Kyle Busch looked sharp in Saturday night's Sharpie 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway as he led the final 68 laps of the 500-lap race to take his fourth win of the season and his second consecutive Sprint Cup victory at Bristol.
The driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing held off a strong charge from venerable Mark Martin, who was making his 1,000th career NASCAR start. Martin led five times for a race-high 240 laps, but Busch proved too strong when it mattered most, and he was able to secure his 16th Sprint Cup win and a sweep of the 2009 Sprint Cup races at Bristol.
“Mark Martin, what a class act,” said Busch, whose previous Bristol wins came in March 2007 and March 2009. “He deserved to win this race and I'm sorry he came home second. I know how he feels.
“I drove as hard as I could and he had a chance. He raced me clean. We didn't have the best car tonight, but we had a car capable enough of doing it if I could drive it hard enough. I gave it everything I had. This is pretty crazy. We wanted to win here so long.
“I really have to thank M&M's, Toyota, everybody at Sprint and of course Tom Murphy – our thoughts go out to his family.”
The victory was extremely timely, for Busch is currently on the outside looking in at the 12-driver Chase for the Championship with only two races remaining before the Chase begins September 20 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The win bumped the talented 24-year-old up two spots to 13th in the championship standings, and he's now just 34 points behind 12th-place Matt Kenseth.
“The whole M&M's team did a phenomenal job this weekend,” continued Busch, who has qualified for the Chase in each of his four previous seasons of Sprint Cup racing. “They really worked hard.
“We tried making the car better in practice, made a lot of changes to it and everything. Again, the guys made some smart calls there during the race - Steve [Addington, crew chief] and Chris [Gale, engineer] and everybody.”
Busch started the Sharpie 500 in 15th but quickly became a top-five mainstay. He took the lead from Michael Waltrip on lap 433, and held it through a series of restarts in the waning laps around the .533-mile concrete oval.
“We got track position when it mattered most there on the last stop. Got by the 55 [Waltrip] and the 39 [Ryan Newman] when it mattered. Wish we could have set sail from there, but we had some cautions there late and the red flag and everything.
“Really set up a tight battle between myself and Mark Martin, who had the best car all night. Man, what an honourable race-car driver Mark Martin is.
“Such an honour to race with him. To give him the room that he needed, for him to give me the room I needed was awesome. I can't thank him enough.
"He didn't let me win the race, but he certainly didn't take it from us.” Busch summed-up.