BRISTOL, Tenn. - Kevin Harvick, whose disdain for Kurt Busch is well-documented, said he wasn't afraid to use his front bumper to win a race, especially when it involves anyone from the Busch family.
But given the chance Sunday to knock Busch out of the way in the final laps of the Food City 500, Busch made sure Harvick never got the chance for a bump-and-run.
Busch knocked Matt Kenseth out of the lead with five laps to go, then he stayed five feet ahead of Harvick to the finish for his fifth career win at the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway.
While everyone, including Busch, was waiting for a Harvick haymaker that never happened, there were plenty of other fights around the track. Kenseth sent Jeff Gordon spinning on the final lap - a bump that prompted Gordon to push Kenseth after the race. At the same time, Kenseth was looking for Dale Jarrett and Martin Truex Jr. was looking for a piece of Gordon.
As NASCAR officials tried to keep order on pit road, Busch was on the finish line making snow angels after rain and snow hampered practice and qualifying for two days leading up to the main event.
"This is unreal," he said "We had a flat tire early (and fell two laps down), and we bounced back. We had to muscle past Kenseth."
Harvick followed Busch past Kenseth following the bump, setting up a four-lap battle everyone figured would end with a crash. But Harvick never got close enough to throw a punch.
"We beat him today," Busch said. "We didn't feel anything from him."
Just two days earlier, Harvick belittled Busch during a press conference about his Busch Series team. Harvick said, "I'd like to whip his (butt). Before the year is over, he'll make a fool out of (car owner) Roger Penske."
For the record, Busch now has as many victories at Bristol (five) as Harvick has in his entire Nextel Cup Series career. Busch also has a series championship.
Harvick said the team needed a good finish - it was his first top-10 effort of the year - more than it needed any controversy.
"It was a good race for us," he said. "We got behind here in the first four races and we just needed to have a god run. We put ourselves in position to win and we just came up one spot short."
Busch replaced Rusty Wallace in the Penske Racing South Dodge this year. Wallace had nine career wins at Bristol; Busch had won four of the past eight races at the high-banked short track known as "Thunder Valley."
"I'm just so happy to be able to have this car and have Roger's privilege to do so," Busch said.
Kenseth proved to be the focus of a lot of late-race anger. Although his Ford was sliding off the second and fourth turns, he wasn't happy Dale Jarrett wouldn't move out of the racing groove during the final 15 laps. Jarrett's car allowed Busch to catch Kenseth and set up Busch's winning aggressive pass. He also wasn't happy Gordon used the same bump-and-run maneuver, so he rear-ended Gordon on the final lap.
Kenseth held on for a third-place finish.
Reach Don Coble at email@example.com.
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