Kyle Busch holds off Hamlin to capture Food City 500

Dave Ongie • Mar 22, 2009 at 12:00 AM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — After letting a pair of wins slip away in his last two starts at Bristol Motor Speedway, the third time proved the charm for Kyle Busch.

Busch dominated the field, won the race off pit road on his final stop and held off teammate Denny Hamlin on a green/white/checkered finish to win the Food City 500 on Sunday.

Busch said getting out of the pits ahead of Hamlin on the money stop late in the race was the difference after a less than stellar stop the time before.

“I told the ladies to man up and get the job done the last stop,” he said. “They got the job done. The last stop was smooth. It’s what made it happen.”

Busch led 415 of 500 laps in the Sharpie 500 last August but lost to Carl Edwards. On Saturday, Busch led the most laps in the Nationwide Series’ Scotts Turf Builder 300 before a penalty on pit road allowed Kevin Harvick to pick up the win.

On Sunday, Busch was finally able to put it all together, leading 378 laps and earning his second career Sprint Cup victory at BMS. It was also the third straight Cup victory for the Busch brothers; older brother Kurt was the winner in the series’ previous stop at Atlanta a week after Kyle won at Las Vegas.

“This place probably owes me a few but you can never ask a racetrack to pay you back,” Kyle Busch said of Bristol. “Fortunately today we had a good enough car. Here we are in Victory Lane. It’s awesome.”

Teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon came in third and fourth, respectively, while Kasey Kahne rounded out the top five.

For a while, it looked as if Johnson was finally going to end his years of frustration in Bristol. The three-time defending series champion took the lead after a round of pit stops on lap 322 and pulled out way ahead on the restart on lap 328.

Just when it appeared that Johnson was finally headed for victory circle at BMS, he got caught up in lapped traffic and Busch got around him for good on lap 369.

After spending the off week studying footage of his previous efforts at Bristol, Johnson said he felt like he made progress Sunday.

“To be that close to a win, I can see what the leaders do and visualize it,” he said. “Before we were so far off that I wasn’t racing for the win. Things were really starting to make sense for me.”

Busch was cruising on lap 442 when Harvick blew a tire and hit the wall in turn four, bringing out the caution. After one of Busch’s tire carriers lost control of a tire and earned the costly penalty on Saturday, the crew for the No. 18 Toyota pulled off a flawless pit stop on Sunday to get Busch out of the pits in the lead.

“I knew it was going to be tough, unless we got off pit road first, to have anything for those guys,” Hamlin said. “Had we got out of pit road in front of him, he was going to have a hard time getting around me. We’re just fortunate to be able to battle our teammate to get a 1-2 finish.”

Busch was well on his way to victory before Joey Logano blew an engine on lap 493 to set up the green/white/checkered finish. After the cleanup was complete, Busch timed everything perfectly when the green flag fell and sailed through the final two laps.

He was met with a mix of boos and cheers as he climbed out of his car in Victory Lane, but said he couldn’t care less about gaining fan acceptance.

“I don’t think I would like to have the most fans out there,” Busch said. “I actually like the role I portray and I think there’s probably too much pressure on one guy’s shoulders who doesn’t seem to win very often.”

Logano’s blown engine made the victory bittersweet for team owner Joe Gibbs.

“We have great motors,” Gibbs said. “We always do but to lose a motor like that — Joey fought hard all day. It’s the whole range of emotions. Joey blows up there and I’m sick.”

As it turned out, Logano’s blown engine wasn’t enough to drop him out of the top 35 in owner’s points. He is 34th and locked into the field in Martinsville next week.

Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top 10.

For Montoya, it was his second career top 10 on a short track. He was warned about aggressive driving after spinning Jamie McMurray early in the day, but was unfazed in completing a great run.

“It’s about time,” Montoya said. “It really shows where the team is going. I think there is lot more potential there.”

Ambrose had his No. 47 Toyota running in the top five for most of the day before engine trouble dropped him back into 10th place.

Gordon’s top-five finish allowed him to hold the top spot in the points standings, with Kurt Busch keeping second. A rough day on a track on which he usually thrives dropped Matt Kenseth from fifth to 10th in points.

“Obviously it was a bad day,” said Kenseth, who finished 33rd. “We ran like junk in the beginning — we missed it by about 4 miles all day.”

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