Busch wins title by starting finale
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Kyle Busch only needed the green flag to drop to win his first NASCAR title. His coronation was never in doubt and neither, really, was the outcome of the Nationwide Series finale.
Busch made it a double dose of celebration for Joe Gibbs Racing, wrapping up the series championship before turning a single lap and capping Saturday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway with his ninth trip to Victory Lane.
"It's not easy to win in any division in this sport when you're racing against some of the best," Busch said. "It's a big deal."
Busch held off a hard-charging Carl Edwards to win the 300-mile race, a fitting ending because the two NASCAR stars finished 1-2 in the final standings.
By the numbers, Busch was sensational in NASCAR's second-tier series.
He led a record 2,698 laps, had a record 11 second-place finishes, and finished 210 points ahead of Edwards.
Busch's championship run helped the cocky 24-year-old star get his swagger back and eased the sting from his failure to qualify for the Chase for the championship in the Sprint Cup series.
"It says a lot about the people I'm around," Busch said.
About the only bummer for Busch was missing the latest Denny Hamlin-Brad Keselowski fireworks behind him. Hamlin and Keselowksi wasted little time adding another combustible chapter to a feud that dates back to last season.
The latest run-in came when Hamlin made good on his promise to go after Keselowski as payback for a series of wrecks. Hamlin cashed in when he tapped Keselowski from behind and spun him out on lap 35, though not a serious enough hit to end his day.
The two raced side-by-side or bumper-to-bumper for most of the race, sparking some life into a finale that needed some juice after Busch wrapped up his title at the start.
NASCAR parked Hamlin for a lap for rough driving. Hamlin said crews from the other teams cheered and applauded as he pulled the No. 11 Toyota into pit road.
"I don't really hold any grudges. I'm ready to move on," Keselowski said. "Hell, I've already moved on. Hopefully, he feels the same way."
Well, Keselowski won't forget it quite yet. He quickly added that Hamlin "has a lot of problems on and off the racetrack" and didn't think the JGR driver would feel good about his conduct in the morning.
Hamlin laughed off those comments.
"I feel great right now," he said. "It was well worth it."
Hamlin was cheered by fans who heard his comments over the public address system. His aggressive, self-policing style was a hit with the crowd.
The escalating feud might have one more round in Sunday's Sprint Cup race.
"I challenge anybody to get wrecked as much as we have by one driver to not do anything," Hamlin said. "The weekend ain't over, either."
Keselowski met with top NASCAR officials last week at Phoenix International Raceway after his latest dust up with Hamlin. Contact between the two has led to five Hamlin wrecks dating back to last season, and Hamlin vowed revenge.
"It's tough to have a rivalry with a mid-pack driver," Hamlin said. "I shouldn't be racing him, anyway. ... I just wanted to send a message that I am a man of my word, and my father once told me, if you say you are going to do something, you've got to do it. And he told me I had to do it, so I had to do it."
Busch laughed as he talked his own novel idea about how to handle Keselowski: Get a stock car posse after him in next season's opener.
"What would be even better is if five drivers teamed up next year and knocked him out the first five races so he'd be out of the top 35," Busch said.
Burton, a respected veteran, said Hamlin made the right choice.
"When you constantly get spun out by the same car, there comes a time where you've got to put your foot down and not take it," he said. "And the next time Keselowski thinks about spinning him out, he'll think about it."
Busch became the first Nationwide champ to win the season finale since Sam Ard in 1983.
"It hasn't been done in a long time, so I guess you know how hard it is to do for someone to come out here and win the final race of the year," Busch said.
Busch grabbed the Nationwide championship flag and wildly waved it from the top of his No. 18 Toyota. He high-fived every member of his JGR crew and seemed emotional talking about how much it meant to have his parents and brother at the race.
"It's cool," Busch said. "This win here means a lot for Joe Gibbs Racing."
Busch has 20 wins this season in the Trucks Series, Nationwide and Sprint Cup.
"It was fun to watch and fun to be a part of at the end," Busch said. "I felt like I wasn't the best driver here tonight, but the guys gave me a car capable of winning."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press