Kurt Busch bests Johnson to win at Martinsville

  • Article by: HANK KURZ JR. , Associated Press
  • Updated: March 31, 2014 - 1:52 AM
hide

Brad Keselowski's (2) car was damaged in a pit road accident with Kasey Kahan (5) and Kurt Busch (41) during a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Va., on Sunday.

Photo: Mike McCarn, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

MARTINSVILLE, VA. -- Kurt Busch's Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, in some ways, was like his career wrapped into one afternoon.

It started with a pit road confrontation with Brad Keselowski, one that had Busch threatening over his radio to rearrange Keselowski's face when the race was finished, and ended with Busch ending an 83-race victory drought.

The victory was his first for Stewart-Haas Racing, in just their sixth race together, suggesting that it could prove a very productive partnership, and one that a reflective Busch said he has learned to approach with a more mature attitude.

"I ran a lot of my early part of my career as an individual and I didn't respect my team, my team owners," Busch said, adding that having Tony Stewart as a team owner has helped him learn the value of better team communication.

Celebrating in Victory Lane also was emotional, too, because he got to do it for the first time with his son, Houston.

"It was pretty emotional. To see him starry eyed and not knowing what he needed to do and I was directing him where he needed to stand and where he could see it all better and put him up on stage,"' Busch said, his voice cracking. "And to have him break down in tears, it got me crossed up because I've been trying to deliver for him ... It kind of took it to a new level."

Busch did it by passing Martinsville master Jimmie Johnson for the lead with 10 laps to go and holding off the eight-time winner to win at the track for the first time since October 2002. It was his 25th career Cup-level victory, and that it came in the most unlikely of places suggested to Busch that he's finally in the right place, team-wise and personally.

"You've got to put life in perspective, and you have to learn from your mistakes and you can't just sit there and try to muscle your way individually through certain situations," he said. "And so you rely on your experience level, you rely on your team, and this is a great day for me to be able to lift the trophy in Victory Lane for Stewart-Haas Racing."

Johnson, with eight wins in 25 career starts on the 0.526-mile oval, led 11 times for 296 laps. He seemed on his way to another victory when he took the lead from Busch with 17 laps remaining. But Busch stayed close, ducked underneath Johnson seven laps later and Johnson had nothing left to make a run at the lead, making for a polite-looking finish.

"That's all I had," Johnson said. "Man, I ran the rear tires off the car. I flipped every switch and knob I could in there to get front brake and turns fans off and try to help bring my balance back."

Just ahead, Busch wasn't sure he could hang on. He hadn't finished in the top 10 in his last 16 starts here.

"I didn't know if we'd be able to do it, you know? The 48 car is king here, him or the 24," he said in Victory Lane, referring to Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, who also has eight Martinsville victories.

"I've been on this journey for a while and every time you come to Martinsville, you just kind of draw a line through it like there's no way I'll be able to challenge those Hendrick guys or be up in the top 10," Busch said.

When it was over, Busch brushed aside talk about his in-race comments about his feud with Keselowski, who claimed that Busch "just drove right through me and ruined my day" on pit road, causing Keselowski to lose 30 laps and retaliate.

"He tried to flatten all four of my tires," Busch said of his former teammate with Roger Penske Racing. "That's a no fly zone. ... He will get what he gets back when I decide to give it back."

The race featured an event-record 33 lead changes, and Johnson expected there would be one more, but on a slippery day on the smallest circuit in NASCAR's premier series, the cars at the end weren't conducive to typical short-track racing.

"Man, we were so on edge slipping and sliding," Johnson said about the final laps duel, during which there was very little of the beating and banging that usually typifies end-of-the-day racing at Martinsville. "I think the lack of security in our own car kept us from feeling more racy and putting a bumper to someone or really getting inside someone aggressively."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third, followed by Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose.

Virginia native Denny Hamlin, a four-time winner at Martinsville stung by criticism when he missed last week's race in Fontana, Calif., because of an eye infection, promised Friday that he would win, and qualified second, but finished 19th.
 

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 Top 9th Inning
Arizona 4
Boston 22 2nd Qtr 7:56
Cleveland 41
LA Lakers 34 2nd Qtr 8:20
Charlotte 38
Sacramento 35 2nd Qtr
New York 19
Houston 8 1st Qtr 9:46
Atlanta 6
Utah 7:00 PM
Memphis
Washington 7:00 PM
Chicago
Milwaukee 8:00 PM
Denver
Nashville 0 2nd Prd
New Jersey 1
Calgary 1 2nd Prd
Philadelphia 0
Washington 2 1st Prd :05
Columbus 0
Buffalo 0 1st Prd 17:49
Tampa Bay 0
Toronto 0 1st Prd 17:19
Florida 0
Ottawa 7:00 PM
Minnesota
NY Islanders 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Arizona
Los Angeles 8:30 PM
Edmonton
San Jose 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Ole Miss 24 1st Half 0:43
Alabama 30
Eastern Mich 31 1st Half 2:08
Ball State 21
Kent State 34 1st Half 3:12
Bowling Green 27
Ohio 27 1st Half 1:11
Buffalo 39
Georgetown 27 1st Half 1:32
Butler 21
Toledo 37 1st Half 1:15
Central Mich 36
Rhode Island 27 1st Half 2:42
Dayton 30
Youngstown St 29 1st Half 3:30
Detroit 24
North Carolina 39 2nd Half
Georgia Tech 21
Loyola-Maryland 11 1st Half 3:41
Holy Cross 28
Iowa 25 1st Half 3:55
Indiana 24
Akron 21 1st Half 3:00
Miami-Ohio 17
Army 23 1st Half 3:50
Navy 18
Maryland 29 1st Half 2:46
Rutgers 23
Kennesaw St 10 1st Half 6:24
USC Upstate 27
Jacksonville 22 1st Half 3:51
Fla Gulf Coast 28
Lipscomb 23 1st Half 3:43
Northern Ky 28
Stetson 12 1st Half 14:36
North Florida 11
Wright State 7:00 PM
Ill-Chicago
Western Mich 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Nebraska Omaha 7:00 PM
North Dakota
Houston Baptist 7:00 PM
Abilene Christian
NC State 8:00 PM
Clemson
Texas A&M 8:00 PM
Florida
Kentucky 8:00 PM
Georgia
West Virginia 8:00 PM
Kansas
Auburn 8:00 PM
Missouri
Michigan 8:00 PM
Northwestern
Villanova 8:15 PM
Creighton
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 52 2nd Half 1:52
UNC-Asheville 60
NJIT 23 2nd Half
UMass Lowell 34
West Virginia 7:00 PM
Kansas State
TCU 7:00 PM
Texas
Fresno State 8:00 PM
Air Force
San Jose St 8:00 PM
Boise State
Nevada 8:00 PM
Colorado State
UNLV 8:00 PM
San Diego State
Wyoming 8:00 PM
Utah State
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close