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Busch wins at Daytona

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.  — Kyle Busch saw several cars clustered around the inside lane and another one crawling along in the outside lane.
    He felt he had no choice but to swerve right, driving through the grass, passing several cars and taking the lead coming off pit road.
    It turned out to be Busch’s best move of the race.
    The risky maneuver propelled Busch to the front and eventually to his first NASCAR victory at Daytona International Speedway — a win in the rain-delayed Busch Series race Saturday morning.
    ‘‘It was either that or stop,’’ Busch said. ‘‘Some of those guys were lost on pit road. I’m not sure what’s going on with that. It was kind of a cluster. I wasn’t sure if we were going to get busted.’’
    NASCAR officials reviewed the move, but decided not to penalize Busch. They warned him, though, telling him not to do it again. Busch obliged and picked up his eighth career series win — his first since March 26, 2006, at Bristol.
    NASCAR started reviewing another aspect of Busch’s car after the race. Officials confiscated the front springs from his Chevrolet and were sending them to the research and development center in North Carolina for review.
    The sanctioning body said the spring rates were ‘‘slightly under’’ the minimum allowed by rule. Officials said results would be released next week.
    It’s not likely NASCAR would strip Busch of his victory, but the inspection could lead to more sanctions for Hendrick Motorsports, which had two of its Nextel Cup teams fined and docked points two weeks ago. Crew chiefs for Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson also were suspended.
    ‘‘It was definitely a good race car,’’ said Busch, whose only other win at Daytona came in a 2004 ARCA race. ‘‘All we had to do was keep it out front and keep the mistakes to a minimum. Really there were none today.’’
    Daytona 500 winner Kevin Harvick came from the back of the field several times and finished second, followed by Dave Blaney, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer. Series points leader Carl Edwards crossed the finish line 11th, three spots ahead of defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr.
    The top eight spots went to Nextel Cup regulars. None of them had enough to beat Busch.
    Busch led four times for 65 laps and ended a string of bad luck at the sport’s most famous track.
    He celebrated the win with a burnout and a beer shower in Victory Lane, then joined 19 other drivers in retreating to their motorhomes to rest up for the Nextel Cup event scheduled about nine hours later — a rare day-night doubleheader created when rain washed out the Busch race Friday night.
    The 20 Cup regulars were facing a long day of 650 miles of racing.
    Busch dominated much of the 102-lap morning event, taking the lead on lap 24 following a round of pit stops. He turned into the grass to avoid congestion around the pit road exit, passing Bowyer, Kyle Krisiloff and others for the lead. He then stayed out front pretty much the rest of the way, leading 61 of the final 64 laps.
    Busch, who will lose his Nextel Cup ride with Hendrick Motorsports at the end of this season to make room for Earnhardt, has become NASCAR’s top free agent, and his victory at Daytona could make him even more sought after.
    He could have also won both races here in February.
    Busch dominated the early part of the last Busch race at Daytona, leading 46 laps before a fuel pressure problem ended his day.
    He was strong again in the Cup race the following day, but then caused a massive wreck on the final lap that helped Harvick edge Mark Martin at the finish line.
    Several cars had a shot at Busch in the final laps Saturday, but no one had the speed to get by him.
    Juan Pablo Montoya spun with two laps remaining, bringing out the sixth caution, bunching up the field and setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
    But Busch was perfect on the restart, holding off Harvick and Blaney and making the final two laps look easy.

Top series to be called Sprint Cup in 2008
    NASCAR’s top series is changing its name for the second time in five years, switching from Nextel Cup to the Sprint Cup starting in 2008.
    It’s only the third name change in NASCAR’s 60 years, but had been expected since Nextel merged with Sprint in August 2005. NASCAR allowed Nextel one name change in the 10-year contract it signed with the telecommunications giant before the 2004 season.
    While admitting name changes are not ideal, NASCAR chairman Brian France has maintained its premier series needed to be in line with the Sprint brand since that’s what the company is now called.
    ‘‘We need to be with their main brand,’’ France said Saturday as the new Sprint Cup logo was unveiled. ‘‘We’re hopeful this is the brand they stick with for a long, long time. I would be surprised if it wasn’t.’’
    NASCAR’s top series was called Grand National Series at its inception, and was called the Winston Cup Series when tobacco company R.J. Reynolds sponsored it from 1971 to 2003.
    But RJR asked out of its contract in 2003, and Nextel took over with a 10-year, $700 million deal. The series became the Nextel Cup Series in 2004.
    That name was put in jeopardy 20 months later when Nextel merged with Sprint, and company officials said they took extensive measures to research the logo and name.
    Relying on fan feedback, focus groups and surveys, the company decided to use the Sprint brand, name and logo.
    ‘‘It was a long and thorough process to determine how to integrate our NASCAR sponsorship into our overall brand strategy, while still keeping the NASCAR fan at the heart of the decision,’’ said Spring chairman Tim Kelly.
    ‘‘The process extended well beyond the NASCAR sponsorship.’’
    Refocusing the NASCAR sponsorship on the Sprint line of products and services coincides with the July 1 launch of ‘‘Sprint Ahead,’’ a national campaign focusing on the speed of its products.
    ‘‘Our new brand campaign focuses on the importance of speed in people’s daily lives and illustrates their ability to get information where they want it when they want it,’’ Kelly said.  ‘‘NASCAR was built on a tradition of speed, so it was a natural tie for us.’’
    Sprint also announced the SprintSpeed Million promotion, which will pair 12 fans with the 12 drivers competing for the series title this season. The fan paired with the eventual series champion will win $1 million.

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