Johnson crashes to earth

Early trouble allows Martin to cut deficit

By Stephen Hawkins
Associated Press / November 9, 2009

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FORT WORTH - After Jimmie Johnson’s drive to history took a hard hit against a wall, Kyle Busch ran out of gas trying to complete an unprecedented NASCAR trifecta, leaving Kurt Busch to drive to Victory Lane at the Dickies 500 yesterday.

Johnson, driving a rebuilt car after he wrecked after two trips around Texas Motor Speedway, trailed by 129 laps as the leaders crossed the finish line. As a result, his points lead in the Chase was slashed from 184 to 73 over Hendrick teammate Mark Martin with two races left.

“It was definitely not the day we wanted,’’ said Johnson. “It’s not as bad as it could have been. At one point I was told to hop out of car and I was done . . . It’s still a big ouch.’’

Johnson, who is trying to become the first Cup driver to win four consecutive season championships, wrecked on the third lap when he was knocked into the wall by Sam Hornish. Johnson finished 38th after his crew needed more than an hour to repair his No. 48 Chevrolet.

Johnson returned to the track on Lap 115, the front and rear of his car solid black after all the repairs. The front and rear suspensions and the driveshaft had been replaced, along with other repairs. Crew members from the teams of Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. assisted in what looked like a makeshift body shop in the garage.

Kurt Busch got his second win of the season after his younger brother ran out of fuel with 2 1/2 laps left.

His 20th career victory came with an average speed of 147.137 miles per hour and by a nearly 26-second margin over Denny Hamlin. Matt Kenseth was third and Martin fourth.

Kyle Busch, who already had won the Nationwide and Camping World Truck races at Texas, was trying to become the first driver to win in all three of NASCAR’s national series on the same weekend. He led 232 laps and was still ahead when his No. 18 Toyota suddenly slowed on the backstretch.

He had trouble refiring his car after his splash-and-dash stop and wound up 11th.

Dave Rogers, who made his debut as Kyle Busch’s crew chief, said they thought they had enough fuel to finish the race and described the driver as “frustrated.’’ Busch didn’t talk to reporters.