It's Kurt Wins For You: Busch Wins Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway
It wasn't long ago when Kurt Busch expressed his dismay and frustration with his Penske Racing crew at the lack of speed and performance for his No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge fleet.
After publicly ousting them to the press, his team heard him loud and clear -- to the tune of three consecutive poles, five straight top-11 finishes and more importantly, a pivotal win.
Starting 11th, the 32-year-old Las Vegas native powered his way to the front of the field with relative ease, taking the lead on lap 13 from Denny Hamlin.
Busch dominated the Toytoa/Save Mart 350, leading 76 of 110 laps, with his Dodge Charger holding leads up to 32 seconds -- a testament to how strong his Penske machine was all afternoon long.
"We've been on a great run these last few weeks," Busch said per AP Sports Writer Jenna Fryer's article. "To get a road course win, it's a big check mark on my list. It's just really neat to bring home a 'W.'"
While Busch's Dodge looked pristine from start to finish, most of his competitors' cars looked like they raced at Martinsville, with crinkled fenders and sides, and in some cases, fenderless vehicles that resembled modifieds.
In the case for second place finisher Jeff Gordon, it was more than just a survival of the fittest on the 1.99-mile road course.
"Man, it was nuts out there," Gordon said.
Despite starting 13th, the five-time Infineon race winner struggled with an ill-handling No. 24 DuPont/Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet before a late-race gamble by crew chief Alan Gustafson helped him gain tremendous track position.
A few breaks and adjustments during pit stops later, Gordon found himself picking off spots in the final restart, avoiding the skirmishes between Juan Pablo Montoya and Kasey Kahne to take home a runner-up finish.
Drivers who didn't get much of a break at all included Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Denny Hamlin, and Brian Vickers, whose cars suffered race damage that took them out of contention.
Earnhardt Jr. was involved in a multi-car accident on lap 39, which was a result of some contact between Stewart and Vickers. Although his car wasn't severely damaged, the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet overheated, resulting in an early trip to the garage with a devastating 41st-place finish.
As for Stewart and Vickers, that wouldn't be the last time their cars made contact.
On lap 88, Vickers bumped Stewart into the tire barriers along turn 11, severely damaging both machines enough to warrant a trip to the garage area.
Both racers placed 36th and 39th respectively, with Stewart not exactly taking the crash lightly nor personally.
"I probably had it coming because I dumped him earlier, but I dumped him because he was blocking," Stewart said.
Emotions ran high with many racers, with Juan Pablo Montoya upsetting Kasey Kahne for late race contact, while pole sitter Joey Logano was less than pleased with Robby Gordon.
Last week's race winner Denny Hamlin was quite unhappy with A.J. Allmendinger, as he felt that the Richard Petty Motorsports driver took his strong car out of contention.
Points leader Carl Edwards finished third, a huge improvement over his result last year when he placed 29th. Part of his successful afternoon may be attributed to his decision to forego the Nationwide race at Road America, although it wasn't the simplest decision for the Roush-Fenway racer.
"It was very tough to watch the race from Road America, but I think staying was the right decision," Edwards said. "It worked out. It was a good call."
Rounding out the top-five finishers were Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose, who somewhat redeemed himself after last year's late-race collapse.
Despite placing sixth, Logano had some scathing words for fellow competitor Robby Gordon.
"He drives like a moron every week," Logano said. "We were a lot faster than him. I got outside of him one corner and he knocked in my fender. So I had enough of it. I'm not going to get pushed around. I don't care."
Finishing seventh through 10th were defending race winner Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Brad Keselowski.
Here's a look at the top 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings heading into next Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 presented by Coca-Cola at Daytona Beach, FL, with team, manufacturer, and win total in parentheses:
- Carl Edwards (Roush-Fenway/Ford/1 win)
- Kevin Harvick (Childress/Chevrolet/3 wins)
- Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick/Chevrolet/1 win)
- Kurt Busch (Penske/Dodge/1 win)
- Kyle Busch (Gibbs/Toyota/2 wins)
- Matt Kenseth (Roush-Fenway/Ford/2 wins)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Hendrick/Chevrolet)
- Clint Bowyer (Childress/Chevrolet)
- Jeff Gordon (Hendrick/Chevrolet/2 wins)
- Ryan Newman (Stewart-Haas/Chevrolet)
Presently, here's the two wild card seeds if the Chase began next weekend:
11. Denny Hamlin (Gibbs/Toyota/1 win) 12. Tony Stewart (Stewart-Haas/Chevrolet)
TNT will carry the Coke Zero 400 live, with the green flag scheduled to drop at 7:49 PM ET. Adam Alexander, Kyle Petty, and Wally Dallenbach Jr. will call the action from the booth while Marty Snider, Matt Yocum, Chris Neville, and Ralph Sheheen will cover all the pit stops.
Additionally, catch the race live on NASCAR.com's RaceBuddy for free, with two mosiacs carrying four unique camera angles commercial-free.