Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cup - Kyle Busch Wins Inaugural Kentucky Race

NASCAR driver Kyle Busch in August 2007 at Bri...Image via Wikipedia

Kyle Busch held off Jimmie Johnson on a late restart to win Saturday night's Quaker State 400, the inaugural Cup race at Kentucky Speedway.

Busch dominated the event, leading a race-high 125 (of  267) laps, but had to hold off Johnson on a restart with two laps to go to take home the trophy.  The pair entered Turn One side-by-side on the restart, but Busch had the momentum in the outside lane and pulled ahead coming out of Turn Two.  Johnson then had to contend with a hard-charging David Reutimann.  Reutimann passed Johnson for second place as they came to the stripe.

It was Busch's third win of the season, tying him with Kevin Harvick for the most in the Sprint Cup Series.  It was his 22nd career Cup victory, and his 99th victory in the three national series combined.

Ryan Newman finished fourth, followed by Carl Edwards.  Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, David Ragan, Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon rounded out the Top 10.  (Race results)

It's never a good sign when the big story after a race is the traffic, but the race was a snoozefest until the end and the traffic jam was the mother of all traffic jams.  

It seems that Kentucky Speedway is just another 1.5-mile cookie cutter oval where aerodynamics are king.  The bumps in the track that were supposed to add drama didn't, and the only good racing came on the restarts.  There were long stretches of green-flag runs where the field got strung out and the leader, racing in clean air, checked out.

But the traffic jam was what will be remembered for years to come.  The line of cars stretched some 20 miles down Interstate 71 and track officials ran out of places to park cars.  After many spent hours trying to get to the track, they were turned away when officials began reversing the traffic patterns to get everyone out after the race was over.  Track owner Bruton Smith estimated that 15,000-20,000 ticket holders never made it in.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. continued his free fall in the points standings for the fourth straight week.  He pitted under green late in the race and took fuel only, then blew his left front tire as he re-entered the track.  The tire shredded and destroyed his fender, bringing out a caution on Lap 254.  Clint Bowyer spun and hit the wall just a couple of laps after the restart setting up the final two-lap sprint to the checkers.

With the win, Busch jumped two spots to take the lead in the series points standings, four points ahead of Edwards.  Harvick (-10) dropped two spots to third, followed by Kurt Busch (-18), Johnson (-19), Kenseth (-22), Gordon (-72), Earnhardt (-76), Newman (-86) and Denny Hamlin (-94).  Tony Stewart is just three points behind Hamlin for the tenth spot.  Bowyer dropped out of the Top 10 and is now 16 points behind Hamlin.  Ragan holds one wildcard spot for the Chase.  Keselowski is just three points behind Joey Logano for 20th place in the standings and the other wildcard spot.

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