It Isn’t Easy, but Busch Gets His First Victory

From Associated Press

Kurt Busch gambled on pit strategy and bumped Jimmy Spencer out of his way Sunday to win the first race of his career in an event that ended with tempers flaring and another pit road confrontation at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Busch opted not to follow leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. into the pits following the 13th caution of the NASCAR Winston Cup Food City 500, inheriting the lead with 85 laps to go.

He briefly gave it up to Spencer, then knocked him out of the way to take it back and go unchallenged the rest of the way to give Roush Racing its second win of the season.


“There’s nothing better than the first one,” said Busch, who got out of his car at the finish line, grabbed the checkered flag from an official and carried it around the track on his victory lap.

Spencer finished second, Ricky Rudd was third and was followed by Earnhardt Jr. and Bobby Labonte.

Matt Kenseth, who gave Roush its first victory this year, was sixth. Rookie Jimmie Johnson finished seventh, Jerry Nadeau--his Hendrick Motorsports teammate--was eighth. Rusty Wallace and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 10.

It was a typical Bristol race, with bumping and banging around the .533-mile bullring beginning as soon as the green flag fell. It led to 14 cautions and the usual post-race confrontations.

Earnhardt Jr. and Robby Gordon banged each other several times on the track and it boiled over on pit road after the race.

Earnhardt made contact with Gordon as he grazed by him after the cars had come off the track and Gordon responded by spinning him out.


It was similar to this race a year ago, when Tony Stewart put Jeff Gordon into a retaliatory spin on pit road following the event. Stewart drew a $10,000 fine and a long stint on probation for the act.

Spencer and Busch traded their own verbal barbs in their post-race comments with Spencer objecting to the way the 23-year-old Busch moved him out of the way.

Busch, using a similar pit strategy to the one Elliott Sadler followed to win here a year ago, went 157 laps on his final set of tires.

That gave him the lead on the restart, and Spencer moved in on Busch’s bumper and muscled his way into the lead coming off Turn 4 on Lap 444.

But in Turn 2 of the next lap, Busch fought back and bumped his way back into the lead. Spencer nearly lost control of his car on the contact, but saved it, although he lost a lot of ground in his bid to challenge for the lead.

Busch was holding on to his lead until Hermie Sadler slid into the Turn 4 wall on Lap 478 to bring out the final yellow. That allowed Spencer to get up on Busch’s rear bumper, but he never could catch him.


Stewart, injured in a wreck last week at Darlington, was unable to complete the race and had to turn his car over to relief driver Todd Bodine.

Suffering from a sore back and driving while wearing a device designed to relieve the pain, Stewart led for 74 laps and was running in third when he began to tire.

His crew tried to coax him to stay in the car, encouraging him to drink fluids under a long caution and focus on finishing the final 140 laps.

But he spun his car out shortly after the race went back to green and radioed in that he couldn’t go on. Bodine got in, came out in 21st place, and managed a 15th place finish in the Pontiac.