Jimmie Johnson wanted this win so bad he could almost taste it. But, Kurt Busch didn’t let that happen.
Leading 296 of 500 laps at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, Johnson was sadly outdueled by Busch during the final 11 laps.
Busch took the lead from the six-time champion two different times during the final 27 laps of the race.
Busch moved into first on lap 473 and then gave the lead right back to Johnson 10 laps later. But, he battled back and took the number one spot over Johnson during lap 490. Busch led the final 11 laps on Sunday, grabbing his second victory at Martinsville and his first win since October 2011 where he won at Dover International Speedway.
In an interview after his victory, Busch even said, “I didn’t know if we’d be able to do it, (Johnson) is king here.”
Busch came back after his No. 41 Chevrolet was damaged at the beginning of the race in a scuffle with Brad Keselowski. This was quite a comeback for Busch. But, Keselowski was not going to let the incident go as he was forced to exit the race and fix his car.
After the incident on the racetrack, Busch told his team over the radio that he was “done.”
Johnson finished only 0.263 seconds behind Busch followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose.
To complete the top 10, Matt Kenseth finished sixth, Kevin Harvick finished seventh, Aric Almirola took eighth, Clint Bowyer took ninth, and Paul Menard finished 10th. This race saw a record 33 lead changes, the first previous record was 31, which was set in April 2011.
Johnson was consistently leading the race. He lost the lead to Bowyer with 50 laps remaining but with a caution flag on lap 458 for a spin by Carl Edwards, racers got pushed back together for pit stops.
Johnson took back his number one sport under yellow while No. 15, Bowyer, was having trouble with the right-rear tire on his Toyota. He fell from first to tenth and finished at Martinsville in ninth.
Keselowski and Busch were not shy about their distaste for one another during Sunday’s race. Former teammates for Team Penske were entangled in the race after a crash in the pits on lap 43. A NASCAR-mandated caution created a collision when Keselowski’s Ford made contact with No. 5 Kasey Kahne in his Chevrolet. When Keselowski stopped, Busch rumbled by on the outside and ripped off almost the entire front nose of the Ford.
In an interview, Keselowski did not hold back when describing the situation and the actions taken by Busch, “I started to check up and I just barely got in the back of (Kahne), and Kurt just accelerated and drove through us, absolutely drove through us. I tell you what, I’m about tired of his recklessness. Kurt tore the whole suspension off the car, so it won’t turn. It won’t do anything. Thanks, Kurt. Appreciate it, bud.”
Keselowski finally returned to the track 31 laps down and did not waste any time showing his anger. After firing a one-finger salute out his window for a lap while running just ahead of Busch’s car, Keselowski slowed down to ram his rival in the right-side door.
Busch didn’t spin but he sure had a few things to say to Keselowski over his radio, “What a good kid. Guess we get to get in a fight afterwards, because I’m going to go (expletive) that dude’s (expletive) face up.”
The hostility between Keselowski and Busch was very evident to fans. There haven’t been many situations like this during a race in a while.
I am having trouble deciding if both drivers’ actions were childish or necessary. I feel that when it comes to racing and it comes to safety, it is childish. It’s childish to put yourself and any other driver in danger because you’re angry.
But, then again, the fact that Busch sent Keselowski off the track and created a situation where he was 31 laps down seems a bit unfair. So, you can see where Keselowski’s anger came from when entering back in the race.
Intense racing like that makes NASCAR fun. It makes NASCAR more interesting to watch and like I’ve said before, it puts fans at the edge of their seat. That’s what fans live for. We want to see drivers race their hearts out and fight for themselves. But, is there a limit? Is there a time when it is too much?
We saw the caution flag quite a few times on Sunday and Martinsville is a small racetrack. Things could have gotten really ugly and really dangerous.
I think that Keselowski and Busch definitely need to dish this out but is there a time when it is appropriate and when it is not? Think about it.