Kyle Busch showed emphatically he is not out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series picture, and Martin strengthened his hold of a spot in NASCAR’s postseason.
By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
BRISTOL, Tenn.—Kyle Busch made a statement Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
So did polesitter Mark Martin, who pressured Busch to the finish line of the Sharpie 500 during a four-lap run to the checkered flag but couldn’t make the pass for the win.
Instead, Busch won for the fourth time this season and for the second time at Bristol in 2009.
Busch showed emphatically he is not out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series picture, and Martin strengthened his hold of a spot in NASCAR’s postseason. Busch moved up two positions to 13th, 34 points behind 12th-place Matt Kenseth.
Martin likewise gained two spots to 10th in the standings. The top 12 drivers after the Sept. 12 race at Richmond qualify for the Chase.
“Mark Martin—what a class act,” said Busch, who won for the 16th time in the Cup series. “He deserved to win this race. I’m sorry he came home in second. I know how he feels. I drove as hard as I could.
“He had a chance. He could have done it (moved Busch out of the way). But he didn’t. He raced me clean.”
Marcos Ambrose ran third, followed by Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman. Kurt Busch came home seventh, followed by Jimmie Johnson, who recovered from trouble on pit road to salvage a top-10 finish. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished ninth, and Matt Kenseth was 10th.
Johnson took the lead from Martin in traffic on Lap 317, as Martin was struggling to put Kasey Kahne two laps down. Johnson passed to the outside and took control of the race—temporarily.
The No. 48 team got Johnson out first under caution for a restart on Lap 362, and Johnson stayed out front until the seventh caution of the race on Lap 421 after a light rain started falling.
A lengthy pit stop under caution on Lap 423 proved Johnson’s undoing, as his crew had extreme difficulty changing the right rear tire. Johnson left the pits with the tire loose and had to return to pit road. He fell to 22nd position for a restart on Lap 432.
Kyle Busch used the opportunity to take the lead, passing Michael Waltrip, who had remained on the track during the caution, on Lap 433. Busch stayed at the point through a multicar wreck on the frontstretch on Lap 438 and a caution for Sam Hornish Jr.’s scrape with the wall on Lap 457.
Subsequently, Busch led the field to a restart on Lap 487 after contact from Jamie McMurray’s Ford cut the left front tire on Martin Truex Jr.’s Chevrolet and sent Truex into the Turn 4 wall.
Busch held Martin at bay until a violent collision involving Waltrip and Clint Bowyer brought out the 11th yellow on Lap 491. With rain falling, NASCAR red-flagged the race for almost 11 minutes before the restart with four laps to go.