published Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Kyle Busch outlasts Johnson in Michigan

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Kyle Busch has won his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the year, outlasting Jimmie Johnson in a green-white-checkered finish at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday.

Busch, the series points leader coming into the race, passed Johnson with about a dozen laps remaining and was opening up a comfortable margin when brother Kurt Busch scraped a wall, forcing a caution from laps 198-201. The yellow flag erased much of Kyle Busch’s lead, but he was able to fight off a quick move from Johnson after the restart and pull away.

Brad Keselowski finished third, his third consecutive top-three finish and fifth top-10 in his last six races. Mark Martin was fourth.

It was the 23rd Sprint Cup win of Busch’s career — and first at Michigan.

Pole-sitter Greg Biffle led for 86 of the first 100 laps, but it didn’t last. Busch passed him around the midway point of the planned 200-lap, 400-mile race. Jeff Gordon took the lead not long after that, and Johnson appeared to be in great shape when he made a pit stop just before a caution that started on lap 169.

Johnson was able to stay out on the track while other cars made pit stops under the yellow flag, and he led on the restart.

But Busch was lurking back in third place in his No. 18 Toyota and eventually passed Johnson. Busch also has three straight top-three showings. He was second to Keselowski at Pocono and third at Watkins Glen.

Busch came up short at Watkins Glen in a two-lap dash to the finish. He led the field to the green flag for those final two laps, but couldn’t hold off Keselowski or winner Marcos Ambrose.

This ending was much more satisfying, and he got the better of Johnson — for now.

Johnson, the five-time defending Cup champion, has never won at Michigan. He has only one victory on the series this year but is performing consistently enough to be near the top of the standings.

Ryan Newman finished fifth Sunday, followed by Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth. Biffle settled for 20th.

Denny Hamlin, who won at Michigan in June, finished 35th, one spot ahead of Carl Edwards, who had to return to the garage early because of what he thought might have been an electrical connection problem.

Hamlin also had to visit the garage, about two thirds of the way through the race.

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