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Johnson Wins New Hampshire Slugfest

- Justin St. Louis on 27 Jun 2010

LOUDON, N.H. -- Jimmie Johnson was livid. Kurt Busch called it a great short track battle. Either way, the fans loved it.

Johnson, the four-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, and 2004 champion Busch kept the crowd of 91,000 on its feet over the final eight laps of the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, with Johnson winning after a game of bumper tag.

While Kasey Kahne and Jeff Burton led most of the event before encountering problems, Johnson and Busch combined to lead just sixteen laps -- including the final fourteen -- while waging a full-contact fight for the victory.

With most of the field running on fresh tires after a pit stop, Johnson jumped into the lead on a lap 288 restart when Burton who elected not to pit and was on older, slower tires. Another restart on lap 293 allowed Busch to reel Johnson in, and Busch gave Johnson’s rear bumper a shot entering Turn 3.

As Johnson slid up the track, Busch darted low and took the lead. Johnson reeled Busch in and returned the favor, bumping the leader out of the way with two laps remaining. Johnson then cruised to his fifth win of the season and 52nd of his career.

Johnson was livid with Busch immediately following the first run-in, but regained composure in time to get back to the front.

“At the end of the day, sure, that’s what the fans want to see, and if I was in the grandstands I’d want to see a little bit of bump-and-run and watch the guy run him back down and do the same to get by, so I understand it from that standpoint. But I have to say I was a little shocked,” Johnson said of Busch’s bump.

“I thought it was a great short track battle,” said Busch. “[The bump] wasn’t because he did something that I had to do something [to get back at him], or since I did something he had to do it back. Driving down into turn three, I saw my window, and it was a perfect time to go for it. So just a classic, get in the corner a little bit deeper than the guy. We didn’t just flat-out wreck them, we didn’t cut his tire, we didn’t drive over him, it was just a nice nudge that we are all used to seeing and appreciating on short tracks.”

Johnson said that while he considers Busch a friend, the incident may affect their future as on-track competitors.

“If it was his intention, that’s the first time in nine years of racing with him that I’ve experienced that, and it definitely changes the way I race with him from that point moving on,” Johnson said. “I hate that he felt I wasn’t going to wreck him because that was [initially] my goal. I usually get caught up in it [emotionally], so I knew my thought process was, ‘Wreck his ass,’ and then my end result was, ‘You can’t do that, you’re going to wreck yourself, you’ll like a fool, you still have a chance to win this race, focus on your job and do your job.’ It made it a little easier for me to get off the brake and nudge him. But I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh, I can knock the 48 out of the way because he’s not going to wreck me.’ That’s the last thing I want people to think. Inside the car, I was livid. I was so pissed off that he got into me, and I almost lost it at one point. Once I got back going and I was still in second, I thought, ‘Man, I hope I catch you. I look forward to this if I catch you,’ and that was my incentive. All I had to do was get to his bumper and I was going to win the race.”

Stewart drove under Busch with a full-contact move on the final lap to take the runner-up spot, leaving Busch to finish third.

“That was my fault, one-hundred percent,” said Stewart. “We both dove off into [turn] one and we both went as deep as we knew we could make it in there, and it’s my responsibility as the driver on the inside to keep control of my car, and I lost it. It was definitely one-hundred percent my fault.”

Jeff Gordon finished fourth behind Busch with point leader Kevin Harvick fifth. Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Joey Logano, and A.J. Allmendinger completed the top ten finishers.

David Stremme finished 31st for Vermont’s Latitude 43 Motorsports, seven laps off the pace.

Johnson closed the point standings gap from 140 points behind Harvick to 105 entering next week’s event at Daytona.


Thursday, July 1:
Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl (6:30pm)
Bond Auto/WIX ACT Tiger Tour 100

Saturday, July 3:
Bear Ridge Speedway (6:00pm)
The Home Depot/Noise-R-Us Fireworks Night

Sunday, July 4:
Devil's Bowl Speedway (6:00pm)
Ace Carting Corp. Fireworks Night

Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl (6:30pm)
Pepsi Holiday Fireworks Night

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