Busch finds both win, controversy at Bristol
Monday, March 27, 2006
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Kurt Busch's friend and former teammate was in his way. So Busch banged Matt Kenseth aside -- the first of two hard shoves Kenseth received -- to win yet another race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Opinions differed after if Busch's brash bump with four laps to go Sunday in the Food City 500 was out of line.
"We had to muscle past Matt Kenseth," Busch shrugged. "He's a good friend of mine, but he'll be OK with it.
Uhh, not really.
"He knocked me out of the way," Kenseth said. "I thought if he had a run on me, had me beat, that would have been OK. But he drove extra hard and knocked me out of the way. I thought it was a cheapshot."
Busch disagreed, believing the move was perfectly legal.
Kenseth was leading, but had slowed because he couldn't get past Dale Jarrett, who was fighting to stay on the lead lap. Tired of being held up, Busch rammed Kenseth's back bumper to send him into a slide. That allowed Busch to scoot on by for his fifth victory in the last nine Bristol races.
"I bumped into him a little bit and that was my window to get the lead," Busch said. "If I was still a teammate of his, maybe I would have let him live. But I was hungry."
Indeed, it was Busch's first victory since joining Roger Penske's team at the start of the season and taking over the famed No. 2 Dodge that nine-time Bristol winner Rusty Wallace drove. Busch celebrated his victory by jumping from his car, grabbing the checkered flag and doing "snow angels" on the finish line as a nod to the wintry weather that plagued the track all weekend.
"This is unreal," Busch said. "I'm just so happy to be able to have this car and have Roger's privilege to do so."
Wallace, who missed his first Bristol race in 23 years because he was in his new job as an analyst for the Indy Racing League, called Busch in Victory Lane. During the call, Busch told him he was naming the winning car "Rusty."
"It was very emotional to drive his car," Busch said. "I mentioned to him I am going to name the car, and you could almost see that he had a tear in his eye."
Kevin Harvick was second and seemed disappointed with his best finish of the season.
"Good day for us, but I hate to see Kurt Busch win," Harvick said. "He's a big whiner. But what do I know?"
Kenseth wound up third, but had to fight for it. He faded after Busch's pass, worked his way back up but drew the ire of Jeff Gordon along the way. The two made contact in the closing laps that sent Gordon spinning all the way back to a 21st-place finish.
Still wearing his helmet and HANS device, Gordon stalked Kenseth on pit road. When Kenseth approached in what looked to be an apologetic way, Gordon gave him a hard shove that knocked him back several feet.
The two were quickly separated by NASCAR officials.
"I'm sure he didn't mean to do it and all that stuff, but I wasn't happy about it," Gordon fumed. "I showed it to him after the race. I like racing with Matt ... that stuff rarely happens with him. But I'm going to give it back what he gives to me."
Kenseth took full responsibility for the on-track altercation.
"That was my fault, it was an accident and I didn't mean to do it," Kenseth said. "I would be hot, too. He raced hard all day long for his third-place finish and it got taken away from him. I probably should have known better than to go over him."
Carl Edwards finished fourth and Bobby Labonte was fifth to continue the resurgence of Petty Enterprises. It was the first top-five finish for a Petty car since John Andretti was second here in 2001.
Mark Martin and Greg Biffle were sixth and seventh to put four of Roush Racing's five drivers in the top seven.
Kyle Busch, who won Saturday's Busch race, was eighth. Ryan Newman was ninth and Kasey Kahne, last week's winner, rounded out the top 10.
Tony Stewart, who led a race-high 245 laps, faded at the end and wound up 12th.
"I am really disappointed," Stewart said. "We had an awesome car, I felt like I ran the most patient race I have ever run at Bristol. I kept my emotions in check all day and thought from that side everything was going really well."
Bristol is always a race of attrition, with drivers hoping to avoid the numerous accidents while keeping their tempers intact. This one was no different, except that the usual temper tantrums weren't in play until very late in the race. Instead, shoddy driving skills seemed to contribute to most of the 18 cautions.
The many accidents led dozens of torn up race cars -- at one point, a piece of sheet metal from Jarrett's car flew into the stands and was quickly snatched up as a souvenir -- and only 21 of the 43 cars finishing on the lead lap.