Murto: Busch back in victory lane
It appears that Kurt Busch’s comeback is complete now that he broke his 83-race winless streak and grabbed the victory at Martinsville.
The “new” Kurt Busch isn’t new at all, though, as noted by those who heard him promise to “rearrange” Brad Keselowski’s face as Keselowski took revenge on Busch for a pit road incident that appeared to be of Keselowski’s own making. And the old Kurt Busch has the distinction of getting fired from Roush and Penske — two of the top teams in the sport — because he couldn’t manage his anger.
One thing kept Busch under control, and that was success. He outdueled Jimmie Johnson in an entertaining Martinsville Sprint Cup race that set a record 33 lead changes and had 14 cautions, just enough to keep the field close. Busch, the sixth winner in as many races, appeared hungrier than Johnson to get the win as the two swapped the lead numerous times.
Two of the Stewart-Haas drivers have now found Victory Lane — Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch — and Tony Stewart appears to getting his footing after coming back from injuries that kept him sidelined for much of last season. Danica Patrick … has good funding.
Busch and Johnson were followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose. It was a good showing for the Richard Petty cars, with Ambrose in fifth and Aric Almirola in eighth. The team raced in memory of Lynda Petty, who died last week at the age of 72. Many considered her the matriarch of the sport, not just the matriarch of the Petty family.
It was fantastic for fans who braved the cold and wind, as the rain-delayed Camping World Truck race ran right after the Cup race, giving spectators who chose to stick around 750 laps of racing to watch.
Matt Crafton beat Darrell Wallace Jr., Ben Kennedy, Johnny Sauter and Ryan Blaney in a race that will be remembered for Sauter’s aggressiveness. The line outside his hauler must have been long after the race, especially after moving Timothy Peters in a rather rough manner and outright dumping Erik Jones.
Another aggressive racer over the weekend was 450 Supercross rider James Stewart, who put on a clinic in St. Louis on his Suzuki and won his 50th Supercross main event, second only to Jeremy McGrath’s 72 wins. Stewart, a former champion, is riding like the Stewart of a few years ago.
Formula One fans long for the sound of F1 from a few years ago; even the promoter in Australia threatened a lawsuit, claiming that the sound of F1 is part of the show, and the current rules just don’t deliver. Since F1 promoters pay something in the range $50 million for a race, it seems F1 better pay attention.
Mercedes dominated the Malaysian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton grabbing the win ahead of his teammate and Australian winner Nico Rosberg. Sebastian Vettel finished third in his Red Bull Renault.
Ferrari was fourth with Fernando Alonso. It’s been 30 races since a Ferrari grabbed an F1 pole position, and it hasn’t won a constructor’s title since 2008, or a driver’s title since 2007 with Kimi Raikkonen.
The Indycar season-opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., was a much better race than F1 delivered. Will Power, winner of three of the last five races in 2013, carried that momentum over to 2014 by grabbing the win. Power’s Penske Racing machine was followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay and his Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves.
Hunter-Reay drives for Andretti Racing, which will field a car for Kurt Busch in this year’s Indy 500. Now that Busch has won a race and most likely secured his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, he can direct more attention in the month of May to his Indycar ride.
Busch has been given the nickname “The Outlaw” due to his exploits in recent years, good and bad. And he’s not afraid to experiment, as he successfully competed in an NHRA Pro Stock race. He’s now with a team dubbed by some as “four hot-heads and a hottie,” so his outlaw image may suit him well.
Like him or not, most want to see him do well at Indy. And Brad Keselowski should be careful; Kurt Busch is back, and isn’t afraid of a scrape, on the track or off.
Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.