NASCAR: Kyle Busch wins under caution
By Jenna Fryer
TALLADEGA, Ala. ó This time, the crash happened behind Kyle Busch. Instead of leaving Talladega Superspeedway with a smashed-up car, he drove into Victory Lane.
The kid who couldn’t conquer Talladega finally won at the harrowing track Sunday, and in this breakout season for Busch, it was only fitting that he coasted to the victory.
Busch came back from a lap down for his first win at Talladega, which was won under caution when a 13-car accident brought out the yellow flag on the final lap. It froze the field and allowed Busch to slowly make his way across the finish line ó a rare completion considering his past history at this track.
In six previous Cup races, Busch failed to finish four times and wrecked out of both events last season. His accident in last spring’s Cup race was so hard, he cracked his head-and-neck restraint while finishing 37th. And his wreck in the fall officially ended his championship hopes.
“I don’t think I’ve finished one here without wrecking, or at least without a torn up car,” said Busch.
But this year, he can’t seem to do anything wrong. His victory was his second Sprint Cup win of the year, seventh spanning all three of NASCAR’s top series, and gave him wins four weekends in a row dating back to a Nationwide Series victory in Texas earlier this month.
He’s now scored wins this season on a road course, an intermediate track, a short track and a superspeedway.
“It’s great for Kyle. He’s red hot,” car owner Joe Gibbs said.
So hot, it didn’t even matter that Busch fell a lap down midway through the race when he missed his pit during a stop and had to circle back to try again on the next lap. But he got the lap back as the “lucky dog” on the next caution, and it put him in position to drive back to the front in his Toyota.
“If we could just hang in there, we had a good enough car to get our lap back if we got a caution, he was just real patient.
Juan Pablo Montoya finished second to match his career best on an oval since moving to NASCAR midway through 2006. He also was second at Indy last July.
“I didn’t want to finish second,” Montoya said. “It’s hard. I would think I would have tried to make a move coming out of four.”
Denny Hamlin, Busch’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, finished third.
“The whole race was crazy,” Hamlin said. “Everyone got antsy.”
That showed in the waning laps, which were marked by three separate accidents. The first came with 14 laps to go when Tony Stewart, the third Joe Gibbs Racing driver, was stuck in the middle of a huge pack of cars. Bobby Labonte got forced to the bottom of the track by another car, and it set in motion a six-car accident that ended Stewart’s day.
Despite leading a race-high 61 laps, he dropped to 0-for-20 in Talladega Cup races.
“That’s what happens late in these races,” Stewart said as he surveyed his damaged car. “If it was my fault, I’m sorry. But by looking at the video, I don’t think I did anything wrong.”
Labonte wrecked again shortly after the restart for another caution, setting up a final re-start with five laps to go and Michael Waltrip leading.
But Jimmie Johnson moved Waltrip out of the way, briefly giving Johnson the lead before he lost his momentum and a Busch-led train raced past him on the outside. Busch had Jeff Gordon on his bumper, and the ending was shaping up for another last-lap duel: Four of the past six Talladega races ended with a last-lap pass.
Montoya, with a huge push from temporary teammate David Stremme ó he was filling in for Dario Franchitti, who broke his ankle in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race ó moved past Gordon and onto Busch’s bumper with Hamlin behind him.
Knowing Hamlin was likely to work with Busch if he couldn’t win the race himself, Montoya bided his time as he considered how to make a run on Busch. But it never came into play, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jamie McMurray made contact, McMurray hit the wall and a ton of other cars piled up around them.
Montoya and Hamlin didn’t fret over what could have been.
Asked what he could have done, Montoya said to ask Hamlin.
“Ask Denny, he was the guy behind me,” he said.
“Yeah, I was going to dictate the winner,” Hamlin joked.
“He’s right,” Montoya replied.
But in all seriousness, Hamlin said he was going to be a player. In his mind, he planned to push Montoya alongside Busch then go three-wide in a race to the finish line. Joe Gibbs Racing, they would have frowned upon me pushing somebody else past Kyle,” Hamlin said. “But I was going to go for it myself.”
All that planning was for naught as Busch continued his white-hot start to his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing.