Sunday Stroll For Kurt Busch

Some will call Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway a snoozefest, others will call it dominating performance by one driver.

Kurt Busch will just be happy to call it a triumphant day.

Starting from second position on the grid, Busch was the class of the field at the 2.5-mile speedway, leading 175 laps en route to his 16th career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victory and second at Pocono.

Perhaps more important than the victory, Busch finished ahead of second place Dale Earnhardt Jr., who began the weekend 12 points ahead of Busch for the 12th and final spot for the championship deciding Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

With the victory, the first for the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge in 51 races, he was able to leapfrog Earnhardt Jr. and now holds the final spot by seven points with five races remaining before the Chase begins.

"I feel like a newborn kid again," Busch said. "I'm ready to run for the Chase."

The Penske Racing driver also set a new track record for leading the most laps in one race. In July 1998, Jeff Gordon led 164 laps in a race winning effort to establish the prior record.

Busch’s dominant showing on Sunday afternoon may actually have netted him a bigger gap between himself and Earnhardt Jr. if not for a tremendous rebound by the driver of the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet.

Although he started from the pole position, Junior lost the top spot almost immediately to Busch and looked to struggle throughout the early stages of the event. The pinnacle of his struggles came on lap 123 of 200 when he blew a tire and spun in Turn 3 to bring out a caution.

However, that tire malfunction was a blessing in disguise as it was the turning point for Earnhardt Jr. and his team. Because of the amount of time it takes to complete caution laps at Pocono, the Budweiser team decided to not only change tires on the No. 8 Chevrolet, but also make changes to the shock package Earnhardt Jr. was using.

Restarting from 26th place on lap 129, Junior worked his way through the field until he reached the point position, leading eight laps before losing the lead to Busch.

Nonetheless, he lessened the damage to his championship aspirations because of Busch’s strong day.

Defending race winner Denny Hamlin finished third with Gordon, this spring’s Pocono winner, and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson rounding out the top five.

Tony Stewart had his two race winning streak snapped with his sixth place finish. Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin and Casey Mears completed the top 10.

Further back, P.J. Jones finished 37th in his role as substitute driver for the suspended Robby Gordon. Earlier today, NASCAR officials informed Gordon that he would not be participating in today’s race because of his antics in yesterday’s NASCAR Busch Series race in Montreal when he refused to obey a black flag in the waning laps of the race.

He also went on to perform a celebratory burn out after the completion of the race as he felt he was the rightful winner.

"It was not my purpose to disrespect the authority of NASCAR or the officials. I do respect their authority to run the race and make the calls, and I understand the significance of the black flag. I strongly disagree with the calls that affected me at the end of the race," Gordon said in a statement. "Nonetheless, I accept NASCAR’s decision and I intend to move forward under the rules."

Further disciplinary actions are expected later this week.

The NEXTEL Cup Series visits Watkins Glen International in upstate New York next Sunday afternoon for the running of the Centurion Boats at The Glen.

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