FOX Sports Exclusive
Busch finally busts out on road course
For Kurt Busch, winning was the best revenge at Sonoma.
After Busch got dumped by Jeff Gordon in last year’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway and finished 32nd, he was surprised that he never received an apology from his fellow champ.
On Sunday, none of that mattered.
As solid as the Penske Racing No. 22 Dodge performed, neither Gordon nor the rest of the field could compete for long with Busch. He had a dominant car all weekend, and with solid strategy led 76 of 110 laps Sunday on the way to his first career road-course victory and his first win of the year.
Busch took great satisfaction in sailing away to a 2.6-second finish ahead of the field, and particularly Gordon.
“To see him finish second was a definite boost at the end of the day, to see him come in second, and come out on top,” Busch said. “To beat him, he's one of the best, he always will be. To get a good road-course win, it's a big check mark on my list, something I've been working very hard at over the years, just like the restrictor plates, I've struggled to win and close out one of those.
“So it's just really neat to bring home that ‘W,' and most of all have that insurance package now. We have that win heading towards the Chase (for the Sprint Cup). We bumped up to fourth in points.”
Indeed. Despite entering Sonoma with five consecutive finishes of 14th or better, Busch leapt from seventh place to fourth in the standings. And with the win, he should be a lock for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Breaking his 38-race winless streak after putting solid qualifying efforts together including three poles in the last four races will boost the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil team as the Cup tour enters the most brutal stretch of the year.
Busch credited his team with enabling him to compete at “an A level.”
“There's times when you can be A-plus on forward drive off or on your gear ratios for saving mileage, then you would have to save on overall speed for your speed ratios,” Busch said. “Then you have the turn left, turn right. My car gave me the ability to do all areas very well.
“We've been on a great run these last few weeks. It's a matter of just continuing each week to get better. This is a stretch of our season where we hit a road course, a superspeedway, a mile-and-a-half (track). We're all over the map. Then we go to a flat 1-mile track up in Loudon, New Hampshire, which is part of the Chase. These next few weeks, you have to show your versatility if you want to be a frontrunner towards the Chase.”
On Sunday, Busch proved his versatility. He also showed his maturity, taking the high road when it would have been easy to harp on the Gordon feud. Not only did Busch earn that "W," he earned respect from Gordon.
Following the race, Gordon acknowledged Busch's accomplishment by stopping in Victory Lane to congratulate him on the win.
But that’s where it ended. The four-time champion still held his ground and refused to apologize.
“I didn't feel like I owed him an apology,” Gordon said. “He's done things to me over the years that I didn't get any apology on. That's just the relationship I have with Kurt. ... certain guys out there have certain relationships. If you have that kind of respect on the track for one another, you apologize. I don't think that exists really with me and Kurt, so I see no reason to apologize.
“The guy did a great job. He drove a great race. They've been running well. To me what happened here last year, what happened at Martinsville (where Busch pushed Gordon out of the groove), is behind us. I've moved on from that. I think we're pretty even. Was just congratulating him on the win. Had nothing to do with anything else.
“I think it was his first road-course win. Is that right? So a guy, really, who is as talented as he is, every guy that competes in this series has won on ovals, wants to win on a road course to kind of prove something to themselves and the rest of the competitors (they can do it). When you do that the first time, I know how much it means. I know it meant a lot to him. I wanted to congratulate him on it.”
While it's unlikely that Busch will find his way on the Gordon's Christmas card list, at least it's a start.
Payback is a …
Juan Montoya does not hold back — especially on road courses where his talent shines.
Although Montoya did not lead a circuit until Lap 75 as competitors began to pit, he had a car capable of contending for the win. Following the Tony Stewart/Brian Vickers incident on Lap 88, Montoya’s team elected to stop for tires and fuel. Although Montoya restarted 14th, he quickly sliced through the field and gained five spots on the first lap.
Montoya then punted Kasey Kahne on Lap 95 while the No. 4 Toyota was fifth, and fell back to seventh.
With Montoya’s aggressive nature, he mounted a charge again. This time he set his sights on the No. 2 Dodge, believing Brad Keselowski, whose previous best finish at Infineon was 35th, was an easy mark. So he took his shot on Lap 102. Hearing Montoya, one would think he had an exclusive on the track.
“The No. 4 was the first car, I got beside him and he knocked me a couple of times and they just don't give me any room so it was hard,” Montoya said. “The No. 2, I got on his bumper moved him a little bit, got beside him and passed him and he just plain and simple wrecked us.
“It's hard when people don't know how to race on road courses and think they do. It's okay. We had fun, we have a good car. This Cottonelle Chevy was amazing today. It's nice to run good here."
Keselowski, who finished 10th, was simply defending his turf, a lesson he learned racing on short tracks throughout the Midwest.
“I don’t take any pride in all that stuff, but at some point you have to run your own deal,” Keselowski said. “It was pretty obvious that it was eat or be eaten and I wasn't going to be eaten."
The move proved costly for Montoya, who had a shot at a solid finish, ended up 22nd and dropped one position to 16th in the points standings.
When Montoya. who's known for retaliatory measures, was asked if he’d discuss the situation further with Keselowski, he simply replied: “Ask him, he’s the one that wrecked me. We (went) through the corner and I just got on his bumper a little bit and moved him a little. Got a good run and I guess he didn’t like it. I mean, it is just hard to run with people who have never run well on road courses or have no experience at it. It cost us a ton of points today. But no, you have to talk to smart people.”
4 — Points standings positions lost by Dale Earnhardt Jr., after he finished 41st.
12 — Lead changes, tying last year’s track record.
23 — Career Cup victories for Kurt Busch in the 23rd running of the Toyota/Save Mart 350.
43 — Races Tony Stewart was running at the finish before Sunday’s DNF.
AJ Allmendinger’s impression of seeing Tony Stewart’s car on the tires in Turn 11 after Brian Vickers dumped the No. 14: “I thought, ‘Holy (expletive)’, he had to hit a ton. Then when they said Vickers paid him back I thought, ‘Man, I would hate to be Vickers.”
Our favorite postrace musings on Twitter
@31n2Spotter (Brett Griffin, spotter for Jeff Burton)
If we raced road courses every week some of these guys wouldbe better off bagging groceries! Drive like morons!
@dennyhamlin (Denny Hamlin)
Every time we get a little momentum we have a day like today. 7th week in a row I've had a winning car and then Boom. We get Dinger'd
@KrissieNewman (Krissie Newman, Ryan Newman's wife)
Were u watching the 27 had plenty of room ran out of talent....if he ever had n e
I am ready to kick the 27s ass myself....learn to drive dumbass
@jpmontoya (Juan Pablo Montoya)
I guess the 2 car loves cottonelle cause really need it to get close to me LOL!!!!
@keselowski (Brad Keselowski)
At the end of the day, we all have blood on our hands. Those who claim not to, are the ones to be afraid of.
More Stories From Lee Spencer