Monday, June 27, 2011

Cup - Kurt Busch Dominates at Sonoma

SONOMA, CA - JUNE 26:  Kurt Busch, driver of t...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Kurt Busch notched his first career road course victory Sunday, winning the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway.  He made it look easy, leading 76 of the 110 laps (including the final 23) and crossing the finish line 2.685 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.

It was Busch's first Cup win of the season and the 23rd of his career, tying him with Ricky Rudd for 26th on the all-time wins list.

The real battle was for second place between Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards.  Both struggled early in the race, then seemed to appear out of nowhere at the end by staying out on old tires.  Gordon passed Edwards for second on the final lap.  Clint Bowyer finished fourth, followed by Marcos Ambrose.  (Race results)

The real story of the race was all the "boys, have at it" action going on behind Busch.  Juan Montoya played the part that Jeff Gordon played so well last year, tangling with everyone he got near.  Two incidents stand out:  On Lap 37, he tangled with Kyle Busch, shoving him off the track in Turn 11 and starting a multi-car pileup.  On Lap 104, he tried to force Brad Keselowski into the grass.  Keselowski returned the favor by spinning him out.

The first incident ended Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s day and started a feud between Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers.  Stewart pushed Vickers into the cars that were slowing in front of him, then spun him around.  Vickers got his revenge on Lap 87.  Stewart was challenging Busch for the lead when they came up on Vickers.  After Stewart went by, Vickers turned him when he slowed for Turn 11.  Stewart came to rest with his rear end up on the tire barrier.

Montoya also tangled with Kasey Kahne, trying to force his way through when there really wasn't anywhere to go.  The move spun Kahne, but also cost Montoya a few spots.  Joey Logano got together with Robby Gordon early in the race, leaving Gordon to ponder doing "a Richard Childress" on the younger driver.

Edwards increased his lead in the series points standings by five; he now leads Kevin Harvick by 25 points.  Harvick rebounded from a tough day to finish ninth.  Jimmie Johnson finished seventh, but climbed two spots in the standings to third, 33 points behind Edwards.  Kurt Busch climbed three spots to fourth, 34 points out.  Kyle Busch (-37) is now fifth, followed by Matt Kenseth (-52) and Earnhardt (-65), who dropped four spots in the standings.  Clint Bowyer (-77), Gordon (-93) and Ryan Newman (-98) round out the Top 10.
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