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Kurt Busch wins twice postponed MIS Nextel Cup race

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by Tim Wohlford
August 21, 2007

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Kurt Busch
CIA Stock Photo

After being postponed due to rain for two straight days, NASCAR finally ran its Nextel Cup race in Michigan today.  Kurt Busch survived a 3-lap green-white-checkers shootout to finish his domination of the 3M Performance 400 at Michigan  International Speedway. Martin Truex Jr. finished second, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Dave Blaney.

He was so strong all day, he easily held off Martin Truex, Jr. in the green-white-checkered finish, which added three laps to the scheduled 200 lap race.  It was his third career win for car owner Roger Penske.

Carl Edwards, Brian Vickers, Bobby Labonte, and Tony Stewart completed the first ten finishers.

“For all the fans to be here on a Tuesday – I’m sure some of them might not have a job when they show up for work tomorrow morning,” Busch said. “There’s some diehard fans in this area and I’m sure Roger (Penske, team owner) knew that when he bought this place (in 1973). The heart that NASCAR fans have and their drive to be out here and give up a little family time or whatever it might have been, to see them here at the track was incredible. And to have a great finish like we did, going all the way to a green-white-checkered, the fans got their money’s worth.

“To just get the race under way was a relief. It was a smooth and steady day for us. We had to race some guys hard to move forward. All of the restarts at the end challenged me to be at my best,” Busch continued.

Michigan Speedway has lead a charmed life in terms of race-day weather. Two funnel clouds in the past 15 years have bypassed the crowded MIS grounds without more than a scare, and rain hadn't postponed a race in 30 years. This weekend, the law of averages caught up with MIS, with solid rain starting on Saturday afternoon and continuing until early Tuesday morning. NASCAR had the track dried by the scheduled 10:00 start time, but they couldn't burn off the fog. After trying to run under yellow flag conditions for 12 laps, they called the cars into the pits when the spotters couldn't see the cars when they were in turn 3.

When the race resumed a half an hour later, Greg Biffle took the early lead. Interrupted only by a spin by Juan Pablo Montoya, Biffle looked strong for the first 30 laps. However, when the competition caution flew at lap 30, he was shuffled back in the pack, and suffered from a loose car for the rest of the day. He spun on lap 197, and finished 19th.

The early racing featured a single-groove race track, and that groove was against the wall. After the competition caution, the cars started moving down the track, but for most of the cars, the high line was the groove to take. Last June, Martin Truex Jr. ran within inches of the wall, and he lurked all day until a decision late in the race put him into position to win the race. Ultimately he was no match for Kurt Busch, and finished 2nd for the second race in a row.

The June Michigan race was an early bright spot for Toyota teams, and for a while it looked like Toyota might have the car to beat today. Brian Vickers moved to second by lap 34, and took the lead on lap 62. Vickers finished the race in 8th place, while fellow Toyota driver Dave Blaney finished in 6th. Michael Waltrip spun on lap 93, and the front of the car was removed by Joe Nemechek, relegating Waltrip to a 40th place finish. David Reutimann finishing 23rd, 1 lap down.

On lap 88, the DEI car of Mark Martin started smoking heavily. The car was obviously under power, but just as obviously losing oil. Martin's car was repaired and sent back onto the track for a few laps, but finished in 42nd place. DEI engine woes continued when Paul Menard's engine started smoking on lap 165, forcing him to retire as well.

Starting around lap 135, Kurt Busch started a domination that reminded everyone of Pocono two weeks ago. Settling into another long-green flag Michigan race, it was obvious that unless bad luck hit, or a mistake was made, Kurt was the guy to beat.


Jeff Gordon gets a push after spinning in Turn 4
CIA Stock Photo

Bad luck certainly hit Jeff Gordon. In spite of having a solid top-5 car, one of the “shark fins” that run along the edge of the back window (along the C pillar) came loose. NASCAR mandated that it be fixed, but it was obviously reattached wrong. Starting on lap 171, Gordon chased a very ill-handling car. Finally, on lap 191, he slid in front of a charging Matt Kenseth, and was punted into the muddy infield. Gordon finished 27th, Kenseth 4th.

Busch was cruising in the lead with nine laps remaining when Jeff Gordon spun out when he was tagged in the back by Kenseth.

“I don’t blame Matt for that,” Gordon said, who finished 27th after running in the top five most of the day. “My car was very loose, slid up the track and I saw Matt in my mirror and tried to get out of his way, but he had too much momentum.”

When the green flag fell with 7 laps to go, Kurt Busch set sail, obviously the car to beat. However, Biffle's spin on lap 199 (actually, technically, lap 200) set up a green-white-checkers dash. It didn't matter -- Busch's car jumped into a 3-4 car length lead and was never challenged.

The NASCAR crews have a quick turnaround this week, since the action starts in Bristol tomorrow night. In fact, fans are already camping at Bristol, and were said to be watching this race in their campers. Many NASCAR employees are traveling straight to Bristol, with a swing to California Speedway the week after that.

Jeff Gordon continues to lead in the points standings. Dale Earnhardt remains in 13th place, out of the Chase if it started today, in spite of a 12th place finish today. Ryan Newman is virtually tied with Earnhardt in 14th place, only eight points behind.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 15 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 195/10 203 Running
2 14 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 170/0 203 Running
3 7 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 170/5 203 Running
4 21 17 Matt Kenseth Ford DEWALT 165/5 203 Running
5 8 11 Denny Hamlin Chevrolet FedEx Kinko's 155/0 203 Running
6 17 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Caterpillar 150/0 203 Running
7 13 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot 146/0 203 Running
8 18 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 147/5 203 Running
9 4 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios / Betty Crocker 138/0 203 Running
10 35 20 Tony Stewart Chevrolet The Home Depot 134/0 203 Running
11 29 25 Casey Mears Chevrolet National Guard / GMAC 130/0 203 Running
12 39 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Budweiser 132/5 203 Running
13 6 5 Kyle Busch Chevrolet CARQUEST / Kellogg's 124/0 203 Running
14 19 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility 121/0 203 Running
15 28 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 118/0 203 Running
16 34 12 Ryan Newman Dodge ALLTEL 120/5 203 Running
17 9 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Jack Daniel's 112/0 203 Running
18 25 6 David Ragan * Ford AAA Insurance 109/0 203 Running
19 2 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 111/5 203 Running
20 27 4 Ward Burton Chevrolet Lucas Oil / State Water Heaters 108/5 203 Running
21 20 40 David Stremme Dodge TUMS 100/0 202 Running
22 40 66 Jeff Green Chevrolet Best Buy 97/0 202 Running
23 12 00 David Reutimann * Toyota Dominos.com 94/0 202 Running
24 30 7 Robby Gordon Ford Jim Beam 96/5 202 Running
25 31 18 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Interstate Batteries 88/0 202 Running
26 26 42 Juan Montoya * Dodge Texaco / Havoline 85/0 202 Running
27 1 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 87/5 202 Running
28 24 38 David Gilliland Ford M&M's 79/0 202 Running
29 41 70 Johnny Sauter Chevrolet Yellow Trans. 76/0 202 Running
30 36 26 Jamie McMurray Ford IRWIN Industrial Tools 73/0 202 Running
31 3 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Dodge Dealers / UAW 70/0 201 Running
32 5 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Dodge Dealers / UAW 67/0 201 Running
33 22 88 Ricky Rudd Ford Snickers 64/0 201 Running
34 37 96 Tony Raines Chevrolet DLP HDTV 61/0 201 Running
35 23 21 Bill Elliott Ford Little Debbie 58/0 201 Running
36 43 10 Scott Riggs Dodge Auto Value / Bumper to Bumper - Valvoline 55/0 201 Running
37 16 49 John Andretti Dodge Paralyzed Veterans of America 52/0 201 Running
38 33 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Target 49/0 200 Running
39 38 15 Paul Menard * Chevrolet Sylvania / Menards 46/0 167 Out of Race
40 11 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 43/0 135 Running
41 42 45 Chad McCumbee Dodge Marathon American Spirit Motor Oil 40/0 134 Running
42 10 01 Mark Martin Chevrolet U.S. Army 37/0 101 Off Track
43 32 208 Joe Nemechek Dodge E&M Motorsports 34/0 92 Out of Race

* Denotes Rookie

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