BRISTOL, Tenn. Kurt Busch turned a bad decision and an underpowered, ill-handling car into another victory.
Good thing Busch was racing at Bristol Motor Speedway, a place where he can seemingly do no wrong these days.
Busch worked his magic again Sunday at the Food City 500, winning his third straight NASCAR Nextel Cup race and fourth in the last five tries on the concrete half-mile oval.
The fourth-year driver angered crew chief Jimmy Fennig when he made a last-second decision to pass up a tire change with the other leaders under caution 119 laps from the end of the 500-lap race. That put him in the lead for the first time in the race and Busch somehow made his worn tires last, holding off frustrated Rusty Wallace to the end.
''This one by far has got to be the sweetest because of what we had to overcome,'' Busch said of his victories here, nearly half of his career total of nine. ''Our engine had about 1,000 RPM less all day today ... and I just couldn't get the car to handle right. It's just unreal.''
Busch, who said before the race that winning at Bristol always takes some luck, acknowledged he had plenty of good fortune on Sunday.
Asked why he stayed on track when the other leaders pitted on lap 382, he grimaced.
''We only had 20 laps on our tires,'' Busch said. ''I looked in the mirror and some guys didn't pit behind us, so I just ... stayed out. But all those guys were a lap down.
''It was a decision I was wrong on and I had to bail myself out on it.''
Fennig, a longtime racing veteran, said, ''I was mad. I was upset because I felt we need to pit, but Kurt knew what he had and here we are in Victory Lane.
''I felt we needed tires, but I'll tell you one thing, I probably have the best guy in the business when it comes to tire management.''
Busch won this one with the help of a series of late-race caution flags that left Wallace, a nine-time winner at Bristol, unhappy and riding a string of 104 consecutive races without a victory despite leading 100 laps and having what appeared to be the fastest car most of the day.
''Doggone, man,'' Wallace said, shaking his head. ''We didn't need those last cautions. I was just about to pass him that one time. Man, I wanted that bad. So close.''
There were three cautions in the final 35 laps, the last one coming on lap 494 when rookie Scott Wimmer and Dale Jarrett bumped, sending Jarrett into the wall.
NASCAR red-flagged the race for just over 11 minutes to get the track clean and give the drivers a chance to race to the end.
The green flag waved with two laps to go and Busch's Roush Racing Ford easily pulled away from Wallace, beating the second-place Dodge to the finish line by 0.428 seconds about five car-lengths.
Busch joined retired drivers Darrell Waltrip (7), Cale Yarborough (4) and Fred Lorenzen (3) with at least three consecutive victories at Bristol.
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