For the first time since 2011, Kurt Busch was in victory lane Sunday afternoon when he held off Jimmie Johnson late in the race at Martinsville Speedway. After a slow start to his season in which Busch failed to finish inside the top 20 for the first four races, the No.41 team has found their comfort zone. Busch has now scored two straight top-three finishes which gives the team lots of momentum heading into the month of April.
Busch was victorious in the end, but his day was anything but uneventful. Early on in the race, a chain reaction on pit road slowed Brad Keselowski down as he tried to avoid Kasey Kahne. Busch tried to squeeze by on the outside; however, he made heavy contact with Keselowski. The damage to the No.2 car forced the team to go behind the wall. Keselowski was not happy with Busch after the incident.
Keselowski was on a mission to hunt Busch down once he made it back into the race. On Lap 86, the two were running nose-to-tail and Keselowski did everything but wreck Busch. Keselowski slammed Busch’s car all the way down the backstretch and let up just before turn 3. The two would find each other again later in the race, but they raced cleanly.
Jimmie Johnson was Busch’s main competition throughout the race. Although the two didn’t battle for the lead until the later stages of the race, Johnson’s No. 48 was the car to beat early on as he led many laps.
Until a costly slow pit stop during the last caution of the day, Clint Bowyer looked like he would be the one to challenge Johnson for the win. Bowyer and Johnson exchanged the lead several times starting on lap 284.
Busch took his first lead of the race with 28 laps to go, only to have Johnson pass him again ten laps later. Busch didn’t give up however, as he regained the lead with 11 laps left to run.
It was all Kurt Busch from that point on as he took the victory and likely punched his ticket to the Chase.
“I didn’t know if we’d be able to do it. The No.48 car is king here” Busch said during his post-race interview. Coming into the race, Johnson had won two of the previous three Sprint Cup events at the track. So beating Johnson is a big accomplishment for the brand new No.41 team.
Results via ESPN.com
|3||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||500||26||25||42||1||0|
|21||Martin Truex Jr.||Chevrolet||500||31||0||23||0||0|
|40||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||409||30||0||4||0||0|