For Kurt Busch, the formula for winning at Martinsville Speedway was an easy one.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
“I've been on this journey for a while,” said the STP 500 winner Busch. “Every time you come to Martinsville you draw a line through it; like 'there's no way I'll be able to challenge those Hendrick guys or challenge for a top-10.’”
On Sunday, Busch beat “those Hendrick guys” using the same equipment they had, courtesy of the deal struck between his team, Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) and Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick builds the cars and engines, and SHR prepares the combination for racing.
Not only did Busch beat the other Hendrick cars, he also did it in style, in a door-to-door battle with six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson, with eight wins on the paper-clip-shaped Martinsville oval, was the class of the field all afternoon, leading 296 of 500 laps. But it was the last dozen that made the difference. Try as he might, Johnson was unable to hold off a determined Busch in the final laps.
“Man that is all I had, that is all I could do,” said Johnson in the post-race press conference. “I got back by him and then he got back to me and I was really, really loose in the closing stages of the race.
“Once he got back to me and put the pressure to me, I couldn’t keep the back (of the car) under me. I put all the front brake in it that I could and was just hoping I could hold him off, but just wasn’t able to.”
Busch became the sixth winner in as many Sprint Cup races in 2014, calling into question whether or not one win is a guaranteed spot in the Chase.
Even race winner Busch questioned his status with only one win.
“It’s (the Chase field) going to fill up quick, and we have to do our job on this 41 team to develop as a team and to be a bona fide chase contender when the Chase starts. So we're not going to rest on this win. If we get a second win, that's when I would call ourselves locked in.”