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Busch Makes His Push: Late Restart Gives Him His Opening for 7th Win

July 13, 2008

By Skip Myslenski, Chicago Tribune

Jul. 13–The catcalls and the boos bombarded Kyle Busch when he was introduced on Saturday night. This was expected. He is one of those drivers so many love to hate, a character whose personality so many find off-putting.

But he is also something else, and it is far more important.

He is a competitor so torrid the heat emanating from him tops that of a blast furnace.

He has won on the truck series, he has won on the Nationwide Series and here, under the lights in this race for the first time at Chicagoland Speedway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader won for the seventh time on the series this year when he captured the LifeLock.com 400.

He did that off a restart with just two laps remaining, a restart he began second to race leader Jimmie Johnson.

“Jimmie was going to bring us down slow … but I just went,” Busch said in describing what happened. “I pushed Jimmie Johnson to go. I said, ‘Let’s go, man. Here we go.’ That was the saving grace there, the good start, the restart. Then I just had to go to the outside because he was going to block the bottom in Turn 1 and 2.”

That is just what Johnson did, blocking the bottom, and as they roared through 1 and 2, there was Busch beside him on the outside. As they went up the back straight, Busch’s nose sneaked just ahead and then, through Turns 3 and 4, he took the lead heading into the final lap.

“I really thought the 48 (Johnson) had the dominant car,” said Kevin Harvick, who had a perfect view of the shootout while finishing third. “But the 18 (Busch) got there on the outside and kind of stuck … and was able to just keep going.”

Busch’s move surprised Johnson somewhat.

“I really thought I had the better car and could just roll around on the bottom of 1 and 2 and get away from him,” he said. “When I heard the spotter say he’s coming high, I knew I was in trouble. All he had to do was break that plane for a two-lap shootout. That’s what always wins. I didn’t make the best decision on the restart.”

Through so much of this race, Busch looked as if he would need no such histrionics. He led 163 of its first 250 laps.

But then, with just 17 remaining, Johnson flew by him, took his first lead of the evening and inexorably started to pull away.

“I pretty much had given up at that point,” Busch said.

He had good reason. He was down 1.365 seconds with 10 laps left and down even more, 1.524 seconds, with only six left. But then, far behind them, David Gilliland’s car blew up and the caution came out that gave Busch his final chance.

As their shootout was about to commence, he pulled up on Johnson.

“Normally,” Busch said, “when a guy is back from you a little bit and then they get right to your rear bumper, they have to lift to kind of check out of it. They kind of lose their momentum. Then you go, and then they sit there and spin their tires.

“I made my own bed, gaining on him like I did. But as soon as I touched his rear bumper, I just laid on the gas. Whether he was going to go or wasn’t going to go, it was going to be a whale of a restart and pretty exciting.

“He went. I was right there on his rear bumper. That was our race-winning move.”

smyslenski@tribune.com

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