Busch overtakes Wallace in late stages
LONG POND, Pa. -- Kurt Busch kept his poise with NASCAR's two grizzled veterans pushing hard down the stretch.
Busch dominated at the beginning, surged back to the lead late and raced to his second win of the season Sunday in the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway.
"To see the [No.] 2 and the 6 back there is reminiscent of old times," said Busch, who earned his 13th career victory.
Wallace, who will retire at the end of the season, finished second in the No. 2 Dodge and fell just short of matching Bill Elliott's record of five career wins at Pocono.
Perhaps driving his last race at Pocono, Mark Martin finished third in the No. 6 Ford and Carl Edwards followed his win here in June with a fourth-place finish.
While Wallace is firm in his commitment to retire, Martin may have his farewell tour extended another year because Jack Roush is without a driver for the Ford next year.
"I still have my decision," Martin said. "I don't even like talking about it because I want to go truck racing next year. We are working on trucks."
Busch, the defending NASCAR Nextel Cup champion, led 110 of the first 150 laps on the 2.5-mile triangle and kept his fifth-place spot in the points standings with six races left to decide the 10 drivers who will race for the title. All drivers within 400 points of the lead also are eligible, though no driver outside the top 10 meets that requirement.
The "Chase for the Nextel Cup" begins at New Hampshire International Speedway on Sept. 18.
Jeff Gordon finished 13th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was two laps off the leader in 32nd place as two of NASCAR's most successful drivers are running out of time to crack the top 10.
"We'll be right there," Earnhardt insisted.
Busch passed Wallace coming out of turn three with 17 laps left and held on to the lead even as four cautions came out before the end, which forced three extra laps and the green-white checkered flag.
"It's just a matter of having everything fall our way," Busch said. "It's a super car. It was a big win for us."
It also was a big day for Roush Racing, which had three of the top-four finishers -- Busch, Martin and Edwards.
The result was particularly impressive for Edwards, who was forced to start at the back of the field because he skipped qualifying to compete in Saturday's Busch Series race. Somehow, he made it near the front of the pack -- just not far enough.
Busch had the strongest car from the beginning, taking the lead from polestitter Jamie McMurray on the first turn of the first lap.
Busch started second in his No. 97 Ford and needed just 113 laps to clinch the five bonus points awarded for leading the most laps. With 90 laps remaining, Busch pitted to fix a loose lugnut on the left front and had a 17.5-second stop, which slowed him down and allowed some of NASCAR's old dogs to make a run.
"You always have to bounce back. You can't get hard on your team," Busch said. "I kept quiet and I kept conservative."
Wallace and Martin came on at the end, though. Wallace even led most of the last few laps and made it seem possible he could win for the fifth time at Pocono.
"I'm really stepping on the edge and trying to keep up with the competition," Wallace said.
Busch pushed Wallace hard and seemed poised to take the lead when the caution came out for debris from Matt Kenseth's car, so Wallace kept his spot up front with 33 laps left.
His car just didn't have enough left.
"We put the hammer down and we went for it," Busch said. "It's just a great tribute to what my team gave me in my car."
Busch, who also won this year at Phoenix, had his seventh top-five finish and successfully navigated a Pocono track that was sharply criticized by drivers this weekend.
NASCAR had the track patched near the treacherous tunnel turn before the race after it was damaged in Saturday's ARCA stock-car race, causing some pre-race concern from a few drivers. The track's reputation already took a hit after June's race when drivers were victimized by blown or cut tires.
While some drivers said it was mostly the result of overaggressive driving, NASCAR tried another approach by installing a curb inside Turn two that seemed to give some drivers and their tires fits.
Gordon and Wallace were among the drivers who still blasted the track's condition even after the alterations, though the curb and the small, patched turn failed to give the drivers any serious problems on Sunday.
"A little pavement job wouldn't hurt," Wallace said. "I wouldn't complain, but, hey I'm never coming back so I don't care."
When Kyle Busch slammed into the turn one wall with 50 laps left, it was the first major accident of the race and brought out the caution. There were few tire woes though there were five straight debris cautions.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press