By DON COBLE
Morris News Service
BROOKLYN, Mich. — Six days earlier Kyle Busch did something unusual by losing the lead in a restart with two laps remaining at Watkins Glen International.
On Sunday he did something he's never done before by keeping the lead on a two-lap re-start for his first win at the Michigan International Speedway.
Busch's ability to hold the gas pedal flat on the floorboard has earned him a reputation as one of the best on re-starts. It also allowed him to run side-by-side with Jimmie Johnson in overtime of the Pure Michigan 400, and then pulling away to a 25-yard victory.
In the process it made Busch the first four-time winner this year, and it clinched the first spot in the Chase for the Championship in four weeks.
"We wanted to have the opportunity to win races and go for broke," Busch said. "This gives us an added bonus to race for wins. We feel good about it. Everything is just going right.
"We're certainly looking forward to the weeks ahead and getting into the Chase."
Busch had a big lead when his older brother brought out a caution with three laps remaining after he bounced off the wall. That allowed Johnson to re-start beside him, and it set up a drag race that only lasted until they both exited the second turn. By then, Busch was out front and pulling away.
"I was disappointed we didn't win, but very proud of the gains we made on the car," Johnson said. "It felt good to be up there racing with the leaders. The only regret is not winning. I certainly tried and did everything I could on the track. I had every opportunity handed me. I had a shot at him on the re-start, but I just wasn't able to get by him. He beat me today."
Johnson also has never won at Michigan, the home track to the corporate offices for Ford, General Motors and Dodge.
Brad Keselowski, who's gone from 23rd in the standings to 12th in the last four races, finished third.
"I was hoping somebody would make a mistake. I couldn't do it on my own merit," he said.
Busch picked the outside groove for the final re-start, keeping an eye on both Johnson and Keselowski.
"I pretty much knew I wanted the top," he said. "I saw the 2 (Keselowski) was going to start on the bottom. I didn't know if he was going to push the 48 (Johnson) or go three-wide. I figured I'd give myself all the room I needed to the outside by starting on the outside. For me, it was an easy decision."
It also helped him stay out front during all three laps of overtime.
Greg Biffle started on the pole and led a race-best 86 laps. A pit stop for four-tires at mid-race shuffled him to the middle of the pack and he never recovered. He finished 20th and now is 14th in the standings, 58 points from 10th place and a qualifying spot in the playoffs.
It also was a tough day for Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin. Edwards had engine problems early and finished 29 laps down in 36th place. Hamlin cut a tire and hit the wall, falling 15 laps off the pace in 35th place.
Hamlin currently has the final wild card spot, but Paul Menard and David Ragan are lurking in the top 20 with one victory.
Busch was upset he couldn't hold off Marcos Ambrose during last Monday's race, but he seemed to create a better memory by pulling away during the stretch drive.
"Kyle Busch is the most competitive guy out there," crew chief Paul Wolfe said. "He beat himself up over last week. He wants to win so bad."
Mark Martin wound up fourth, while Ryan Newman was fifth, Jeff Gordon was sixth, Kasey Kahne was seventh, Clint Bowyer was eighth, Tony Stewart was ninth and Matt Kenseth was 10th.
Busch also maintained his lead in the standings.
"We weren't trying to make a statement with it," he said. "We wanted to run strong. We've tried for so long to win at Michigan. We're still trying to get through some history at some of these places. Whether this is a statement win or not, I don't know. We're trying to win all of them."
The Sprint Cup Series moves to the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday. It's a track where Busch has won four of the last five races.