Dover, Del. Dover, Del. — Kurt Busch left a rocky start to the Chase and his fiercest rival behind him.
Busch stormed into contention for a second Cup championship, holding off fellow Chase drivers Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards to win Sunday at Dover International Speedway, tightening the leaderboard in a playoff where no driver has emerged as a clear-cut favorite.
Busch, though, is in the mix.
His No. 22 Dodge seemed only to get stronger over the 400-mile race and he beat Johnson, his long-time antagonist, on the final restart to take the checkered flag for the second time this season. The win pushed Busch from ninth to fourth in the points standings, only nine points out of first.
Only 15 points separate the top eight drivers with seven races left.
Edwards and Kevin Harvick share the points lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings entering round 4 of the Chase at Kansas Speedway. Harvick is seeded first because of a tiebreaker.
Busch, the 2004 champion, won his 24th career race and for the first time at Dover.
“To win a Sprint Cup race in the Chase, this is what it’s all about,” Busch said.
Johnson leads active drivers with six career victories at Dover and traditionally dominated Chase races.
Sure enough, after a tough start to the Chase, the defending five-time champion led the majority of laps and proved the No. 48 is far from finished.
“Are we out of this?” said Johnson, rubbing his chin with a smile.
Not yet. Not by a long shot.Johnson got beat off the last two restarts, spinning his tires on the first and he mistimed when Busch would accelerate on the second.
“I hate leaving points on the table, and we have these first three,” Johnson said.
Losing to Busch had to sting.
Busch made his move off the final restart with 43 laps, leaving Johnson and the rest of the field in the mirror.