CUP: Pit Call Costs Kurt Busch Dearly

In recent years, Kurt Busch has been the king of Bristol Motor Speedway. But after Sunday’s Food City 500, Busch has to be wondering if Jimmie Johnson stole his crown.


Busch dominated the show at Bristol on Sunday, leading 275 of 500 laps at the 0.533-mile oval and clearly was the class of the field all race long. When Busch was out front, he was untouchable.

But what seemed like a certain victory ended in bitter disappointment because of a late-race debris caution. Busch took the lead on Lap 414 and was comfortably ahead of the four-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion by about half a second, when a caution flew for debris on Lap 482.

The leaders all pitted, with Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards each taking two tires and taking over the top three spots, with Tony Stewart fourth. Johnson took four fresh tires and came out sixth, one position behind Busch.

Under NASCAR’s double-wide restart system, that put Johnson on the outside of Row 3 for the restart, and pinned Busch down on the inside of Row 3. And as Busch’s little brother, Kyle, proved last fall at Bristol, when held off Mark Martin, the outside lane has a big advantage on restarts.

And that’s exactly what happened this time: The track went green on Lap 491, and Busch got stuck in the bottom groove, as Stewart roared by the Roush Fenway Fords to lead Lap 493, only to see Johnson go by the next lap, never surrendering the lead.

Although Busch was able to pick off the Fords, he ran out of time and finished the race behind Johnson and Stewart, understandably frustrated and disappointed. “I'd rather lose to any of the other 41 cars out there than the 48 (Johnson) car,” Busch after the race as he struggled to maintain composure. “I thought we had him beat. I gave it my heart today, but we came up short.”

And that was a bitter pill to swallow for Busch.

“The only weak area that we had was just starting out on fresh tires after a restart and that bit us at the end,” said Busch. “To pour my heart and soul into this race and try and beat that 48 car, I was trying to hit my marks every lap. I feel exhausted. I feel disappointed. But all and all, to bring the Miller Lite Dodge home in third as a competitive car, that’s our job. That’s what Roger Penske says, make yourself competitive and things will play out in your favor and other days, they won’t play out in your favor.”


Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for You can follow him online at and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.