Busch wins

race for 2nd doesn't get old

Veterans Wallace, Martin finish 2-3, adding thrill to Pennsylvania 500

July 25, 2005|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

LONG POND, Pa. - Kurt Busch's victory yesterday in the Pennsylvania 500 was such a foregone conclusion that even Busch was more interested in what was going on behind him.

There, over the final 17 laps, Busch and the crowd of about 90,000 at Pocono Raceway watched with a touch of nostalgia as NASCAR veterans Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin dueled for a second- and third-place finish, respectively.

Busch, who won the Nextel Cup race under caution in his No. 97 Jack Roush-owned Ford, was the class of the field all day. Starting on the outside of the front row, he pulled away on the opening lap and on every restart near the finish to make the win a certainty.

So Busch looked in his rear-view mirror after passing Wallace for the final time on Lap 183 and enjoyed the show.

"It's always good to see competitors behind you competing for position," said Busch, who averaged 125.283 mph over the 203-lap race, which was extended three laps (7.5 miles) by caution flags and a green-white-checkered flag finish.

"But this time it was so exciting to see it was those guys," said Busch, who won for the second time this season. "Those two guys have 50 top 10s on this track. It'll be a long time before we see two competitors with their history. And, from my perspective, it's really neat to race against guys like that - to challenge their knowledge and to be able to come out on top. I'm just beside myself."

Winning "doesn't put me in their column," said Busch, the 2004 Cup champion, "but it's great to race with them, because you feel as if you're more familiar with their territory and there's a trust factor as well."

Wallace and Martin have built a lot of trust between them over the years. And both have announced this is their final season - though Martin, who drives the No. 6 Ford for Roush Racing, has been asked to return for another year if Roush is unable to free driver Jamie McMurray from the final year of his contract with Chip Ganassi Racing.

"This was a great day," said Wallace, the 1989 Cup winner. "I just had my very last race here and finished second. That feels good. I got out of the car and said, `I think I can still do this.' ... Lance Armstrong, when he got done today [at the Tour de France], said he was going out on top, and he said the best compliment [you] can get is when people tell you that you still got it."

With six races to go, Wallace and Martin are firmly among the top 10 qualifiers for the season-ending Chase to the Nextel Cup. Wallace, in his No. 2 Dodge, is fourth in points and Martin seventh.

"We have 25 years of history or so," said Martin, when asked what it would have taken to get around Wallace for second yesterday. "We've always been friends, we've always got along and we've never once had a problem. ... That tells you what kind of relationship Rusty and I've had.

"Today, Rusty and I didn't see any need to run over each other for five points."

As it was, other drivers seemed intent on running over each other during the final 10 laps. Three of 13 caution flags, which totaled 40 laps, occurred between Laps 191 and 200, and another one came out shortly after the final restart on Lap 202.

Debris accounted for seven of the earlier cautions, as NASCAR slowed cars for everything from a soda bottle and brake parts to tire rubber, stretching the race to a little more than four hours.

None of that bothered Busch. He steadily held the lead until a bad pit stop slowed his exit on Lap 121, dropping him to eighth.

"But we bounced back," Busch said. "I knew we would. It seemed like Lap 1 to 100 went pretty quick with [me] out front putting on a torrid pace. It was tougher back in the pack, where the evil starts to show in a car. But you have to race every lap for what it's worth. Until the checkered flag drops, your job isn't done. That's the motto I keep.

"We just kept digging. I had a great racecar that would restart well. It would run fast lap times at the beginning of a run and at the end, so it was just a matter of getting to [the end]. We just put the hammer down and went."


NASCAR Nextel Cup

Pennsylvania 500

At Long Pond, Pa. (Starting position in parentheses)

1. (2) Kurt Busch, Ford, 203, $261,275, 125.283 mph. 2. (13) Rusty Wallace, Dodge, 203, $178,858. 3. (3) Mark Martin, Ford, 203, $134,400. 4. (41) Carl Edwards, Ford, 203, $125,900. 5. (4) Ryan Newman, Dodge, 203, $133,066.

6. (10) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 203, $131,661. 7. (6) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 203, $125,336. 8. (23) Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, 203, $112,250. 9. (34) Mike Bliss, Chevrolet, 203, $77,925. 10. (5) Ricky Rudd, Ford, 203, $103,489.

11. (1) Jamie McMurray, Dodge, 203, $90,500. 12. (9) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 203, $115,566. 13. (21) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 203, $115,411. 14. (8) Brian Vickers, Chevrolet, 203, $76,725. 15. (20) Dale Jarrett, Ford, 203, $103,183.

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