His Roush Racing crew was telling anyone who would listen yesterday morning that Kurt Busch would win the NAPA 500.
Their prediction came true, and the crew of the No. 97 Ford played a major role as Busch outran the competition and the weather, grabbing his second straight Winston Cup victory in the rain-shortened race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga.
After one long rain delay and threatening skies throughout, the race scheduled for 325 laps ended under a yellow flag on Lap 248 as the wet weather finally arrived.
Busch's victory was sparked by some fast work by his crew during the last round of green-flag pit stops. His Taurus was the first of the contenders to drive onto pit road, going into the stops third and leading when the last car had pitted. Busch stayed in front the last 43 laps on the fast 1.54-mile quad-oval, keeping the top spot when all the leaders made their final stops under yellow on Lap 232.
The win was the third of his career and the third of the year for the 24-year-old driver from Las Vegas. The first two came at Bristol and Martinsville, two of the three tracks shorter than a mile on the Winston Cup schedule.
"This one felt much sweeter. Now I can enjoy it. Just the adrenaline of running those last laps . . . and holding off the [No. 25] car," Busch said, referring to runner-up Joe Nemechek. "Our crew did it again."
Before the decisive green-flag stop, Busch was watching Nemechek and series leader Tony Stewart battle in front of him.
"We got loose and got to sliding a little bit and that's what pushed us back," Busch said in the makeshift Victory Circle inside the empty Busch Series garage. "We kept digging and made an adjustment at the end. I told [crew chief] Jimmy [Fennig], I said, 'Do this, do that and it'll be perfect.' We drove ourselves right to Victory Lane."
Stewart wound up fourth, behind Dale Jarrett, and put some room between himself and the drivers chasing him in the championship battle with only three races remaining.
* CART: In Surfers Paradise, Australia, rookie Mario Dominguez won the rain-shortened Honda Indy 300, which started with a major crash that sent two drivers to the hospital.
Dominguez, who was involved in the accident, pitted four times once racing started. The event was stopped on the 40th lap because of a two-hour time limit. Patrick Carpentier was second, followed by Paul Tracy, Kenny Brack and Tony Kanaan.
Adrian Fernandez and Tora Takagi were carried off on stretchers after the starting-line accident. Fernandez broke two vertebrae; Takagi had a broken pelvis and bruised hip. Both were released from the hospital.