Jimmie Johnson may have had the dominant car for much of the day, but when it was all said and done, it was Kurt Busch beating Johnson to the checkered flag by 0.908 seconds to win his second race of the 2011 season and rose from ninth in points going into the race to fourth place heading to Kansas. “It was just perfect execution today with making the car better during the race,” an elated Busch said post-race.
The race got underway with chilly, overcast conditions as Martin Truex, Jr. led the field to the green flag, but just five laps into the race, A.J. Allmendinger, following contact with Denny Hamlin, spun his car in turn 3, but in the save of the year, managed to keep his car off the wall.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had a catastrophic day in terms of his Chase aspirations. First, he had a broken sway bar, but a caution due to rain saved him from going a lap down. But late in the race, Earnhardt Jr. had a loose wheel and was relegated to a disappointing 24th-place finish. “That’s racing. That is all I can say,” a dejected Earnhardt, Jr. would say post-race. “I have had a lot of stuff happen to me over the years good and bad and you just have to roll with the punches.”
Brad Keselowski also had a long day at the track, breaking a power steering belt, causing him to lose a lap, and then another late pit stop put him two laps down. After two straight lucky dog awards, Keselowski got back on the lead lap, but could only muster a 20th-place finish. “We had a little problem with the power steering belt coming off, lost a lap and by the time we finally got back on the lead lap, we didn’t have any time left to gain back any of the track position we lost,” a disappointed Keselowski would say post-race. “It’s frustrating. I think we were good enough to get a solid run out of it, but ended up 20th. That’s the way it goes.”
Perhaps the most costly miscue of any Chase contender of the day was a pass-through penalty for speeding in the pits by Carl Edwards. He would go a lap down as a result, but managed to rally to a third-place finish, just in the tire tracks of runner-up Jimmie Johnson. “It’s real easy to say if we didn’t make that mistake we would have won,” Edwards mused. “I definitely took myself out of a position to fight for the win by doing that, so that’s something that’s painful. I’m gonna think about it. I’m gonna think about it all the way home. I’ll lay in bed and my wife is gonna yell at me and tell me to get over it and that’s just how it goes.”
After the green flag fell with 42 laps to go for Mike Bliss’ solo spin into the inside retaining wall exiting Turn 2, Kurt Busch took the lead on the restart and when the caution fell for the final time following Greg Biffle’s spin into the inside wall on the frontstretch, Busch managed to hold off Johnson on the restart and held on the rest of the way for the victory.
“I just wanted to get out in front of [Jimmie] Johnson,” Busch said about the last restart. “The first restart, I was on the high side. I didn’t know what to choose, low or high. I just wanted to get that jump on him and stretch our lead because I thought that he would reel us back in with about ten to go.”
Johnson would have to settle for second. “Certainly wish we could have finished one spot better, but just didn’t get a good restart the last two restarts,” Johnson reflected post-race.
Carl Edwards was in Johnson’s tire tracks for third following his pass-through penalty. Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-5. Kyle Busch finished sixth, while Allmendinger would recover from his early spin for a seventth-place showing. Clint Bowyer, Marcos Ambrose, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-10.
The average speed was 119.413 mph and the race took 3 hours, 30 minutes, and 59 seconds to complete. There were 24 lead changes among 13 drivers and ten cautions for 44 laps with an attendance listed at 83,000.
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