It was a busy weekend that was sadly overshadowed by tragedy. NASCAR’s Nextel Cup and Busch series were in action at the always-wild Bristol bullring, the IRL IndyCar Series had its season opener at Homestead, joined by the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, and the World Rally Championship had its first European round in Spain. The racing was good, but two fatalities – one in the IRL and one in the WRC – put a damper on the excitement.
NASCAR: Kurt Busch Wins at Bristol
Kurt Busch, the 2004 Nextel Cup Series champion, captured his 15th career series win, and his first since switching from Roush Racing to Penske Racing, at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday. It was his fifth win at the high-banked half-mile.
Qualifying was rained out on Friday, and the grid was set by 2005 owners’ points. Busch started ninth and moved to third in the early laps, only to be sidelined by a cut tire and forced to work his way back through traffic. Defending series champ Tony Stewart started from pole and led the majority of laps, 245 of 500, but faded at the end and finished 12th. Busch passed Stewart for the lead on Lap 386 and led until one of 18 cautions came out on Lap 407. Matt Kenseth led off of pit road and held the lead until Lap 495, when he got trapped behind the lapped car of Dale Jarrett. Busch put the “ol’ bump and run” on former teammate Kenseth and took the lead, followed by Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon. Kenseth, running fifth, got into Gordon’s back bumper on the last lap, spinning the four-time champ back to 21st.
At the finish the order was Busch, Harvick, Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Bobby Labonte, with an excellent showing in the Petty Enterprises famed No. 43. Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne completed the top 10.
Emotions were high following the race, and Kenseth, though mad at Kurt Busch, went over to Gordon to apologize immediately after getting out of his car. An angry Gordon shoved Kenseth in response, resulting in both being invited to chat with NASCAR officials. Don’t be surprised to see money and/or points penalties being levied come Tuesday.
All in all, a typical Bristol. The series moves on to another bullring, Martinsville Speedway, next weekend for more of the same.
NASCAR Nextel Cup Top Five:
1) Kurt Busch, No. 2 Penske Racing South Dodge Charger, 500 laps
2) Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS, -0.180sec
3) Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Roush Racing Ford Fusion, -3.146sec
4) Carl Edwards, No. 99 Roush Racing Ford Fusion, -3.788sec
5) Bobby Labonte, No. 43 Petty Enterprises Dodge Charger, -4.182sec
Driver’s Championship: 1) Matt Kenseth, 782; 2) Kasey Kahne, 774; 3) Jimmie Johnson, 763; 4) Mark Martin, 750; 5) Kyle Busch, 677.
NASCAR Busch Series: Kyle Busch Perseveres at Bristol
Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor Kevin Harvick could stop Kyle Busch from his appointed rounds of the high-banked Bristol Motor Speedway half-mile on Saturday, where he claimed his first victory of the season and his seventh career Busch Series win.
The 300-lap race was delayed by 1hr19min for a snowstorm, which prompted a snowball fight between race teams and the fans in the massive Bristol grandstands. Harvick led 120 of the first 146 laps and seemed to have the car to beat, but he picked up a windshield tear-off on a rear tire and was forced to pit, thinking he had a flat. The stop dropped Harvick to 32nd and forced him into catch-up mode.
As the laps wound down, Carl Edwards gambled on tires to get track position, but the gamble failed as the tires wore out too soon and sent him backwards in the pack. Teammate Greg Biffle was in position to capitalize and looked like the man to beat as the race neared its end, but a loose wheel forced him to pit with 11 laps to go. That put Busch, who claimed to have been “just riding and saving my stuff for the end” out front ahead of the resurgent Harvick and Matt Kenseth.
Busch was able to fend off the challenges of Harvick, who faded in the last couple of laps and was barely able to beat Kenseth to the line. Denny Hamlin and Edwards finished fourth and fifth, with Scott Riggs, Ron Hornaday, Kenny Wallace, John Andretti and Johnny Sauter filling out the top 10.