FORT WORTH, Tex. Kurt Busch was a little late getting to Victory Lane Sunday night because his Dodge ran out of gas during his celebratory lap around the Texas Motor Speedway.
By the time he got there, most of his Penske Racing teammates at least the ones not pushing him down pit road were already drinking beer and hugging each other.
The party, however, lasted well into the night. Not only did Buschs victory come unexpectedly with 11 cars stopping in the final five laps for gas, it made one fan an instant millionaire.
Coupled with Jimmie Johnsons Lap 3 crash and 38th-place finish, the Sprint Cup Series can finally celebrate some sort of competitive Chase for the Championship heading into next Sundays race at Phoenix.
Johnson was in position to clinch a record fourth-consecutive championship at Texas. Now he has a 73-point lead over Mark Martin, a lead that translates to 15 total finishing positions in the final two races.
Kurt Busch was too far behind in the playoffs to worry about Johnson. His only concern was winning a race to get the Roger Penske-owned team a running start for 2010.
Busch kept a steady pace behind his brother, Kyle Busch, until he ran out with two laps to go. Kyle Busch, who led a race-best 232 laps, was trying to become the first driver in NASCAR history to win three national touring races in the same weekend. Young Busch won the truck race at Texas on Friday and the Nationwide Series race on Saturday.
I knew it was the 18 (Kyle) and the 2 (Kurt), Kurt Busch said. I knew he was going for the sweep. I was rooting for him.
As soon as Kyle Buschs car stopped running, the older brother coasted through the turns to finish on fumes and a mile ahead of second-place Denny Hamlin.
Matt Kenseth was third, followed by Martin in fourth, Kevin Harvick in fifth, Tony Stewart in sixth, Clint Bowyer in seventh, Greg Biffle in eighth, Jeff Burton in ninth and A.J. Allmendinger in 10th.
When I saw him (Kyle) peel off with a couple laps to go, I knew what we had for fuel mileage, Kurt said. We were playing cat and mouse on he re-starts. Its bittersweet for me to knock him off his three-peat. But right now, Penske Racing is on it. Were on our game.
Crew chief Pat Tryson decided with 120 laps to go to gamble on fuel. He planned to keep his driver on the track for two 60-lap segments, while everyone else needed to stop after 58 laps.
We stopped two laps after the 18 so when he ran out with two to go we knew we should have enough, Penske said. We knew what kind of gas mileage we were getting.
Johnson started with a 184-point lead, but that evaporated early when Sam Hornish Jr. Kurt Buschs Penske teammate lost control of his Dodge in the second turn. The impact sent Johnsons car head-first into the inside wall.
It took his crew 1 hour, 8 minutes to make repairs. He returned to finish 129 laps behind Busch.
We still have a decent points lead, Johnson said. Theres still an ouch to it. It can happen again next week. Thats what worries me.
The 77 (Hornish) lost it. I wish the 77 could have held his line and kept control of his car. He seems to do that a lot and hit a lot of things.
A crash involving Juan Pablo Montoya, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon ruined their chances to get back into Chase contention. Montoya lost control on Lap 251 of 334. Edwards crashed trying to miss him; Gordon spun out and sustained damage to his front bumper.
Kurt Busch didnt have any problems. Counting his 89 laps led, the Busch brothers were out front form 321 of 334 laps.
It was fun racing my brother, Kurt said.
It was even better from Michael McGee of Broken Bow, Okla. The agricultural teach and horse trainer was selected as the Dickies American Worker of the Year last month. He drew Kurt Buschs name in a random drawing for the chance to win $1 million if Busch won the race.
McGee plans to establish a scholarship for students studying agriculture with some of the money.