Sunday, November 8, 2009

Kurt Busch Betters Brother Kyle to Win Dickies 500 at Texas

Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR

With Kyle Busch receiving much of the attention for his attempt to complete the weekend sweep in NASCAR's three major touring series (Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series) the #18 M&Ms Toyota was on course to bring home the crowning race, the Dickies 500.

Leading a majority of the races 334 laps, Kyle Busch took a gamble on the final laps that his fuel cell held the gasoline needed to make the full distance. Inside 3 laps remaining, however, Kyle Busch's Toyota busted the chance of victory requiring a brief a detour to pit road ending the chance of the weekend three-peat. Benefiting from the lost opportunity of Kyle Busch, older brother Kurt Busch triumphing on the fuel-saving strategy.

For this second win of the year, the #2 Miller Lite/Operation Homefront Dodge of Kurt Busch ran well throughout the race but was little match for the #18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota until the caution-free complex of the last stage of the race favoured Busch's Penske Racing car. Perhaps a gain through the new Dodge R6 engine Penske Racing has been optimizing this season, fuel economy had usually been a failing of the Dodge NASCAR program. Nonetheless, Kurt Busch celebrated with prop six-shooter pistols blazing with soon to be outgoing crew chief Pat Tyson.

The Dickies 500 started with the headline news of Jimmie Johnson's sizable points lead going into the final three races of a Chase for the Sprint Cup. However, the start of the 500 mile Texas race would alter the headlines. On lap 3, Jimmie Johnson was caught by racing misfortune after contact with Sam Hornish Jr's #77 Dodge. Having his #48 Chevrolet thrown to pieces, Johnson's car spent more than an hour in the garage. Following a massive reconstruction of the #48 Lowes Chevrolet conducted by Hendrick crew members, Johnson returned to the track on lap 116 soldiering on to a 38th place finish.

Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR

Though Johnson's lead position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points drew much of the attention, lap 176 proved to be another hit on three chase contenders. In an accident drawing the fourth caution of the Texas race Juan Pablo Montoya sled up the track and made impact with the rear of Carl Edwards. Montoya's #42 Chevrolet continued after major repairs but Edward's #99 Ford damage was so severe and needed to be retired. Jeff Gordon was also involved in the caution spinning his #24 Chevrolet but sustained no noticeable damage. In spite of this, the #24 Chevrolet never really contended from that point on in the race. Gordon did finish 11th place at the event's end.

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Image

Thanks to the fuel economy show that resolved the Dickies 500, the field was tossed up in the last 20 laps of the event. Richard Childress Racing cars saw three of its four cars collect top 10 runs for perhaps their best outing for the dismal 2009 season. Kevin Harvick finished 5th, Clint Bowyer climbed 7th place and Jeff Burton, who started the race in a back up car following the loss of his primary car in a Friday practice crash, gained a free pass early in the event to wind up 9th place.

Coming out the bad side of the late race fuel gamble, Dale Earnhardt Jr saw his solid top 10 disappear as the fuel tank went empty. Having to relinquish a top 5 run within 10 laps to go, the #88 National Guard Chevrolet struggled to start dropping Earnhardt 3 laps down into 25th place.

With Johnson's troubles, one Chase driver did manage to capitalize at Texas. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin used a 4th place finish from the event to leapfrog Jeff Gordon for 2nd place in Chase standings and draw within 73 points of Johnson.

As the Dickies 500 concludes at Texas Motor Speedway, the results of Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch has taught us all that presumption may not yield the real world outcomes. A possible championship runaway and a three-peat Texas sweep were both foiled by chance through the course of the 3rd last race of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. I guess there is a reason NASCAR runs the races. Richard Petty Motorsports' phase in of the Ford Fusion for 2010 continues to go smoothly as AJ Allmendinger brought the car home 10th ahead of the team's Dodges.

Race Results
Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
NASCAR Sprint Cup

Top 10:

1. Kurt Busch #2 Dodge (C)
2. Denny Hamlin #11 Toyota (C)
3. Matt Kenseth #17 Ford
4. Mark Martin #5 Chevrolet (C)
5. Kevin Harvick #29 Chevrolet
6. Tony Stewart #14 Chevrolet (C)
7. Clint Bowyer #33 Chevrolet
8. Greg Biffle #16 Ford (C)
9. Jeff Burton #31 Chevrolet
10. AJ Allmendinger #44 Ford

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