DOVER, Del. — Kurt Busch stormed into contention for a second Cup championship, holding off fellow Chase drivers Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards to win Sunday at Dover International Speedway.
Edwards and Kevin Harvick share the points lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings after three rounds. Harvick is seeded first because of a tiebreaker.
Round 4 of the Chase is at Kansas Speedway.
Busch pulled away from Johnson after a late restart to win his second race of the season. Johnson, the five-time defending champion, was second and Edwards was third. Busch moved from ninth to fourth in the standings, only nine points out of first.
Chase drivers Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch were fifth and sixth. Harvick was 10th.
Tony Stewart lost the points lead he built after winning the first two Chase races and finished 25th.
Only 15 points separate the top eight drivers. The 400-mile race only tightened the leaderboard and no driver has emerged as clear-cut favorite.
Johnson’s reign was considered by some to be on the ropes after finishing 10th and 18th in the first two Chase races. But his strong finish on a track where he usually dominates moved him only 13 points behind the leaders with seven races remaining.
“Are we out of this?” said Johnson, rubbing his chin with a smile.
Not yet. Not by a long shot.
Non-Chase drivers filled four of the top-10 spots. Kasey Kahne was fourth, AJ Allmendinger was seventh, Clint Bowyer eighth, and Marcos Ambrose ninth.
Busch made his move off the final restart with 43 laps, leaving Johnson behind on the bottom of the track.
“Giving up a win by not getting a good restart, I’ll think about it tonight,” Johnson said. “But big-picture wise, we’ll take it.”
Edwards, who won the Dover Nationwide race on Saturday, dominated most of the race until a pit road speeding penalty cost him a lap. Without that infraction, Edwards just might have won the race and made it a weekend sweep.
“I definitely took myself out of position to fight for the win by doing that,’ Edwards said. “It’s something that’s painful.”
Busch opened the Chase with a solid sixth at Chicagoland Speedway, but struggled at New Hampshire and finished 22nd. He No. 22 Dodge started second at Dover and he carried that over into Victory Lane — and up the standings.
Busch, the 2004 champion, won his 24th career race and for the first time at Dover.