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Johnson Takes IROC Win, Busch Takes Championship

INDIANAPOLIS (August 2, 2003) - Jimmie Johnson led the final 20 laps to capture Saturday's True Value International Race of Champions (IROC) final race of 2003, while Kurt Busch finished fourth to clinch the $250,000.00 IROC championship here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Johnson, representing the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, held off NASCAR Winston Cup driver Kevin Harvick by .697 seconds in the 40-lap, 100- mile race. Johnson's average speed on the historic 2.5-mile oval was 135.287 miles per hour. It was the first career IROC win for Johnson, as he became the third IROC rookie to win in 2003; rookies, Kurt Busch and Mike Bliss won race two and three at Talladega and Chicagoland, respectively.

Johnson, who started sixth, picked up five positions by lap-15-laps and was sitting second behind race leader Helio Castroneves, representing the IRL IndyCar Series, when a caution period for debris on lap-20 reformed the field for a double file restart. On the restart, Johnson and Harvick used the high line to get around Castroneves, who had led from the pole, with Johnson leading the remaining 20 laps.

"It's an honor to be here and win at the Brickyard," said Johnson. "It's something I've dreamt of doing, and hopefully this is a good sign of things to come tomorrow for our race team in the Winston Cup Series."

Of his maneuver at the restart to take the lead, Johnson said, "I knew it was going to be my only opportunity to get a pass done. I worked by everybody and got to Helio (Castroneves). He was doing a great job. I didn't think I had anything for him, but when the caution came out I knew I would have about a lap to get something done. Harvick helped me down the straightaway and helped me get by, and it helped him into second place, so that was it from there."

Busch took the 2003 True Value IROC Championship by 11- points over four-time IROC champion, Mark Martin who finished fifth. Martin is Busch's teammate in the Winston Cup Series. Busch said, "There are no teammates in IROC. You have got to go. This is a 40-lap venue where you just have to go every lap and that's what it needed to be, and we were able to go away with the top spot today."

Busch continued, "It just an honor to drive in this series for one thing, but to compete against the best of the best and beat them one day - I just dreamed about this day, and it came true. My father's the greatest mentor in racing. He helped me get here, along with my Winston Cup crew and not to mention Mark Martin. A true competitor until the end."

ESPN will broadcast the True Value IROC finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, August 3 at 1:00 p.m. EDT.

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