"I just Hope This Isn't A Fluke:" Kyle Busch Wins The Sharpie 500
Some of NASCAR's best racing has come on the short tracks and some of the most exciting racing has come on the short tracks under the lights. Nothing compares to beating and banging on a Saturday night.
Bristol Motor Speedway isn't called the World's Fastest Half Mile for nothing. Fenders get bent, feelings get hurt and someone gets to leave with a trophy and bragging rights of concurring Bristol.
With banking of 36 degrees, imagine trying to walk up a wall, it's been described as trying to fly fighter jets in a gymnasium. The fans circle the track and rain down on the drivers, AJ Allmendinger said when he spun during practice he could see the fans gasping at him.
Everyone wants to win Bristol but more than that they want to survive a night in Tennessee.
With two races remaining before the 2009 Chase for the Championship field is locked in, only 12 points separated the 12th and 13th place drivers heading into Saturday night's race. The driver in the last spot for the Chase, Mark Martin, won the pole for the race which also happened to be his 1,000 NASCAR start.
Points leader Tony Stewart who has already locked his spot in the Chase, started 30th and Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon who could lock in their spots depending on their finishes would have to do so from the back of the pack, 21st and 33rd respectively.
After being introduced to 160,000 fans to theme songs of their choosing, it was time to go racing for 500 laps at Bristol.
Martin led the field to the green flag but was third by the time he hit the backstretch because of a very loose racecar. Greg Biffle took the led with Scott Speed moving to second.
Caution No. 1 fell on lap 11 when rookie Joey Logano went for a spin after contact courtesy of Reed Sorenson as Biffle led the first 10 laps as Martin retook second position.
Stewart went a lap down after having to twice pit because of radio communications, he could hear the team but the team could not hear him. At the restart Biffle escaped from Martin to lead the first 20 laps.
As Biffle racked up 35 laps led, teammate Matt Kenseth took second spot from Martin as Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman completed the top five. Johnson meanwhile was up to 15th spot but Gordon was still back in traffic in the 25th position.
Denny Hamlin brought out the second caution when he lost a left front tire, which brought all the leaders to pit road for their first stops of the night. Biffle kept the lead with Martin in second, Clint Boywer, Kurt Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya.
On lap 78 Mark Martin took the lead from Greg Biffle as Kurt Busch went to third spot and Jimmie Johnson cracked the top five in the fifth position.
Tony Stewart got his lap back during that caution but it was reported that he could still not his hear crew, so the plan became for them to switch his helmet the next time he came in for a pit stop.
Mark Martin led at lap 100 and on lap 101 he lapped Tony Stewart as Kurt Busch went to second, Biffle to third, Johnson fourth and Montoya fifth. Matt Kenseth reported he had no grip and began loosing positions while teammate and last year's winner Carl Edwards who started 32nd was only in the 28th position.
Carl Edwards went a lap down on lap 128 along with Elliott Sadler and Reed Sorenson as the third caution came out on lap 136 because of debris. A brake rooter from the No. 44 of AJ Allmendinger was the culprit.
The leaders hit pit road for the second time with majority of them choosing four tires and fuel. Martin kept the lead over Kurt Busch, Biffle, Johnson and Montoya while the No. 1 of Martin Truex Jr. who had been flying through the field was penalized for too fast on pit road.
Elliott Sadler was the Lucky Dog award winner and would be back on the lead lap for the restart and for the first time that night, Dale Earnhardt Jr. cracked the top ten after starting in the 27th position.
Martin led the restart as Johnson and Kurt Busch battled for the second spot with David Reutimann going to fourth, Kyle Busch getting around Greg Biffle for fifth as Biffle lost another position to Montoya.
Jeff Gordon was making progress as he went to the 16th spot and last weekend's winner, Brian Vickers, took possession of the 20th position.
Caution No. 4 fell when Bobby Labonte went for a spin on the frontstretch, Labonte went to the garage as Hamlin got the Lucky Dog award. That sent Jeff Gordon to pit road for adjustments and an attempt to get off sequence with the leaders.
Kenseth also went to pit road with Edwards, Casey Mears, Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart who had to use hand signals to communicate with his crew. Stewart remained two laps down and buried in the back of the pack.
Martin once again led the restart over Kurt Busch who would be overtaken by his brother Kyle who jumped on the outside of him. But a lap later Kurt went door to door with Kyle to take the position back.
Kyle reported to his team that the contact with his brother ruined his fender and that "I'm sure the whole side is killed."
Marcos Ambrose became a nice surprise of the night when he took over the fourth position from Jimmie Johnson while the communication from his car showed "Jimmie who?" as he went by and as the race approached the 200 lap mark. Jeff Gordon finally cracked the top ten when he took over the sixth position but early leader Greg Biffle was going in the wrong direction as he ran in the 14th position.
Kurt Busch began to close the gap on leader Martin as Marcos Ambrose took the third position and then began to hunt for Kurt Busch. Ambrose and Busch closed in as Martin tried to navigate his way through traffic and attempted to lap the No. 31 car of Jeff Burton.
Once he did he began to drive away from the field.
On lap 255 caution No. 5 came out from debris off the No. 34 car of John Andretti after he hit the wall and that brought all the leaders back to pit road.
Martin won the race off pit road as Johnson got the second spot from Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. who had recovered from his speeding penalty came out fourth and Kyle Busch lost a spot to take the fifth position.
On the lap 264 restart Martin held the lead as Truex went by Johnson for second position but Johnson quickly took it back with Truex to third, Kurt Busch fourth and Ambrose fifth.
Johnson then took the lead on lap 274 and got five bonus points but let Martin retake the lead and continue on. But their teammate Jeff Gordon wasn't having as good as luck as he found himself in 16th spot with a car that was in bad need of adjustments.
Mark Martin continued to rack up the laps lead as he soldiered on to the 300 lap mark but as Martin was having a good race, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart were having a night to forget. Gordon continued to slide and ran 23rd as Stewart was still buried in the back and laps down in the 33rd spot.
Jimmie Johnson retook the lead on lap 317 when Mark Martin couldn't negotiate his way around the No. 9 of Kasey Kahne whom he was trying to lap. Kurt Busch began to gain ground on Martin for the second spot.
The night got worse for Gordon as he was lapped and then told his team that "We're in trouble," and that the car really need adjustments. He also had damage to his quarter-panel on the right rear of his car.
Next to fall victim to Johnson and go a lap down was Brian Vickers and David Reutimann who had been running in the top ten earlier in the race. Kyle Busch went around his brother for third as Truex looked on in fifth.
David Gililand in his No. 71 car his the wall on lap 356 to bring out the sixth caution of the night and gave Brian Vickers the Lucky Dog award.
The leaders headed for pit road for what could have been their final stops. Johnson got four tires and fuel, Kurt Busch got an air pressure adjustment and Mark Martin got no changed for fear of ruining his car.
Johnson kept the lead over Martin, Kurt and Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five. Truex, Ambrose, Biffle, Montoya and Matt Kenseth were the rest of the top ten.
Johnson led the restart, Kyle Busch went to second, and Truex and Kurt Busch fought over the fourth spot before Kurt took sole possession of it. Hamlin then went door to door with Truex.
Martin took the second spot with 132 laps to go and it once again was the battle of the brothers for the third spot before Kyle finally took it over.
Jimmie Johnson who has never won at Bristol in his career held the lead with 100 laps to go and put Brian Vickers back down a lap in the process. Teammate Mark Martin ran second, Kyle Busch third, Kurt Busch fourth and Denny Hamlin ran fifth.
Jeff Gordon went two laps down and ran 27th with just 90 laps to go as Kyle Busch began to track down the leaders.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. worked his way back inside the top ten after going around Clint Bowyer but caution No. 7 flew with 78 laps to go because of rain with Johnson still leading.
Johnson led the lead lap cars down pit road and would have a problem with the right rear on his pit stop and had to come back down pit road for a new right rear tire.
Ryan Newman won the race off pit road over Mark Martin, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Marcos Ambrose, and David Reutimann, but Michael Waltrip did not pit and was scored as the leader.
The race restarted with 70 laps to go and with 67 to go Kyle Busch took the lead for the first time that night for five bonus points. His brother though was going backwards and was part of the eight caution of the night after getting spun due to a chain reaction.
Brain Vickers got a piece of it and Kevin Harvick was also collected along with teammate Clint Bowyer and Casey Mears. But it was good news for Carl Edwards who would get the Lucky Dog award. An unlucky dog was points leader Tony Stewart who continued to have a horrible night when he car stalled on the track during the caution.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. continued his move through the field and was shown in the sixth position and teammate Jeff Gordon was shown to get one of his two laps back with just 58 laps to go.
Kyle Busch led the restart with 49 laps to go over Ryan Newman and Juan Montoya who would take that position from Newman who then fell victim to Mark Martin as Earnhardt Jr. looked on.
Montoya though began losing spots and the caution No. 8 came out when Sam Hornish Jr. hit the wall with 42 laps left.
Busch led on the restart over Martin as Montoya continued to drop like a rock and nearly spun his No. 42 Dodge out. He hung on and came down pit road but only took two tires even though it was not clear which tire was the problem.
Mark Martin was right on Busch's bumper with 30 laps to go as Martin Truex Jr.'s great run came to an with what looked to be a tire failure in the No. 1 Chevrolet as he began smoking. The ninth caution of the night fell with 22 laps to go when that tire exploded and showered the track in debris.
Jeff Burton was the Lucky Dog award winner.
The restart occurred with 14 laps to go as Mark Martin and Biffle fought for second spot. But with nine laps to go and Martin closing, Waltrip and Clint Bowyer brought out the tenth caution.
That would bring out the red flag as the rain began to fall again.
Kyle Busch led on the restart with just four laps remaining and would be able to hold on and win the Sharpie 500 at Bristol.
Mark Martin finished second, Marcos Ambrose third, Greg Biffle fourth, Denny Hamlin fifth, Ryan Newman sixth, Kurt Busch seventh, Jimmie Johnson eight, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ninth and Matt Kenseth finished tenth.
"It's awesome you know, to race in the Sprint Cup Series all these guys really an honor. And Mark Martin what a class act and he deserved to win," Busch said in victory lane.
"I drove as hard as I could, he [Martin] had a chance, he could have done it. And he didn't, he raced me clean and we didn't have the best car tonight but we had a car capable of doing it if I could drive it hard enough," he continued.
With his win Busch moves to 13th in points and just 34 points behind the final Chase spot that is held by Matt Kenseth with just two races remaining. The Cup Series will have an off-week next weekend but will then settle it all at Atlanta and Richmond.
"I hoping this isn't a fluke to get in the Chase," Busch said of his victory. "We need to run well at Atlanta and again at Richmond and we feel like we can do it."
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