busch Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 10/0 197 In Pit
35 4 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Freight 9/0 188 Running
36 22 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 8/0 174 Running
37 21 13 Casey Mears Toyota GEICO 8/1 32 In Pit
38 41 37 Tony Raines Ford Max Q Motorsports 6/0 26 In Pit
39 40 66 Todd Bodine Toyota HP Racing LLC 0 21 Out of Race
40 36 30 David Stremme Chevrolet Inception Motorsports 4/0 20 In Pit
41 37 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota NEMCO Motorsports 0 18 In Pit
42 43 60 Mike Skinner Toyota Big Red 0 14 Out of Race
43 31 55 J.J. Yeley Ford Front Row Motorsports 1/0 11 Out of Race

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