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Busch overtakes Wallace in late stages

7/24/2005

LONG POND, Pa. -- Kurt Busch kept his poise with NASCAR's
two grizzled veterans pushing hard down the stretch.

Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin were both determined to leave
Pocono for good as winners. Instead, Busch spoiled the going away
party and kept moving toward another Nextel Cup title.

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.

Jimmie Johnson maintained his overall points lead with a 12th-place finish. Tony Stewart moved to second in the standings with a
seventh-place finish, Greg Biffle (17th) is third followed by
Wallace.

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.