Busch wins rain-shortened race

Monday, October 28, 2002

HAMPTON, Ga. -- Kurt Busch outran the competition and the weather Sunday, grabbing his second straight Winston Cup victory in the rain-shortened NAPA 500.

After one long rain delay and threatening skies throughout, the race scheduled for 325 laps at Atlanta Motor speedway ended under a yellow flag on lap 248 as the wet weather finally arrived.

Busch, driving a Roush Racing Ford, got his third career victory and third of the season with the help of some fast work by his crew during the last round of green-flag pit stops.

The 24-year-old driver from Las Vegas had been running third, watching Joe Nemechek and series leader Tony Stewart battling ahead of him on the 1.54-mile quad-oval.

"We got loose and got to sliding a little bit and that's what pushed us back," Busch said in the makeshift Victory Circle inside the empty Busch Series garage. "We kept digging and made an adjustment at the end. I told (crew chief) Jimmy (Fennig), I said, 'Do this, do that and it'll be perfect.' We drove ourselves right to victory lane."

Nemechek, a late-season replacement in the No. 25 Chevrolet, hung on for second in the same car in which Jerry Nadeau ran out of gas while leading on the final lap here last year.

"I'm just not sure how the (No.) 97 (Busch) got in front of us on that last green flag deal," Nemechek said. "We just needed some more laps."

Stewart wound up fourth, behind Dale Jarrett, and put some room between himself and the drivers chasing him in the championship battle with only three races remaining.

"There still isn't a sucker out there that can say we're points racing," Stewart said, grinning. "I was sideways out there chasing Nemechek."

Mark Martin finished eighth and moved past rookie Jimmie Johnson into second place, 146 points behind Stewart, who came into the race leading Johnson by only 82.

Johnson, who brought out two caution flags Sunday with spins coming off the fourth turn, wound up a lap down in 22nd and fell 150 points behind. Fellow rookie Ryan Newman moved past teammate Rusty Wallace into fourth in the standings, 203 behind Stewart and 24 ahead of Wallace.

"We had a loose race car and spun out twice," Johnson said. "We brushed the wall on the first one and didn't hit anything the second time, but it's something we didn't need for the big picture.

"There's three races left, though, and anything can still happen."

A light rain stopped the race on lap 26 and it took 2 hours, 26 minutes before the track was dry enough to get the cars back out.

From then until lap 163 -- the halfway point -- everybody was keeping one eye on the track and the other on the dark, threatening sky, expecting more rain. Other than occasional drops, though, it didn't come until the race had gone far enough to be considered an official event.

Honda Indy 300: Rookie Mario Dominguez won the rain-shortened Honda Indy 300, which started with a major crash that sent two drivers to the hospital.

Dominguez, who was involved in the accident, pitted four times once racing started. The event, held in Surfers Paradise, Australia, was stopped on the 40th lap because of a two-hour time limit. Patrick Carpentier was second, followed by Paul Tracy, Kenny Brack and Tony Kanaan.

Adrian Fernandez and Tora Takagi were carried off on stretchers after the starting-line accident. Fernandez broke two vertebrae; Takagi had a broken pelvis and bruised hip. Both were released from the hospital.

Heavy rain and poor visibility forced much of the race to be run under yellow caution flags, including the final 30 laps. Safety crews tried, with little success, to brush water off the track.

--From wire reports

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