Kyle Busch pulls ahead at saturday night’s Sharpie 500. It was supposed to be the race that put Kurt Busch, ultra fast in both practice and qualifying, back in contention for the Chase of the Nextel Cup.
Instead, it was brother Kyle’s night to further solidify his spot in NASCAR’s postseason party while Kurt was mathematically eliminated from the dance.
After a runner-up finish to race winner Matt Kenseth, Las Vegas Kyle Busch gained two spots in the championship standings, climbing to fourth. He said it was the culmination of a plan that finally came together.
“It’s very nerve-wracking coming into this place and start the race with 43 cars jumbled up on each other,” he said. “Anything can happen. The biggest thing for us was just to manage our own race and stay out of trouble as best we can.”
That plan didn’t work early on, as a problem in the pits dropped the No. 5 team back to 31st on a restart on Lap 63.
After the Sharpie 500 final round of pit stops on Lap 349, Kyle Busch was fourth. He snagged third from Carl Edwards 10 laps later when Edwards went high. Twenty-nine laps later, Busch passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. to grab second — where he stayed.
“To finish this well, it’s just a relief to get out of here,” he said.
After two finishes deep in the field at Bristol, the younger Busch now has back-to-back finishes at the Tennessee bullring after an eighth-place run.
“We’ve been getting better cars every time we come here,” he said. “We just tried to come in here with the mindset that we can run well here. To come back and finish second, that just shows that it’s not only the team but the cars they prepare for me.
While Kyle Busch was celebrating, brother Kurt was enduring a night that typified his baffling season. On Friday, Kurt Busch seemed to be the driver to beat. He led the weekend’s first practice in the morning, won the pole in the afternoon and led Happy Hour in the evening.
For more than 200 laps, the No. 2 Dodge was leading or in contention for the lead. Then on Lap 226, rookie Reed Sorenson had a tire go down. As he was trying to limp to pit road, he spun out, hitting Busch and caving in the No. 2’s left-front fender.
Busch and his team decided to come to the pits 13 laps later to fix the damage, giving up second place. After restarting deep in the field, Busch battled his way back into the top 20 on Lap 270.
However, on Lap 326, Busch was snagged for a pit-road violation. Then, with 108 laps to go, the No. 2 Dodge jumped out of gear, forcing the car behind the wall for transmission repairs.
In the end, Kurt Busch finished 37th — and dropped 390 points out of the 10th and final spot in the Chase — an insurmountable deficit with just two races remaining until the cut is made.
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Kyle Busch earns top 10 for the chase of The Nextel Cup.