Kurt Busch holds on to win the championship

It came down to the last lap -- and even beyond -- to determine the inaugural NEXTEL Cup champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In the end, Kurt Busch drove the wheels off the No. 97 Roush Racing Ford to take fifth place and earn his first Cup ...

Kurt Busch holds on to win the championship

It came down to the last lap -- and even beyond -- to determine the inaugural NEXTEL Cup champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In the end, Kurt Busch drove the wheels off the No. 97 Roush Racing Ford to take fifth place and earn his first Cup championship.

2004 champion Kurt Busch and the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.
Photo by Autostock.
"Just unbelievable," said the 26-year-old Las Vegas native. "To be able to persevere how we did and overcome everything that we did, I cannot believe this team and everything we have been able to overcome this year. There are positions and times to be lucky and positions and times to stay focused and put together your best effort. It's a true testament to what a driver has to do, a team has to do, and team owner has to do."

Busch had nothing but bad luck all afternoon, but was able to remain calm and overcome adversity at every turn to stay alive in the championship fight. The first obstacle on his road to the Cup popped up at lap 91 when the right front wheel fell off the No. 97 Ford, sending him from second spot to 27th.

"I was in stitches those last few laps," Busch said. "I was just sick to my stomach. I had the whole world on my shoulders every lap today. To be able to cap off a great season, it's just wonderful."

Busch battled back to 19th after the wheel incident, but on a pit stop on lap 112, his crew looked baffled as crew chief Jimmy Fennig changed his mind mid-stop between taking four tires or two. The miscue resulted in an embarrassingly long stop that saw Busch restart 26th.

2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Kurt Busch and race winner Greg Biffle.
Photo by Kurt Dahlstrom.
Busch chopped through the field and played with pit and fuel strategy to practically will the No. 97 Ford back into the top five by lap 199. From there all he had to do was stay within four spots of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon to assure himself the series title.

"I had the 24 in front of me and the 48 after that," said Busch of the race. "I was trying to do math in my head and I had all these things in my head. In turn four, I realized we had it and I was just overcome with emotion."

He finished the race fifth.

"Kurt is an incredible quick study, once he understands how something works he never forgets it," said team owner Jack Roush.

Johnson and Gordon pressed hard to gain spots on Busch, but in the end it was Busch's day to walk away with the sterling silver Tiffany & Co. trophy as the fourth-youngest driver in NASCAR history to win the championship.

Busch first emerged as a championship hopeful after the seventh race of the season at Texas when he left with the point lead. He would only lead for one race, before being at the top again after tying with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. after the first chase race in New Hampshire, which Busch won.

Kurt Busch.
Photo by Kurt Dahlstrom.
He forged on to lead all of the final eight races of the season.

Johnson finished second in the final standings, losing by just eight points to Busch. Jeff Gordon (-16), Mark Martin (-107), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-138), Tony Stewart (-180), Ryan Newman (-326), Matt Kenseth (-437), Elliott Sadler (-482), and Jeremy Mayfield (-506) round up the top ten in series rankings.

Jamie McMurray pulled off the 11th-place finish for the season, earning the NASCAR bonus and grabbing a table at the NEXTEL Cup Series banquet.

The win by Busch makes it back-to-back championship wins for Roush Racing. Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Ford, was the 2003 series champion who earned Roush his first ever series crown.

shares
comments
Hendrick Motorsports 2005 Crew Chiefs lineup
Previous article

Hendrick Motorsports 2005 Crew Chiefs lineup

Next article

BUSCH: NASCAR gives thanks

BUSCH: NASCAR gives thanks
Load comments
How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory Prime

How Larson took the long way round to NASCAR Cup glory

From villain to hero, Kyle Larson had to reach his lifelong goal the hard way and go through a very public shaming after a ban for using a racial slur, but his talents shone long before his name grabbed the headlines...

NASCAR Cup
Nov 10, 2021
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Prime

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

NASCAR Cup
Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Prime

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

NASCAR Cup
Oct 5, 2021
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Prime

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organization - which underlines his enduring value

NASCAR Cup
Aug 31, 2021
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021