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Homestead: Kurt Busch, Stewart take titles

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Homestead: Kurt Busch, Stewart take titles
Nov 17, 2002, 6:51 AM

Kurt Busch wins Ford 400; Tony Stewart takes championship. MIAMI, Fla., (Nov. 17, 2002) - Ford Championship Weekend wrapped up on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the crowning of Tony Stewart as the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series ...

Kurt Busch wins Ford 400; Tony Stewart takes championship.

MIAMI, Fla., (Nov. 17, 2002) - Ford Championship Weekend wrapped up on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the crowning of Tony Stewart as the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion.

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 LittleTikes/Rubbermaid Ford, took the victory in the Ford 400 as he passed Ryan Newman on Lap 256 and held onto the lead in the 267-lap season finale.

"I'm just so happy I'm too excited to put together the right words, except for the fact I'd like to congratulate my whole Roush Racing teammates - from Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton," said Busch, who won from the pole. "It's just an awesome year."

Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac, finished 18th, which was good enough to secure his first NASCAR Winston Cup championship. He struggled with the handling on his car throughout the afternoon and was even a lap down at one point.

"This thing was just great," Stewart said. "Once we got back on the lead lap, it really put the wind back in my sails and got me racey again. I wasn't unracey before that, but I was awful nervous when we got that lap down, so it took a little bit of the pressure off when we got back on the lead lap."

Stewart enjoyed celebrating his first championship with the entire Joe Gibbs Racing team and his crew chief Greg Zipadelli.

"He (Zipadelli) was the glue to this whole team this year because I was really tearing us apart early in the season and just didn't have the right frame of mind to do what we were doing. He really pulled us together and not only was a good crew chief, but he was one of my best friends and one of the biggest and best leaders you could have ever asked for."

Mark Martin, who began the day 89 points out of the points lead, finished fourth. He'll have to settle for second behind Stewart in the points standings, 38 back.

"I gave it everything I had from January testing to the last lap today," Martin said. "I'm not disappointed with the outcome. Probably one of the things I'm most proud of is that we beat Tony on the race track the last three races in a row. I don't know how you do that. That is a tall order."

Newman, who lost the lead because he opted not to pit for fresh tires, was the highest rookie finisher coming home in the sixth position. Following the Ford 400, Newman was named the Raybestos Rookie of the Year.

"I didn't know about the Raybestos Rookie of the Year deal, but that's cool," Newman said. "All season it's been a great season. Even when we struggled, we struggled as a team and we fought back."

Rounding out the top five was Joe Nemechek, Jeff Burton, Martin and Jeff Gordon.

Next up at Homestead-Miami Speedway is the Miami Indy 300 Indy Racing League event on March 2. To purchase tickets, log onto the www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com or call the ticket office at (305) 230-RACE.

-dis-

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