Kurt Busch holds off Robby Gordon in Busch race
It was Busch's second victory and fifth top five in only his sixth career start in the series, all this year, and Gordon made it one he won't soon forget.
Busch, who won the pole earlier in the day and led the first 16 laps of the 82-lap race, led Gordon on a restart with two laps to go following the final caution of the race and pulled away by several car lengths.
Undeterred, Gordon, in only his second Busch race of the year, rallied entering the chicane at the top of the esses about midway through the 11-turn, 2.45-mile layout and hit the back bumper of Busch's No. 39 Penske Dodge. Busch held on and gained a two car-length lead entering the final lap.
Gordon wasn't finished yet. He again pulled up to Busch's back bumper in the chicane, and this time he drove through the grass in a last-ditch effort to make the pass, slamming the side of Busch's car and also sending it sliding through the grass.
"We knew we were better than him there," said Gordon, who also finished second here a year ago to Busch's Penske Racing teammate, Ryan Newman. "I just tried to move him. I had him sized up. I knew I was going to lay into him and that's what I did. I just didn't go far enough."
That allowed Busch to maintain control as Gordon's No. 7 Harrah's Chevrolet briefly inched in front, and he then slammed Gordon back and regained the lead.
"When he pushed, I stood on it and drove straight through the grass," said Busch, who also will start Sunday's Nextel Cup race from the pole. "It was a flat-out battle. It seemed like it [the chicane] was my weak point and Robby knew it. That was a battle."
"We got by him for a short period of time, but he knocked me and got back by," Gordon said.
Points leader Kevin Harvick, who led 19 laps, finished seventh, his 21st top 10 in 24 races, and gained a 443-point lead in the series over Carl Edwards, who slid into the gravel on lap 66 and finished a lap down in 27th.
Newman ran second to Busch for 14 laps and led for one lap, but he lost the engine in his Penske Dodge and spun into the gravel on lap 31, bringing out the first caution of the race.
Both McMurray and Biffle had a bird's-eye view of the final-lap battle between Gordon and Busch, and they were anticipating the worst.
"I hoped that they wrecked, and if they did they weren't in the racetrack," McMurray said, smiling. "I said, 'Damn, they made it.'"
That wasn't the first run-in between Busch and Gordon. A bad pit stop by Busch at the end of lap 47 gave Gordon a substantial lead, but a caution for debris wiped out that edge and set up a restart with 20 laps left.
When Busch tried to duck inside Gordon entering the 90-degree, right-hand first turn at the end of the front straightaway, Gordon threw a block inside. Busch quickly slid outside and pulled alongside Gordon, but Gordon drove right into the side of Busch as both cars raced together through the paved runoff area on the left side of the curve.
Gordon was able to maintain the lead, and McMurray slid into second ahead of Busch for the remainder of the lap. Busch slipped back ahead of McMurray with a clean pass entering the first turn and again began stalking Gordon.
Another restart with 14 laps to go was clean, with Gordon getting off strongly without a challenge from Busch. After Busch passed Gordon on the front straightaway the next time by, Gordon pulled back inside and gained the lead back for a split second, but his momentum carried him onto the edge of the runoff and Busch slid back by.
Gordon stayed within a second of Busch, slowly began to reel him in, and was on his back bumper entering turn 11 with four laps left when the final caution waved.
"We battled," Busch said. "I was in front, he was in front. I was behind, he was behind. The last restart I thought he was sleeping. We got a little bit of a lead, but he would swallow it right up.
"Sometimes, I thought he went straight through there [the chicane]. I didn't expect that aggressive driving from Robby, maybe I should have. It tore up some cars, but I guess that's what you have to do to get to Victory Lane."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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