Kyle's run at sweep runs out of gas
FORT WORTH, Texas -- For much of Sunday's Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, a sibling rivalry brewed at the front of the field.
Kurt and Kyle Busch weren't exactly banging and bumping each other, but they were busy battling for the lead, each with a fast car. But in the end, it was how much fuel was left in the tank that decided the winner.
Kyle Busch, despite leading 232 of the 334 laps, was on fumes with three laps left and had to give up his lead for a splash of fuel. That allowed his older brother to take control and save what little fuel he had left to earn the victory. He did it on a day when Chase for the Sprint Cup leader Jimmie Johnson hit the wall early, allowing Mark Martin to put a dent in his 184-point advantage. Johnson heads to Phoenix 73 points ahead.
For much of the race, the Busch brothers were busy trying to beat each other out of the pits and playing mental games as they bunched up for restarts. Both wanted the clean air in front to try to separate themselves from each other and the field.
"It was quite a bit of fun," said Kurt Busch about racing his brother. "Growing up, you always think maybe we'll make it to the top level and be able to race for the win. We raced him hard, and it felt like old times."
Kurt Busch's victory ended Kyle's chance at making NASCAR history as the first driver to win three races at the same track in the same weekend. Busch won the Camping World Truck race Friday night, slipping past Ron Hornaday with 50 laps left. He ran away from the field in the Nationwide race Saturday, leading 179 of the 200 laps.
And despite another dominant performance at TMS on Sunday, Kyle Busch couldn't quite finish the deal. He's participated in all three weekend races 28 times. It's the third time he's won two of the three races.
"To have him going for the sweep, I was rooting for him," Kurt Busch said. "It's bittersweet, because we took the sweet part in the victory in Cup."
Maybe it was fitting that Busch, who hails from Las Vegas, won the race taking a calculated gamble. But to hear Busch tell it, he wasn't worried that his fuel was going to run out.
"It wasn't as big a risk as you might think," Busch said.
That's because crew chief Pat Tryson, a lame duck with Penske Racing after announcing before the Chase began that he's leaving at the end of the season, told Busch to start conserving fuel on the second-to-last stop. Tryson had Busch stay out on the track two laps longer than his brother before the final stop and figured they'd have just enough to stay out barring any caution flags. None came. So while many of Busch's competitors dropped to the bottom of the track to grab more fuel, he worked his way to the front.
"Pat Tryson is famous for calling fuel mileage races," said Matt Kenseth, who finished third Sunday and knew Tryson when he worked for Roush Fenway Racing. "I'm happy Kurt won. He was really fast all day. It wasn't like somebody running 20th won the race."
Busch even had enough gas to celebrate, driving the car backward on the frontstretch while waving the checkered flag, before needing help to push it to Victory Lane. He won for the second time this season and the first time at TMS in a Cup race in his career.
And he made one fan $1,000,000 richer. Michael McGee, an agriculture teacher and owner of a horse training business, was honored by Dickies as its worker of the year this week. He randomly picked Busch's car number as part of a contest. McGee admits he isn't a NASCAR fan, just a lucky worker.
"I can tell you I'm Kurt Busch's favorite fan," said McGee, who wants to pay off his house and start a scholarship program for kids going to college to pursue a career in agriculture. "Go, No. 2."
Richard Durrett covers auto racing for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.