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Keeping Pace

Quick work in pits helps Busch sweep

Kurt Busch celebrates completing a sweep of May races at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Associated Press)
Kurt Busch celebrates completing a sweep of May races at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Associated Press)

Kurt Busch's car owner, Roger Penske, may have come short at the Indy 500 earlier in the day but Indy's winningest car owner guided Busch's team to a win in NASCAR's longest race.

Jenna Fryer

Associated Press

CONCORD, N.C. – Kurt Busch used a lightning-fast final pit stop to chase down the leaders and give team owner Roger Penske a coveted Memorial Day weekend victory.

That the win came in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and not at his beloved Indianapolis Motor Speedway, probably didn’t matter to Penske.

After all, it came at the expense of Chip Ganassi, Penske’s top rival in open-wheel racing and the winning car owner of the Indianapolis 500 earlier Sunday.

“Roger, this one is for you,” Busch said.

Busch and Ganassi driver Jamie McMurray were the class of the field at the end of NASCAR’s longest race of the season, and McMurray was hoping to give Ganassi a sweep of the two prestigious Memorial Day weekend races. Earlier Sunday, Dario Franchitti won in Indianapolis and, after the celebration, Ganassi flew to North Carolina to catch the second half of the NASCAR race.

He arrived in time to see McMurray work his Chevrolet through the field and ultimately take over the lead from Busch.

But a late caution for a Marcos Ambrose crash with 24 laps to go took it out of McMurray’s hands. He led most of the leaders down pit road, but was beat back onto the track by Busch and Matt Kenseth. Jeff Gordon was the first of three cars not to pit, and restarted as the leader with 19 laps remaining.

Busch blew past the three lead cars and steadily pulled away from the pack. McMurray quickly moved into second, but ran out of time to run down Busch, who held on to sweep the May races at Charlotte. Busch won the $1 million All-Star race last weekend.

“I thought about the Ganassi car behind me,” Busch said in Victory Lane, “he wasn’t getting by us.”

Ganassi didn’t seem to mind the defeat.

“It was a great race, Jamie did a great job,” he smiled. “My old buddy Penske beat me tonight.”

Kyle Busch rallied from a mid-race crash on pit road to finish third in a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Mark Martin finished fourth – the highest finishing Hendrick Motorsports car – and defending race winner David Reutimann was fifth for Michael Waltrip Racing.

Kyle Busch was the leader when a bizarre sequence of events on Lap 167 changed the entire race.

Jimmie Johnson was running fourth when he inexplicably hit the wall, and Denny Hamlin, running fifth, had to weave low through the grass to avoid hitting Johnson. Both cars suffered considerable damage and NASCAR called for a caution that sent everyone to pit road.

Kyle Busch, at the time the strongest car in the race, ran into Brad Keselowski on pit road to damage his car. Even worse, NASCAR flagged him for speeding and he was forced to serve a penalty.

It dropped Kyle Busch all the way back to 26th in a race he could have won.

Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.