Kurt Busch Takes Phoenix

Kurt Busch claimed his first Nextel Cup win since the start of the 'Chase for the Championship' last year when he held off Michael Waltrip to win under lights at Phoenix International Raceway

Kurt Busch Takes Phoenix

Busch took the win after having to fight back to the front as strategy shuffled the order in the last third of the 312 lap race. It was his first win in nearly 20 races, but it was his Roush team's fourth win in eight races this season, with four of the team's five drivers in the top eight of the points standings.

The race began with Jeff Gordon on the pole but fellow front row starter Kurt Busch moved into the lead before the first lap was over. A caution followed soon after when Jason Leffler spun but Busch continued to lead as the race went back to green. Meanwhile Michael Waltrip and Brian Vickers were making their way up the order.

The next caution came out on lap 67 for debris. As the race went back to green, Busch continued to lead, from teammate Greg Biffle. Debris again brought out the caution on lap 133.

The race returned to green on lap 146 with Busch leading Biffle temporarily, Biffle taking the lead before lap 146 was over. But it was a short lead, Busch retaking the place two laps later as the Roush teammates seemed unstoppable. However, Roush teammate Matt Kenseth brought out the next caution on lap 167 when he blew a tyre and slammed into the turn three wall.

The field made pit stops, during which Tony Stewart, Biffle and Mike Bliss made contact, which eventually forced Biffle behind the wall for a new radiator, and caused Stewart problems later in the race as well. Ken Schrader stayed out and led as the race restarted on lap 170 but it was back to yellow on lap 174 when Kyle Petty spun and was collected by Clint Bowyer.

Lap 176 and it was back to green, Kyle Busch the new leader ahead of Vickers, Kevin Harvick with Kurt Busch in fourth. Kyle Busch was soon moved down the order as Vickers, Busch and Waltrip became the new top three. Another caution wasn't far away, out on lap 191 for debris once more, half the field pitting but the leaders stayed out.

Green once more on lap 195, Vickers holding onto the lead but a tap from Jimmie Johnson on the back of Tony Stewart saw Stewart spin, who was then collected by Rusty Wallace, Ricky Rudd, Ken Schrader and Dave Blaney, most suffering heavy damage. Again only some drivers pitted.

This meant that Waltrip was the new leader from pole sitter Gordon, with Dale Earnhardt Jr in third with Busch and Vickers in eighth and ninth as the race restarted on lap 211. Busch was moving up the order to the front when Casey Mears hit the turn one wall hard after his front right tyre went flat. Cars pitted but some cars stayed out again, yet to make their final stop of the night.

Gordon finally led a lap for the first time as the race restarted, but was soon passed by Busch on lap 227 before another caution on lap 239, as Travis Kvapil spun and was collected by Scott Wimmer and Schrader. This brought the rest of the field, including Busch, into the pits for their final stops.

Lap 245 and it was back to green, Vickers leading from Waltrip, Harvick, Earnhardt Jr and Ryan Newman, who had struggled in the early stages. Busch restarted just inside the top ten, but he was on the move, up to fourth with 57 laps remaining.

At the front Vickers was holding on ahead of Waltrip but Waltrip's high line was faster, and on lap 261 he took the lead. It was a short lead however, as on lap 269 the flying Kurt Busch zoomed past Waltrip to take the lead.

Initially Busch opened a gap but Waltrip reeled him back in as the laps wound down. Over the last ten laps Waltrip was almost close enough but Busch held on to take the win, while Waltrip ran wide on the second last lap in a move which could have cost him second but he held on safely to the place. Third was Jeff Burton ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr with Brian Vickers in fifth.

A fifteenth place finish for Jimmie Johnson ended a streak of thirteen consecutive top ten finishes, but he comfortably holds onto the points lead, 173 ahead of Phoenix race winner and last year's champ Kurt Busch, whose win moved him up from fourth to second.

Result of Subway Fresh 500, Phoenix International Raceway::

Pos Driver Make Laps 1. Kurt Busch Ford 312 2. Michael Waltrip Chevrolet 312 3. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 312 4. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 312 5. Brian Vickers Chevrolet 312 6. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 312 7. Carl Edwards Ford 312 8. Kyle Busch Chevrolet 312 9. Johnny Sauter Dodge 312 10. Joe Nemechek Chevrolet 312 11. Elliott Sadler Ford 312 12. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 312 13. Jeremy Mayfield Dodge 312 14. Ryan Newman Dodge 312 15. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 312 16. Mark Martin Ford 312 17. Kasey Kahne Dodge 312 18. Scott Riggs Chevrolet 312 19. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 311 20. Mike Bliss Chevrolet 311 21. Jeff Green Dodge 311 22. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 311 23. Dale Jarrett Ford 311 24. Dave Blaney Chevrolet 311 25. Jamie McMurray Dodge 311 26. Sterling Marlin Dodge 311 27. Mike Wallace Chevrolet 310 28. Kevin Lepage Dodge 310 29. Jason Leffler Chevrolet 309 30. Stanton Barrett Chevrolet 309 31. Kyle Petty Dodge 306 32. Scott Wimmer Dodge 305 33. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 305 34. Ricky Rudd Ford 293 35. Bobby Hamilton Jr Chevrolet 283 36. Rusty Wallace Dodge 272 37. Robby Gordon Chevrolet 262 38. Ken Schrader Dodge 255 39. Casey Mears Dodge 243 40. Travis Kvapil Dodge 237 41. Greg Biffle Ford 172 42. Matt Kenseth Ford 164 43. Carl Long Chevrolet 52 

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Author David Wright
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