Kurt Busch Wins His First Race in the “First State”

Dale Jr at Dover

Dale Jr. finished 24th at Dover and fell to 10th in the Championship standings. Earnhardt Jr: "We've got an opportunity to race in the Chase and we're still alive, and we'll keep racing as hard as we can until the last lap at Homestead." (photo courtesy: Tom Whitmore, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

Kurt Busch outran Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards to the checkered flag to score the victory in Sunday's race at Dover. Edwards 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—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Busch raced by Johnson on a restart with 43 laps to go and went on to score his second win of the season and in the process moved up in the Chase For The Sprint Cup standings. This year, Homestead-Miami Speedway will crown NASCAR’s Champions for the 10th consecutive year during Ford Championship weekend. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

“I just wanted to get out in front of (Jimmie) Johnson,” Busch said. “The first restart, I was on the high side. I didn’t know what to choose, low or high. I just wanted to get that jump on him and stretch our lead because I thought that he would reel us back in with about 10 to go.”

The Penske Racing driver went to victory lane for the 24th time in his career.

“I couldn’t be happier right now,” said Busch, who is now nine points out of the Chase lead. “To win in a Sprint Cup race in the Chase, this is what it’s all about. This is the playoffs. We had everything go wrong for us last week; we had everything go right for us this week. We just need nice, smooth races from here.”

Johnson rebounded from his disappointing start to the Chase with a solid second place finish and climbed from tenth to fifth in the standings.

“Giving up a win by not getting a good restart, I’ll think about it tonight,” Johnson said. “But big-picture wise, we’ll take it.

“Certainly wish we could have finished one spot better, but just didn't get a good restart the last two restarts. I just didn't get good one.”

Edwards, who won Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, had to fight back after being penalized for speeding on pit road earlier in the race and was pleased with his third place effort.

“I definitely took myself out of position to fight for the win by doing that,’ Edwards said. “It’s something that’s painful.

“It was a great day other than that feeling I had when I ruined it there on pit road. That’s about as small as you can feel in a race car.”

It was a rough afternoon for Tony Stewart, who started the Chase with a pair of wins and came to Dover as the series point leader. Stewart struggled all afternoon and was never in contention, finally coming home 25th. The driver of the No. 14 car is pursuing a third NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. His Championship runs in 2002 and 2005 at Homestead-Miami Speedway make him the only driver to win NASCAR’s biggest prize in both the pre-Chase and Chase era. This year, Homestead-Miami Speedway will crown NASCAR’s Champions for the 10th consecutive year during Ford Championship weekend. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

It’s been said that everyone has a hiccup at one point or another in the Chase, and if that’s the case, today it was Stewart who had his. He was never a factor in the race.

“We just struggled with the whole package,” Stewart said. “Even when we got the balance halfway decent, we didn’t have speed. So we just missed it.”

Other Chase drivers who also had disappointing outings Sunday included Ryan Newman (23rd), Brad Keselowski (20th) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (24th), who had problems from nearly the start of the race.

Earnhardt suffered a sway bar issue only five laps into the race and after making repairs charged back to the lead pack, only to have a loose wheel and another vibration spoil his comeback bid.

Just try to win a race," said Earnhardt of his plans now that he has fallen 34 points out of the Chase lead. "Go win a race and see what happens. See if you can knock it in half. Who knows? You can't quit.

"We've got that opportunity there. We've got a hot pass to the garage area, and you're going to go in there and check it out, man. We've got an opportunity to race in the Chase and we're still alive, and we'll keep racing as hard as we can until the last lap at Homestead."

Kevin Harvick and Edwards are tied for the Chase point lead with Stewart and Kurt Busch next nine points back and Johnson fifth 13 out of the lead.

The effect of the day on the points standings was enormous. Edwards went from fourth in the Chase to a tie for the lead with Harvick, who is ahead by virtue of tiebreaker. Stewart, who finished 25th, fell back to a tie for third, nine points back, after leading by seven points going into the race. And Busch and Johnson made huge leaps, erasing 15 and 16 points, respectively, off their deficits going into the race – Busch left tied with Stewart, while Johnson is now just 13 points back. In all, 15 points separates first and eighth place.

That's how Busch won the inaugural Chase under the old points system. He knows it won't be any different this time around.

"I've been in this position before," Busch said.

NASCAR unveiled the Chase For the Sprint Cup Championship in 2004 and Year 1 was a success. The 2004 Championship wasn’t decided until the last lap at Homestead-Miami Speedway when Kurt Busch became the first to hoist the “Chase” hardware. The exciting racing of the new system led to the closest points race in NASCAR history.

Round 4 of the Chase is Sunday at Kansas. This year, Homestead-Miami Speedway will crown NASCAR’s Champions for the 10th consecutive year during Ford Championship weekend. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Standings (# of wins in parentheses)

1 - Kevin Harvick  2122 (4)
2 - Carl Edwards  2122 (1)
3 - Tony Stewart  2113 (2)
4 - Kurt Busch      2113 (2)
5 - Jimmie Johnson  2109 (1)
6 - Brad Keselowski  2108 (3)
7 - Matt Kenseth      2108 (2)
8 - Kyle Busch             2107 (4)
9 - Jeff Gordon          2103 (3)
10 - Dale Earnhardt Jr 2088 (0)
11 - Ryan Newman  2081 (1)
12 - Denny Hamlin  2054 (1)

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