CHARLOTTE _ For Kurt Busch, Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race was a million dollar pay day. For younger brother Kyle Busch it was a more of a pain. While the elder Busch brother was celebrating his first All-Star Race victory with champagne and Miller Lite, Kyle was waiting in teammate Denny Hamlin’s hauler ready for a fight.
During the final ten-lap segment of the 100-lap event, the No. 18 Toyota got a huge run on the outside going through turns one and two. Protecting his lead, Hamlin shut the door on the outside and sent Kyle into the outside wall. The incident killed the momentum of both cars and allowed Kurt to slip past and into the lead.
Once the damage to the right side caused a tire to go down on the No. 18, triggering a hard hit involving Kasey Kahne, Kyle told his crew over the radio, “Somebody better keep me away from Denny Hamlin after this race. I am going to kill that mother*&^%$. I had this race won.”
Showing signs of ‘Rowdy’ Busch, he parked the mangled No. 18 behind Hamlin’s hauler, climbed out of the car with his helmet and HANS device still on and walked in to wait for his teammate to show up.
After spending over 20 minutes inside with Hamlin and team owner Joe Gibbs discussing the incident and watching the replays, Busch exited the hauler through a side door and disappeared without a word to the media. His teammate and car owner were more willing to discuss the incident and the meeting that followed.
“This is a good problem to have for our team for two guys wanting to go for the win like they are,” Hamlin said. “It’s all we can ask for. Myself, I’m so confident that one of the two of us is going to win that 600 next weekend. It was a good meeting. Kyle was fire at the beginning and calm right down at the end. I think it’s just kind of his personality. Me, I’m a little bit more reserved, quiet about it.”
Both Hamlin and Gibbs appeared confident the issue was resolved after their lengthy meeting and there would be no further issues down the road.
“I think when something like this does happen, I think it’s best that you make sure that you talk it out,” said Gibbs. “I think that’s what happened. They both looked at the video again, looked at it, talked it over. I think they both understand each other’s feelings and I think we’re moving forward. We’re going to race the 600.”
Third-place finisher and JGR teammate Joey Logano said he was confident Coach Gibbs would get the situation resolved immediately.
“I’m sure they’ll work it out, whatever it is,” Logano said. “Joe and J.D. have been through situations like this before. Joe especially, with football teams, I’m sure there’s controversy. I’m sure they’ll figure it out. I’m not worried about it.”
Watching the video, the pair would have seen that when they got together Kurt Busch took advantage and made his move to the lead. After battling a tight handling race car for much of the third segment – a segment in which he tagged the wall a number of times, Busch and crew chief Steve Addington were able to make the right adjustments to put them in position to win.
“My game plan was to make big, bold moves, make sure when I was able to plant the throttle to keep it down and wheel the car the best that I could. When you plant the throttle early, you get a big run off the corners,” Busch said. “I had Jimmie Johnson in the middle of the racetrack. I was digging underneath him. I saw some paint and sparks fly off turn two when Kyle brushed the fence with Hamlin. I don’t know what happened there, but it hurt both their momentum. I was able to get by Johnson. I think I cleared (Joey) Logano.”
Enduring a number of late-race cautions, Busch was able to hold off Johnson, Hamlin and eventually Sprint Showdown winner Martin Truex Jr. to score the win.
“Man this car was a rocket ship at the end. Really excited, really excited,” Busch said. “This is huge. This is one of the marquee events.”
Truex came home second, followed by Logano, Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Bobby Labonte, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson. Eight cars failed to finish the event after wrecking out.
Jimmie Johnson led a race-high 56 laps, but spun his No. 48 Chevrolet while battling on the bottom of the track with Hamlin as the field approached the white flag. Losing the rear end of the car, Johnson spun through the tri-oval grass, much to the delight of the fans in the grandstands. The spin sent Johnson to pit road and restarting 13th he was unable to regain lost ground.
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