You couldn't blame Kyle Busch for believing Bristol Motor Speedway owed him a win in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. After all, the driver of the #18 Toyota led 415 of 500 laps last August, only to finish second.

Busch didn't wait for the 0.533-mile short track to take its time paying him back. Instead, he seized control of Sunday's Food City 500, leading 378 laps en route to his second victory of the season.

Busch held off Joe Gibbs Racing team-mate Denny Hamlin by 0.391secs in a green-white-chequered finish that took the race to 503 laps, three beyond its scheduled distance. The win was Busch's 14th in the Cup series and his tenth since joining JGR to start the 2008 season.

"It was just an overall great day," said Busch, whose second victory at Bristol broke a streak of 13 wins at 13 different racetracks, "This place probably owes me a few, but you can never ask the racetrack to pay you back. You've just got to go out there and keep working at it. Fortunately, we had a good enough car today."

Hamlin, who was second at the ninth and final restart on lap 502, brought about when the engine of JGR team-mate Joey Logano blew, said Busch's ability to pull out to a significant lead on the short runs was the difference in the race.

"We had a good car," Hamlin, who gained six positions to eighth in the Cup standings, admitted, "It was extremely good on the long runs, but it seemed like we'd lose a little bit of ground to those guys - about a straightaway or so - until about 100 laps. Then we'd come in.

"When we had that caution with about 50 or 60 laps to go [for Kevin Harvick's brush with the turn four wall on lap 442], I knew it was going to be tough, unless we got off pit-road first, to have anything for those guys. His car just takes off so well."

Reigning Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson ran third, matching his best result at Bristol, achieved way back in August 2004. Jeff Gordon expanded his lead in the points standings with a fourth-place finish, while Kasey Kahne ran fifth to collect the second Bristol top five of his career.

Polesitter Mark Martin, front-row starter Ryan Newman, Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose completed the top ten, the Australian improving on a previous best Cup Series oval track finish of 17th.

The final pit-stop taken under caution, after Harvick's accident, also cost Johnson any chance he might have had to win the race. After an abnormally slow stop, the #48 Chevrolet lost three positions and restarted fifth when the green flag flew on lap 450.

"We had a problem, I think, getting the left rear on," Johnson said, "I'm not sure, I haven't talked to [crew chief] Chad [Knaus] about it, but it didn't sound to me like the jack went up high enough to get the tyre on."

After another quick caution for David Stremme's spin, Johnson restarted fifth on lap 460 and managed to pass Martin and Kahne before Logano's blown engine oiled the track and sent the race to overtime.

The Busch brothers have now combined to win three straight races for the second straight year - Kyle won at Las Vegas, Kurt at Atlanta and Kyle at Bristol - but has one more to go before they can match their 2008 streak, which reached four races before either brother failed to win. Despite his success, however, Kyle only climbed three positions to fourth in the Cup standings, 85 points behind Gordon. Brother Kurt Busch, who finished eleventh on Sunday, and Clint Bowyer (13th) are currently second and third in the standings, 76 and 79 points behind Gordon respectively.

Logano's #20 Toyota held on to a top 35 spot in owner points, despite the driver's 38th-place finish on Sunday. as a result, the rookie driver has a guaranteed starting spot next Sunday at Martinsville. Also surviving among the guaranteed starters for round six are the TRG Chevrolet currently driven by David Gilliland, John Andretti's #34, the #77 Mobil1 Dodge of Sam Hornish Jr and, perhaps most surprisingly of all given his recent qualifying prowess, veteran Mark Martin's #5 Hendrick entry. All four join Logano in the bottom five of those ensured of a spot in next weekend's field.

Logano's rookie rival Scott Speed is the first of those to now have to qualify on time from round six, sitting 36th on owners' points, immediately ahead of Aric Almirola's #8 Chevy, Paul Menard's #98 Ford and Travis Kvapil's #28 Ford, although the latter has cast doubt on its ability to continue racing without adding sponsorship.

by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service



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