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Busch wins another one for Toyota

Sprint Cup
Sunday, April 27, 2008

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Busch (18) on the low side and Montoya (42) on the high side do battle
Toyota
With Juan Montoya setting him up for the last lap pass, the caution flew with one lap to go and Kyle Busch, who fought back from being one lap down in his Toyota, went on to pick up the checkered flag in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

After a multi-car wreck with 25 laps to go ruined Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart's chances, Busch battled his way to the front with some bold moves in the closing laps of a thrilling race.

Juan Pablo Montoya, the former Indy 500 winner and Formula One star, crossed the finish line in second, glued to the bumper of the winner.

The seventh caution flag of the day fell on the final lap, signaling the end of the race, when a gaggle of cars racing for finishing position started spinning behind the leaders.

The race which featured 52 lead changes among 20 drivers was totally unpredictable from start to finish with drivers swapping the lead several times on a single lap.

Denny Hamlin, who raced Stewart and Earnhardt for the lead throughout most of the race, finished third with rookie David Ragan fourth. Ragan also mixed it up with the leaders all day.

Brian Vickers was fifth, followed by Travis Kvapil, Casey Mears, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Earnhardt, who managed a 10th-place finish despite his car being damaged in the wreck.

It was a pins and needles afternoon with just about every driver leading for a spell. On the final restart, two-time champion Jimmie Johnson pushed Michael Waltrip to the front momentarily but the deck shuffled several times by the end. Johnson finished 13th and teammate Jeff Gordon, who challenged up front in the closing moments, wound up 21st.

Points leader Jeff Burton, who also ran with the frontrunners most of the overcast afternoon, was caught up in the last accident and finished 15th.

As heartbreaking as it was for Earnhardt and Stewart, substitute driver David Stremme –filling in for the injured Dario Franchitti – ran strong all day but was also eliminated in the final accident of the day. 

Stewart jumped into the lead at the start on a balmy day at Talladega's two and a half mile speed emporium that has produced some of NASCAR's most exciting races.

By lap 10, Talladega favorite Earnhardt had moved from ninth to third.

It was a short day for Chip Ganassi Racing driver Reed Sorensen, who retired to the garage with engine problems after just five laps.

Behind the leaders Stewart, David Ragan and Earnhardt, pole winner Nemechek settled into fourth with veteran Schrader on his bumper. 

Four-time series champion Gordon had moved from 20th to eighth by the 19th lap when former champion Matt Kenseth slid into the turn four wall for the first caution of the afternoon.

Nemechek lost valuable time in the pits while his crew switched his car from "qualifying mode" to "race mode," such as reconnecting belts like power steering that might produce a little more speed.

On the restart, Stewart was still leading with Kyle Busch second, Sadler third and Gordon fourth, followed by Brian Vickers, Earnhardt, Ragan, Jamie McMurray, Montoya and Scott Riggs.

Shortly afterwards, McMurray and Hamlin hooked up in the outside groove and streaked past Stewart and the others. After pushing McMurray to the front, Hamlin ducked to the bottom in turn one and took the lead himself on lap 33.

By lap 37, Earnhardt pulled out of line in front of Gordon and roared to the front, much to the delight of the huge, partisan crowd.

Clearly, the outside groove was the place to be. By lap 41, it was Earnhardt, Gordon, Paul Menard, Newman and Kevin Harvick, who started back in 39th position. Stewart and company had faded to 20th. 

Hotshoe Carl Edwards brushed the wall and lost the draft during this period of the race.

The racing was just what people expect to see at Talladega with two and three abreast racing keeping the crowd on its feet.

Earnhardt maintained the lead during several skirmishes but Vickers got out front briefly and held on for several laps.

Earnhardt then fell in behind Menard and pushed him into the lead. Montoya got a push from Hamlin and led briefly but Earnhardt took over again on lap 53. Then Hamlin went out front. The lead was changing so fast, it was hard to keep up with who was first, and for how long.

Harvick took a turn in front, then Hamlin again. Then Earnhardt again at 60 laps of this 188-lap nail-biter.

After everyone had pitted under the green flag, Stewart was once again out front.

Vickers, who had been in the thick of things, spun his car exiting pit road and lost a lot of track position, all the way back to 30th spot.

By 70 laps, it was Stewart, Hamlin, Menard, Martin Truex Jr., Kvapil, Johnson, rookie Michael McDowell, Waltrip, Elliott Sadler and Bowyer. Earnhardt had dropped to 11th spot.

On lap 76, Indy 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr., scraped the wall slightly and had to make an unscheduled pit stop.

By the 80th lap, Earnhardt was back up to fourth just behind Johnson. Stewart and Hamlin were in front. The next lap, Earnhardt pushed Johnson towards the front but fell back in line, leaving Johnson in a fade-away position, all the way back to 15th.

Stewart and Hamlin were hooked together for several laps and Nemechek had worked his way back into the top 10.

Earnhardt took the lead again on lap 88 with the Stewart-Hamlin duo stuck on his bumper.

At the halfway mark, 94 laps, it was Earnhardt, Stewart, Hamlin, McMurray, Ragan, Menard, Waltrip, Newman, Truex, and Sadler.

Results

FIN

ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 5 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's Most Colorful Fan 190/5 188 Running
2 26 42 Juan Montoya Dodge Wrigley's Juicy Fruit 175/5 188 Running
3 7 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Freight 170/5 188 Running
4 6 6 David Ragan Ford AAA Travel 160/0 188 Running
5 8 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 160/5 188 Running
6 14 28 Travis Kvapil Ford Northern Tool + Equipment 150/0 188 Running
7 36 5 Casey Mears Chevrolet CARQUEST / Kellogg's 146/0 188 Running
8 21 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Alltel 147/5 188 Running
9 41 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet DIRECTV 138/0 188 Running
10 9 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet AMP Energy / National Guard 139/5 188 Running
11 10 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 135/5 188 Running
12 20 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Pepsi / DuPont 132/5 188 Running
13 32 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal 124/0 188 Running
14 43 40 David Stremme Dodge TUMS Quik Pak 126/5 188 Qualified
15 22 15 Paul Menard Chevrolet Turtle Wax / Menards 123/5 188 Running
16 19 66 Scott Riggs Chevrolet State Water Heaters 115/0 188 Running
17 38 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility 117/5 188 Running
18 1 78 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet National Day of Prayer / Furniture Row 109/0 188 Running
19 29 01 Regan Smith * Chevrolet DEI / Principal Financial Group 111/5 188 Running
20 35 7 Robby Gordon Dodge RVs.com 103/0 188 Running
21 18 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Garmin 105/5 188 Running
22 40 38 David Gilliland Ford FreeCreditReport.com 102/5 188 Running
23 39 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 99/5 188 Running
24 42 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 96/5 188 Running
25 4 84 A.J. Allmendinger Toyota Red Bull 93/5 188 Running
26 31 16 Greg Biffle Ford American Red Cross / 3M 85/0 188 Running
27 27 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA AUTO PARTS 87/5 188 Running
28 30 44 David Reutimann Toyota UPS / 134th Kentucky Derby 79/0 188 Running
29 16 109 Sterling Marlin Chevrolet Miccosukee Resort & Gaming 76/0 188 Running
30 24 00 Michael McDowell * Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 73/0 188 Running
31 17 10 Patrick Carpentier * Dodge LifeLock 70/0 185 Running
32 15 45 Kyle Petty Dodge Marathon / Wells Fargo / PVA 67/0 185 Running
33 28 8 Aric Almirola Chevrolet U.S. Army 64/0 185 Running
34 34 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios / Betty Crocker 61/0 182 Running
35 37 77 Sam Hornish Jr. * Dodge Mobil 1 58/0 179 Running
36 12 21 Jon Wood Ford Little Debbie Honey Buns 55/0 178 Running
37 33 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 52/0 174 In Pit
38 2 20 Tony Stewart Toyota The Home Depot 59/10 173 In Pit
39 23 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 46/0 173 In Pit
40 11 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 43/0 152 Running
41 13 17 Matt Kenseth Ford DEWALT 40/0 149 Running
42 3 70 Ken Schrader Chevrolet Hunt Brothers Pizza 42/5 141 Out of Race
43 25 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Polaroid 34/0 4 Out of Race

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