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Kurt Busch claims first road-course victory at Toyota Save Mart 350

SONOMA, Calif. — Kurt Busch checked a number of things off his personal to-do list Sunday with his victory in the Toyota Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway:

• He won for the first time on a road course in Sprint Cup.

• He ended a 38-race winless streak that dated to the 2010 Coca-Cola 600.

• And, he beat runnerup Jeff Gordon, who apologized to several drivers for his rough racing here last year but pointedly did not apologize to Busch, who felt slighted by the driver who wrecked him last year.

"To win a road-course race and to beat him, he's one of the best and always will be," Busch said. "To get a road-course race is a big check mark in my career."

Busch dominated, leading 76 of the 110 laps, while operating on a pit strategy that required only two fuel stops over the 1.99-mile course in Northern California wine country. After starting 11th, Busch had the lead by Lap 13 and clearly had the best car in a race that featured several dust-ups.

The most dramatic was between Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers, who tangled twice. Vickers put Stewart into a pile of tires late in retribution for a spin caused by Stewart.

"I probably had it coming, because I dumped him earlier, but I dumped him because he was blocking," Stewart said.

Tempers flared across the garage. Juan Pablo Montoya was mad at Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne was mad at Montoya, Joey Logano was mad at Robby Gordon and Denny Hamlin was mad at AJ Allmendinger.

Gordon stopped by Victory Lane to congratulate Busch on his 23rd career win but there was no apology coming. Gordon said he felt Busch had run him off the track earlier in the race last year.

"He's done things to me I didn't get apology for," Gordon said. "It's just the kind of relationship I have with Kurt. I see no reason to apologize."

Sunday was a marked turn for Busch, who unloaded on his team over the radio at Richmond in May because of how poorly his Dodge had been running.

The rant led to behind-the-scenes changes at Penske Racing that have sparked both Busch and teammate Keselowski, who won at Kansas this month.

Busch, despite three consecutive poles, was winless but inching closer, with finishes of fourth, ninth, second and 11th.

"They definitely have turned things around," said Carl Edwards, who kept his points lead with a third-place finish.

Protecting the car, Busch said, was his primary goal: "The car would allow me to do everything on an A level."

That included getting past what happened last year.

"I wanted to get that revenge of a win over those guys," Busch said. "To beat Jeff Gordon on a day like today makes it that much sweeter."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Kurt Busch claims first road-course victory at Toyota Save Mart 350 06/26/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 6:18pm]

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