Seeking Miami Glory: 1 point separates 2004 Champion & 2010 Ford 400 winner in chase for 2011 title

Kurt Busch at Bristol

Kurt Busch leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings by one point over Edwards after a solid seventh-place finish in Race 4 of 36 en route to Miami (photo courtesy: Geoff Burke, Getty Images Sport)

Kyle Busch visited Victory Lane in Race 4 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend in Miami—and with the win jumped from 14th place to 6th place in the race for the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship that will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20.

"[Winning] was a lot harder today—Carl [Edwards] kept me honest," Busch said of the reigning Ford 400 winner after taking the checkered flag.

Despite claiming the pole for Race 4 during Friday's qualifying session, on Sunday Edwards fell back through the field to have to work his way back up toward the front to battle Busch for the win in the late laps. Jimmie Johnson finished third. Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard rounded out the Top 5.

Said Edwards of Busch: “I thought I could get to him at the end, and rough him up a little and maybe get by him, but his car took off.”

The No. 99 was a popular preseason pick to unseat five-time Sprint Cup Champion Johnson this fall when NASCAR crowns a Champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—go on sale May 2, but fans can lock in tickets TODAY with just a $30 deposit. For ticket information, click HERE or call (866) 409-RACE.

Kevin Harvick—who finished third in last fall’s nail-biting Championship Chase in Miami— has carried that into this season his 2010 habit of having to rebound from adversity in order to contend. The Richard Childress Racing driver’s day looked like it was going to end prematurely when he was tagged by fan favorite Mark Martin late in the race, triggering the day’s biggest accident. Harvick spun after getting hit by Martin, and the chain reaction crash caught up Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, South Florida’s Juan Pablo Montoya (see sidebar), Trevor Bayne and others.

Kurt Busch—the only driver to finish in the Top 10 in all four Sprint Cup races this season—leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings by one point over Edwards after battling to a solid seventh-place finish in Race 4 of 36 en route to Miami.

"It was a good day for us with our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge," said Busch, who claimed his title the first year (2004) Homestead-Miami hosted the Sprint Cup Championship. "We were in good position early on, riding around in third and could see the leaders. We pushed our car hard on some of the restarts trying to get up there and lead a lap. It just didn't seem we had the mojo to compete. Those guys were pretty tough today.”

Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—go on sale May 2, but fans can lock in tickets TODAY with just a $30 deposit. For ticket information, click HERE or call (866) 409-RACE.

Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Auto Club Speedway in California this Sunday, March 27 (3 p.m. ET, FOX TV)—Race 5 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 18-20).

MotorRacingNetwork.com contributed to this report.

Miami’s Montoya maintains Top 10 spot

JPM Climbs Aboard His Chevy

South Florida resident Juan Pablo Montoya and his No. 42 Target team looked to be on their way to a Top 5 finish in Race 4 of 36 en route to Miami—until a loose wheel nullified his strong run. After being involved in a multi-car accident on Lap 437 of 500, Montoya finished 24th to sit eighth in the points standings in his Chase for a Sprint Cup Championship on his “home track” of Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20.

In Race 5 of the 2011 campaign at Auto Club Speedway this weekend, Montoya will be making his 150th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start; his first coming at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2006 with Chip Ganassi Racing. Since that debut, Montoya has recorded fives poles, two wins, 19 Top 5s, and 43 Top 10s, his most recent win coming last August at Watkins Glen.

Montoya has two Top 6 finishes in four races in 2011, a good sign for the Miami resident looking to be racing for the Sprint Cup Championship on his home track Nov. 20. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—go on sale May 2, but fans can lock in tickets TODAY with just a $30 deposit. For ticket information, click HERE or call (866) 409-RACE.

Next up for Montoya and NASCAR’s best is Auto Club Speedway in California on Sunday, March 27 (3 pm ET, FOX TV, MRN Radio)—Race 5 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 18-20). The Top 12 drivers in points after Race 26 qualify to contend for the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship, to be crowned in Miami on Nov. 20.

Follow Montoya on Twitter:

@JPMontoya

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