|Kyle Busch wins his first race ever at Michigan (Getty)|
After six years racing on the circuit and 13 Sprint Cup Series race starts in the Irish Hills, Busch finally got his wish by taking the checkered flag for the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday.
“Awesome!” Busch responded as if at a loss for words. “Certainly it feels good to win here at Michigan. We’ve been trying so hard to do it. Our teammate (Denny Hamlin) has been able to do it but we haven’t.”
Busch had a comfortable lead after pulling away from Jimmie Johnson with three laps remaining, however, a late-race caution caused a green-white-checker finish after his brother, Kurt, hit the wall.
Busch had to sweat the double-file green-white-checker restart with five-time Sprint Cup champion Johnson next to him. Lurking directly behind them were Brad Keselowski and Mark Martin.
But the only thing to increase in temperature was Busch’s somewhat overheating engine. He kept his cool, held off Johnson and registered his fourth victory of the season and first at MIS. It was also his 23rd triumph in 245 Sprint Cup starts, helping him clinch at least one of the two wild card spots for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
It was the third win in the last four races at MIS for Joe Gibbs Racing, with Hamlin capturing the last two June Sprint Cup races.
Busch decided to take the outside starting position on the final restart.
“I figured I’d run the top side and keep my momentum running through turns one and two,” Busch explained. “When we got down in there and were running side by side, Jimmie had to pinch his car down a little bit and that certainly doesn’t help.”
Busch’s margin of victory over Johnson was just over one-half second. The win kept Johnson out of Gatorade Victory Lane at MIS, a track he has yet to win at in 20 career Sprint Cup starts here.
“I got away from Kyle toward the end of the race but my car was sliding pretty much and I knew my rear tires weren’t going to last long enough with about 24 laps left,” Johnson explained. “Eventually he got up to me. On the last restart I had a shot again starting right next to him but I couldn’t make it happen on the bottom through turns one and two and I just brought it home from there. All in all it was a very strong performance for us and a very big day for the confidence of the team and myself to really recover from a slow start and turn it around.”
Keselowski, like Johnson, had problems early in the race but finally got things sorted out enough to become a solid contender, finishing third.
“I wish I had something more for the 48 (Johnson) and the 18 (Kyle Busch) at the end, but I was just really watching and hoping someone would make a mistake.” said Keselowski, from nearby Rochester Hills, Mich. “I couldn’t do anything on my own merit.”
Traditionally, MIS is the site for the first drivers to clinch a spot in the 12-driver Chase field. But with three races remaining before the 10-race Chase, Kyle Busch was the only driver to gain a spot in the field today.
Johnson jumped to second in the points standings behind Busch with Kevin Harvick third and Carl Edwards fourth, falling from second with a problem-plagued 36th-place finish. Jeff Gordon moved up from seventh to sixth with his sixth-place finish. Ryan Newman also gained a spot, up to seventh, while Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Tony Stewart retained their Top-10 status, respectively.
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- Michigan International Speedway, Press Release