WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. Slump? What slump?
After rivals said they thought he was slipping following two straight lackluster races, Kyle Busch went out and made history Sunday. He led 52 laps from the pole and won the Centurion Boats at The Glen at Watkins Glen International to become the first driver in NASCAR history to win three road course races in one season.
"That kid's awesome," said Steve Addington, Busch's crew chief. "I can't believe we don't win a race in three or four weeks and we're in a slump."
Busch, who also clinched a spot in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup title, has won 16 races in NASCAR's top three series this season eight in Sprint Cup, six in Nationwide and two in trucks and three came on road courses. He won the Nationwide race in Mexico in April and the Cup race at Sonoma in June before finishing second here on Saturday in the Nationwide race.
No driver in NASCAR history had won three road races in one season, and only Jeff Gordon, Stewart and Robby Gordon had swept both Cup events in the same year.
The victory also gives Busch 80 bonus points for the Chase, 50 more than Carl Edwards, who moved into second in the overall standings after finishing ninth.
After a 43-minute red-flag stoppage due to a multicar pileup with eight laps to go, Busch held off Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Tony Stewart, who was bidding for his fifth win at Watkins in eight starts. It was the second straight runner-up finish for Stewart.
Marcos Ambrose of Tasmania, who started last in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford, finished third a day after winning the Nationwide race. He was followed by Juan Pablo Montoya and Martin Truex Jr.
Kevin Harvick was sixth, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Edwards and Kurt Busch. Matt Kenseth finished 12th to move into 12th place in the standings, 22 points ahead of Clint Bowyer in the race for the final slot to make the postseason.
Jeff Gordon, a four-time winner at Watkins Glen, began the day sixth in points, but he faded quickly after a strong start and finished 29th. He retained his place in the standings.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has never won a Cup race on a road course, took off to a big lead after passing Busch on the second lap and figured to be a strong contender. But poor pit strategy derailed his effort and he finished 22nd after leading 33 laps and fell two slots in the standings to fourth.