Johnson outduels Kurt Busch for New Hampshire win
29 June 2010
In what was billed as a race full of potential payback after last week's shootout at Sonoma, revenge had to wait until the final three laps of Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
That's when Jimmie Johnson gave Kurt Busch's No. 2 Dodge a race-winning retaliatory nudge as the drivers raced into Turn 3 on Lap 299.
Busch had shocked Johnson on Lap 294 of 301 at the 1.058-mile track when he shoved Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet up the track in Turn 3, moments after the final restart of the race. Busch's lead was short-lived, however, as Johnson bumped him on Lap 299 and completed the winning pass in Turn 1 on Lap 300.
Tony Stewart ran second, .753 seconds behind Johnson, after his No. 14 Chevy slid into Busch's Dodge in Turn 1 while overtaking for the runner-up spot. Busch finished third, ahead of Jeff Gordon and Cup points leader Kevin Harvick.
Gordon, who had angered fellow drivers with his aggression last week—particularly Martin Truex Jr.—left New Hampshire unscathed.
“When we got going on the restart, Kurt knocked me out of the way, and I thought, 'I don't care if I win this race or not—I don't care if I finish this damn thing—I am running into him and getting back by him one way or another,” Johnson said after being doused with beer in victory lane.
“I'm not good at doing that stuff. Usually I crash myself in the process, so I tried once and moved him—(and thought) 'Oh, yeah, I've got to hit him harder'—and the second time I moved him out of the way and was able to get by him and was able to get going.”
Johnson admitted his mind was filled with bad intentions after Busch bumped him.
“I have to say I was a little shocked, and I haven't spoken to him or really seen any video to know, if he slipped and accidentally got into me or that was his intention,” Johnson said. “If it was his intention, that's the first time in nine years racing with him that I have experienced that and definitely changed the way that I race with him from that point moving on.
“My thought process was, 'Wreck his ass.' And my end result was like, 'You can't do that, you'll wreck yourself, you'll look like a fool. You still have a chance to win the race, focus on your job and do your job.'
“It made it easier for me to get off the brake a little earlier and nudge him. But I don't want people to think, 'Oh, I can knock the 48 out of the way because he's not going to wreck me.' That's the last thing I want people to think. He didn't wreck me, and at the end of the day, I guess I didn't owe him a visit to the fence, so it worked itself out.”
To Busch, the move and countermove were the essence of short-track racing—and nothing out of the ordinary.
“It wasn't because he did something that I had to do something, or since I did something, he had to do it back,” Busch said. “Driving down into Turn 3, I saw my window, and it was a perfect time to go for it, because our car was good on the short run, and once four or five laps got on the tires, I knew we were going to have a hard time holding them off and he was still going to be right there.
“So just a classic get-in-the-corner-a-little-bit-deeper-than-the-other-guy. We didn't just flat out wreck them. We didn't cut his tire. We didn't drive over him. It was just a nice nudge that we are all used to seeing and appreciating on short tracks.”
The win, the 52nd of Johnson's career, allowed Johnson to solidify his hold on second in the standings and trim Harvick's points lead to 105. Johnson is tied with Denny Hamlin (14th Sunday) for most victories in the series, each worth 10 points when the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is set Sept. 11 at Richmond.
Notes: Bobby Labonte finished 30th in his first trip in Robby Gordon's No. 7 Toyota. Andy Lally, who replaced Labonte in Kevin Buckler's No. 71 Chevy earlier in the week, came home 37th. … Reed Sorenson ran 24th in his first ride in the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota but spun polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya on Lap 282 to bring out the third caution of the race.