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Archive for Sunday, May 11, 2008

Busch wins despite rough ride

The pit crew for driver Kyle Busch service his car during the NASCAR Dodge Challenger 500 Sprint series auto race at the Darlington International Raceway, Saturday in Darlington, S.C.

The pit crew for driver Kyle Busch service his car during the NASCAR Dodge Challenger 500 Sprint series auto race at the Darlington International Raceway, Saturday in Darlington, S.C.

May 11, 2008

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— The crowd booed him. He called his car pathetic. His crew missed a lug nut, and he couldn't stay off Darlington Raceway's wall.

Despite it all, Kyle Busch found Victory Lane once again.

NASCAR's least popular driver raced to his third Sprint Cup Series victory of the season Saturday night, winning a battle of attrition at the track "Too Tough to Tame."

"How many times did I hit the wall? I don't know, one, two, three, four, probably five or six," Busch said. "I've got to thank my team, they build them as strong as they can for me, 'cause I like to knock the walls down with them."

Busch's victory hardly thrilled the crowd, which viciously booed him in prerace introductions and hadn't softened by the time he took the checkered flag. Already loathed by many, he enraged Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s massive fan base by wrecking him as they raced for the win last week in Richmond.

It created a frenzy of hatred toward Busch, but the 23-year-old driver tuned it out and focused on what he does best: winning races.

The win was his eighth of the season spanning NASCAR's top three series, and he has won most of them in very convincing fashion. This one was no different, as Busch led a race-high 169 of the 367 laps in a Toyota he described early in the race as the "most pathetic" he'd ever driven.

He also overcame every speed bump thrown his way to become the youngest winner on NASCAR's oldest superspeedway.

"Darlington showed again tonight it's one of the hardest places. Always has been, always will be," Busch said. "We're going to go through a lot of Mac tools trying to fix this thing, but that's OK. They gave me such a race car."

The smooth surface, hard tires and narrow racing line put passing at a premium, and forced several drivers into the wall for the infamous "Darlington stripe."

Busch was no exception, bouncing hard off of it at least twice in what was an eventful fight to the finish. He was leading early in the race but was penalized when his crew left a lug nut off his rear wheel following a pit stop, dropping him to 29th.

He battled his way back to the front, patiently picking off Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt and finally seven-time Darlington winner Jeff Gordon to reclaim the top position. From there, the kid who chases the checkered flag every time he's on the track pulled away, forcing spotter Jeff Dickerson to beg him to slow down a mere 50 laps from the finish.

"I know you are digging, dude, but you've got to take care of that thing there," Dickerson radioed. "You're scaring the fans. There's not enough security up the Turn 2 wall. Just nice and easy."

But Busch isn't capable of going slow, and he stayed on the gas until the finish while stretching his Sprint Cup Series lead to 79 points over Jeff Burton.

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