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Busch Cuts Through Traffic for 12th Win

Associated Press
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page E10

Kurt Busch forgot all about being stiff and sore last night, racing to his first victory of the season at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz.

The defending NASCAR Nextel Cup champion led 219 of 312 laps on the mile oval, putting behind a streak of bad luck that included crashes at four consecutive events, including an IROC race a week ago at Texas Motor Speedway.

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Greg Biffle was the only competitor able to challenge his Roush Racing teammate during the first half of the Subway Fresh 500, the first Cup race run under the lights at PIR. But Biffle, who took the checkered flag here Friday night in a Busch Series race, lost his shot at another win in the pits.

A caution period for debris on the track was extended by a brief power outage that took out the track's caution lights and forced NASCAR to stop the race for nearly seven minutes. On the ensuing restart on Lap 146, Biffle got by Busch, but it took only two laps for the eventual winner to slip by on the inside and regain the top spot.

That was it for Biffle, who collided with Mike Bliss's car on pit road during the next caution period and wound up with extensive damage to the front of his car, including a hole in his radiator.

Eight drivers remained on track when Busch and several other leaders pitted during a caution -- one of nine in the race -- on Lap 240. Busch restarted ninth and began slashing through traffic, moving steadily forward until finally driving past Michael Waltrip to take the lead for good on Lap 269.

Busch beat Waltrip's Chevrolet to the finish line by 2.315 seconds -- about 10 car-lengths -- for his 12th career victory. Jeff Burton was third, followed by Waltrip's teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brian Vickers, Bobby Labonte and Carl Edwards.

"Kurt Busch gave them a clinic tonight," Roush said. "I was sure he was hurting his tires at the end, but he saved just enough."

• FORUMLA ONE: Fernando Alonso finished second -- just three-thousandths of a second behind McLaren-Mercedes driver Kimi Raikkonen -- in the first qualifying session for the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Italy.

Renault driver Alonso is in good position to capture his third straight pole in today's second qualifying session. Times from both days will be combined to determine the starting grid for the race three hours later.

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