Kyle Busch celebrates with his fans after getting the victory in the Pure Michigan 400 Monday at Michigan International Speedway.
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Four hundred miles was not enough to sort it all out Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. It took 203 laps -- 406 total miles -- for Kyle Busch to claim victory in the Sprint Cup Series race and make a powerful statement on his intention of winning it all this season.
Busch held off five-time series defending champion Jimmie Johnson to claim his first Cup win at MIS and take command of the points battle with just three races remaining before the lucrative season-ending Chase for the Cup. Sunday's win in the Pure Michigan 400 locks up a spot in the Chase for Busch. He will be one of a dozen drivers racing for the Cup championship over the final 10 events of the season.
"Now we're the Chase leader, and that means the world, it means everything to us," Busch said. "We want to come out here and win this thing. We wanted to make sure we could come out here and win races and then go for broke."
Busch started 17th in the field but steadily worked his way up toward the front as his pit crew tweaked his Interstate Batteries Toyota. Busch was second when the race pushed close to the halfway point, and he shot past pole-sitter Greg Biffle to take the lead on lap 99.
"What we did is we had to bide our time, but we had enough adjustability built into our race car," Busch said. "I felt comfortable to just run my own pace."
Busch lost the lead early in the second half of the race as Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Biffle, and Mark Martin all took turns out front.
"We had the who's who of everybody up front there to deal with," Busch said.
The final sequence of the race began to play out with about 30 laps remaining when Dave Blaney's car limped into the pits, bringing out a caution period. All of the leaders jumped in for fuel and tires, and the dash to the finish was on.
■■1. Kyle Busch
■■2. Jimmie Johnson
■■3. Brad Keselowski
■■4. Mark Martin
■■5. Ryan Newman
Johnson, who had just entered pit road for a needed fuel stop when the caution came out, gained an advantage and took the lead. Kenseth was next off pit road, with Gordon, Busch, and Brad Keselowski in close pursuit.
Three laps later, Johnson had built almost a full second lead, but Busch started to run him down and finally took the lead on lap 187.
"It was just good, hard racing," said Johnson, who fell back as far as 35th as his crew struggled to adjust his car during the first phase of the race. "We didn't have a great start on the day, but once we got the car underneath me, we could go racing."
Busch was pulling away from Johnson and the rest of the lead group when a final caution came out on lap 196. The leaders stayed out on the track, and when they lined up for a green-white-checkered restart on lap 201, Busch chose the high line to try and hold off Johnson.
"That's where we had been running the best, so I figured I'd just give myself the best opportunity to win," Busch said. "There wasn't much debate from my side."
Busch held the advantage on the restart and stayed out front for the final dash. He earned the 23rd Sprint Cup win of his career, his first at MIS, and his fourth victory of the season, which locked up a position in the Chase.
Kyle Busch holds up his trophy after winning the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
"It's awesome to finally win here at Michigan," Busch said. "This was a flawless Camry today. The guys at the Joe Gibbs Racing engine room gave me a great motor today -- great power and great fuel mileage."
Keselowski's third place finish Sunday gives him three straight weeks in the top three and moved him up two places in the points standings to 12th.
"We were decent [Sunday]. I wish I had something more for them at the end, but I was just kind of watching and hoping somebody would make a mistake," Keselowski said. "We gained some points and had another solid run."
Biffle, who led the race five different times for a total of 86 laps, faded in the second half and finished 13th. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., whose last win in the Cup Series came here in 2008, had moved up to fourth just 25 laps into the race after starting eighth, but he finished 14th.
Martin finished fourth, followed by Gordon and Kahne.
Contact Matt Markey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6510.