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Johnson's restart slips gift Kurt the win

Given the recent animosity between Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson, it was sweet indeed for Kurt to beat the #48 at Dover after uncharacteristic restart slips by the five-time champ.
A week is a long time in Chase politics: this time last week it seemed that Tony Stewart was running away with the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship; Kurt Busch was only just in the running, and five-time champion Jimmie Johnson's hopes of a sixth title were being written off.

Not so this week, after Busch and Johnson raced hard to the chequered flag ahead of Carl Edwards, but Tony Stewart's two-win Chase bubble finally burst with a 25th place finish.

The AAA 400 was run under permanent threat of rain, with slow-moving showers in the area showing up on the radar causing two of the race's ten cautions during the afternoon. But the rain never settled in for a stay and the action was quickly resumed, with the full 400 one-mile-lap distance completed over the next three and a half hours.

Martin Truex Jr. led the field to the green flag, but Kurt Busch - starting alongside him on the front row - took over on lap 3 just before AJ Allmendinger got spun into a sideways slide by Denny Hamlin, miraculously managing to save the #43 from a huge wreck but bringing out the first caution of the day. Even as the track went back to green there were "sprinkles" reported over Dover International Speedway, and sure enough on lap 19 the yellows came out for rain.

It was a short delay and racing resumed four laps later with Busch out in front of Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was a lap down, however, having had his right-front sway bar break making the car unmanageable, but at least the caution laps had allowed him to have the problem fixed and it wasn't long before he won one of the free passes to get back onto the lead lap again, so it was a narrow escape and a nice piece of damage control from the Hendrick team.

A scheduled competition caution on lap 40 finally allowed everyone to come in for a proper stop and for fuel, and then there followed over 90 laps of green flag running without interruptions. Busch started this phase in the lead, but on lap 52 Carl Edwards finally pressed his claim and went out in front of the Busch Brothers, with Brad Keselowski having made up ground in the pit stops to run near the front with Jimmie Johnson. Greg Biffle joined in the fun, at least until he got a drive-thru penalty during the first round of green flag pit stops.

Just as he had done in the preceding day's Nationwide Series race, Edwards was putting on a masterclass and pulling out an ever more formidable lead. After the pit stops cycled through, he had a 5s lead over Kurt on lap 123 and looked unbeatable with only the traffic causing him any headaches: by lap 135 he had left just 18 cars on the lead lap.

Despite some mist and light rain during this period the track remained green until finally on lap 137 the yellows were out again, after Mike Bliss touched the wall while trying to avoid a slow Casey Mears. The leaders opted for a quick return to pit lane, while others a lap down used the opportunity to get the wave-around back onto the lead lap. When the track went green again, Edwards quickly took back the lead from Jeff Burton and once again started to disappear off into the distance ahead of Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson.

Kurt Busch had dropped back to sixth place after taking a chassis adjustment to cope with the track "rubbering up", and despite saying that the car was handling better he only narrowly saved the #22 from disaster on lap 173 when he got sideways off of turn 3, just before a caution came out for debris.

by Andrew Lewin



Related Pictures

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Kurt Busch burns down his Goodyear Eagle tires after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 on Sunday at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. [Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, races Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, races to victory Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. With him are Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS who finished second, and Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet SS who finished in third place. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, waves to fans after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, picks up the victory flag Sunday, May 3, 2015 after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, and his crew chief, Greg Ives, celebrate in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 3, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, is congratulated by Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. Johnson finished second behind Earnhardt, Jr. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, May 3, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. This was Earnhardt, Jr.`s sixth victory at Talladega. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ty Dillon, driver of the #3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, and Darrell Wallace Jr., driver of the #6 Sponge Bob Square Pants Ford, wreck during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Winn Dixie 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, qualifies for fourth position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Earnhardt, Jr. is eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, qualifies for second position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Kahne is sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate and Pole winner Jeff Gordon, driver of the #5 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, wins the Pole position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Gordon is tenth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS, wins the Pole position Saturday, May 2, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Alabama. Gordon is tenth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS will join him on the front row Sunday. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 2, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on May 1, 2015 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

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