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Kurt Busch! Back on top, Sunday at least...and Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards 'tied' for Sprint Cup tour lead heading to Kansas

  Steve Addington's crew gives Kurt Busch fast service in Sunday's chilly Dover 400 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



    By Mike Mulhern

   DOVER, Del.
Bouncing back isn't easy in this sport, but Kurt Busch, who has had a rollercoaster season, to say the least, bounced back here Sunday from the disaster at Loudon, N.H., and outran Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards down the stretch in a battle among three Sprint Cup title challengers, on a cool and overcast afternoon at Dover International Speedway.
   "We had everything go wrong last week, and we had everything go right this week," Busch said after a sprint-away to the win.
   And perhaps Busch had a little added incentive in his late-race battle with Johnson, a rival with whom Busch has had several heated run-ins.
   This time Johnson appeared to have things going his way late in the 3-1/2-hour race. But Busch suddenly came alive and simply outran him over the final miles.
   And Busch was clearly thrilled at beating Johnson. "It was on my mind….but also it wasn't," Busch said of the rivalry with Johnson. "It's sweet beating your arch-nemesis.
   "But we've got a long way to go in this chase.


    Carl Edwards: had the car to beat, until a pit road speeding penalty put him in a hole (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   "We were able to wrestle the lead away from Jimmie on the outside on the next to last restart….and then on the final restart we were able to get a good shot out of the hole," Busch said.
   "We beat Johnson out of the pits, had the inside lane on the final restart, and we just took it to 'em. We got a good jump on the restart, and we never looked back.
   "A great day…..a great win for us. It was pretty sweet.
   "The bottom lane was the preferred lane; the outside lane you had to hit it just right.
   "Steve Addington made the right changes to the car during the race, the right sequence of two tires versus four. He was in the zone…and he kept me in the zone. And when you can feed off each other…..
   "The last 100 laps the car was right where we needed it to be."
   Kevin Harvick and Edwards now head to Kansas City 'tied' for the Sprint Cup tour points lead, with Harvick getting nod for first based on his four wins this year to Edwards' one.
   However Harvick struggled during the afternoon, finishing 10th.

   Tony Stewart: started Sunday as the Sprint Cup tour points leader...but left Dover with a weak 25th place run, two laps down (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   "Obviously this is a place we had to overcome some things," Harvick said.
  "It's a matter of keeping yourself in contention until you get down to those last couple of races.
   "You can run bad at any of them, but Kansas is a place where we've been pretty solid. No wins (at Kansas)….but we're looking for a championship right now."
  Johnson made up a lot of points during the race. "Am I still out of it?" Johnson cracked after his strong run.
   Only 15 points now separate the top eight title contenders.
   It was a bad day, though, for title contenders Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Stewart and Newman ran poorly, two laps down at the end. Earnhardt had mechanical issues.
    Edwards himself had a near disastrous pit road speeding penalty midway, which put him a lap down. But Edwards, who led the most laps of the day, rallied to get back into contention.
    "My guys really had the right to be mad at me," Edwards said.
    Johnson actually got snookered by Kurt Busch on late restarts, which cost him, because clean air was a plus.
   "I tried to time the restart right, but I didn't time it right," Johnson said. "It's on me.
   "Still, obviously a great day for us -- to lead that many laps (157), and to have great stops on pit road across the board, it was a very, very strong effort.     
   "Wish we could be one spot better… but I just did not get two good restarts at the end of that thing and cost myself.
  "All in all, though, this was exactly what we needed -- we needed to run in the top three here at one of our better racetracks, and mission accomplished."


    Jimmie Johnson: had the car to beat down the stretch....and got beat on two late restarts by Kurt Busch (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    And Edwards? He had the car to beat all day, the fastest car, but a pit road speeding penalty put him in a hole.
   "It was a great day…other than that feeling I had when I ruined it there on pit road," Edwards said. "That's about as small as you can feel in a race car.
    "Bob Osborne (his crew chief) and I talked about it before the race -- We looked at the pit road speeding lines, and that last line -- Bob and I actually discussed the last section -- It's 25 feet, eight inches long, and we talked about that run, and how I was not going to speed through it…and I just blasted right through it.
    "We were very, very fortunate. As frustrated as I am with myself for messing that up, I'm really, really grateful for the gift that was given to us with that caution (which put him back on the lead lap), and the ability to come back up there.
    "My guys stuck behind me….because they had every right to be really, really upset with me."

   So Stewart, who came in here with the playoff points lead after opening the chase with back to back wins, leaves in a hole. And Johnson, who appeared in a hole at the start of the day, had pulled himself out by the end. The same with Kurt Busch.
   And Brad Keselowski suffered through problems too, losing his power steering midway, which proved costly.
   So there have been a dozen or so changes in the points lead this season, seemingly more than in years past.
   "The competition level is so even, and I don't think you're going to see anybody dominate like you have before, as far as just taking off and running away," Harvick says.
    "You're going to be consistent and solid, and it's just a matter of keeping yourself in it until you get to the last couple of races. And if you can keep yourself in contention, hopefully you've eliminated most of the other guys in the chase.
   "The (new) points system definitely has changed the complexion of having a bad day.  When you have a bad day, it hurts you worse than it had in the past. 
    "Maybe it just seems that way.
    "But it also seems like if you can win some races, you can make up ground fairly quick and get up front and get the bonus points.
     "A lot of those guys that were pretty far back (in the points) -- that everybody thought were pretty far back -- had a pretty great day, and won't seem that far back anymore."


   And the new Sprint Cup championship points leader -- Kevin Harvick, just barely over Carl Edwards (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


I guess that the Hendrick

I guess that the Hendrick guys didn't provide the A motors to Tony's team this weekend! Hendrick clearly wants JJ to win another title, not one of subsidary teams of convenience. Expect Junior to win a race, given his new contract, provided that it doesn't cost Jimmy the title.

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