Busch fends off Cook, Musgrave in final laps
CONCORD, N.C. -- Nextel Cup rookie Kyle Busch became the youngest winner in Craftsman Truck Series history, holding off Terry Cook and Ted Musgrave in a three-lap closing sprint Friday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
The 20-year-old Busch beat the previous mark set by the late Ricky Hendrick, 21 when he won in 2001. That also was the year Busch burst on the truck scene as a 16-year-old high school student, nearly winning a couple of races as a rookie.
But NASCAR changed the rules following that season, setting a mandatory age of 18 for its major series and sending Busch back to the lower leagues. He eventually made it back with Hendrick Motorsports -- the team founded by Hendrick's father -- and last season he tied Greg Biffle's Busch Series record of five victories for a rookie.
Hendrick, who retired as a driver but was the owner of Busch's team, was killed along with nine other people in a plane crash last October.
"It is special, but it's also a little heartbreaking," Busch said after the Quaker Steak & Lube 200. "Obviously, you want that record to stay there for Ricky. I don't think he would have wanted that record broken by anybody but me."
This year, Busch replaced Terry Labonte in the Cup Series, and finished fourth last week at Richmond. Busch picked up his truck ride in Billy Ballew's Chevrolet earlier this week as a way to gain more experience on Lowe's newly ground racing surface, and he made the most of his opportunity.
He started third, took the lead for the first time on the fifth lap, and stayed up front for a total of 77 of the 136 laps. Busch dropped back when he made his first pit stop on lap 60, then slowly worked his way back toward the front.
Finally, he moved back around Cook's Ford for second and began slowly running down leader Mike Skinner in the late going. But Skinner made a huge mistake while trying to lap Brad Keselowski with 20 laps left, sliding up into Keselowski and then spinning into the wall.
That gave the lead to Busch, and he easily got his first victory in the series despite a late caution that forced a green-white-checkered overtime finish. Now, he hopes to take his knowledge to the Nextel Open on Saturday night.
"The biggest thing we learned what the track would do in the long run," Busch said. "There's definitely a few different grooves out there. I think it's going to be a pretty good show."
For Cook, it was his best finish on a track the size of the 1½-mile Lowe's Motor Speedway, and it was the best effort of the season.
"The truck just got real tight, and when it started to tighten up, unfortunately I couldn't race Kyle as hard as I wanted," Cook said. "We were racing Ted hard there just trying to hang on to second."
Cup star Tony Stewart, forced to start at the rear of the field because of an engine change, raced his way into the top five before more problems forced him to park his Chevrolet. He did provide one of the more spectacular moments of the night, keeping his truck out of the wall after he was spun out by Kelly Sutton on lap 26.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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