Archive for Sunday, August 22, 2004

Busch claims victory at Michigan

After grabbing early lead, 19-year-old cruises to checkered flag in NASCAR Busch Series race

August 22, 2004


— It took Kyle Busch 27 laps to work his way to the lead Saturday despite starting second.

After that, though, there was little doubt who was the fastest driver in the Cabela's 250 NASCAR Busch Series race.

The 19-year-old Busch, younger brother of Nextel Cup driver Kurt Busch, led 87 of the 125 laps on the 2-mile oval at Michigan International Speedway.

Three times he had leads of more than five seconds wiped out but still beat runner-up Mark Martin to the finish by 3.861 seconds -- nearly half a straightaway.

"Kyle Busch was just in another league," said Martin, a longtime Cup driver who started last in the 43-car field in his first Busch race since 2000. "He put it on us really bad, but I'm still pleased we were able to beat all those guys behind us.

"Even getting beat like that, it's a relief. I was afraid I'd come back and not uphold the tradition of what we'd done in the Busch Series," added Martin, the career series victory leader with 45.

Series leader Martin Truex Jr., who led only the first 22 laps after starting from the pole, finished third but saw his lead over Busch cut from 117 to 97 points.

It was the series-leading fifth victory of the season for Busch, the first rookie to win that many races since Greg Biffle won five in 1989. Truex was followed across the finish line by Cup regulars Casey Mears, Kasey Kahne and Rusty Wallace -- making his first Busch start since 1997.

Busch fell behind seven drivers who had topped off their gas tanks during an earlier caution period and who stayed on track when the leaders pitted on lap 87.

After the restart on lap 92, it took Busch only three laps to charge past all seven to regain the lead, with Martin and Truex soon following.

The leader built a lead of 5.158 seconds by lap 111, but Martin and Truex had one last shot at Busch when the record eighth caution flag of the race waved on lap 112 because of debris at the pit entrance. It was no help.

Busch's Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet shot away on the restart on lap 116 and moved steadily ahead, leading by half a second after one lap, more than one second after the second trip around the high-banked oval and continuing to pull away all the way to the finish.

"We just had a great car today, and we were able to take advantage of it," Busch said.

Thirty-three laps run under caution held Busch's winning speed to 122.166 mph, the slowest in 13 Busch races at Michigan.

The lineup for Saturday's race was set mostly by car owner points after qualifying was rained out Friday.

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