BRISTOL, Tenn. - The record book is pretty clear when it comes to Bristol Motor Speedway: Kurt Busch is good at the bullring, Jimmie Johnson is not.
So of course Busch had Sunday's race circled as a place to make up ground on Johnson, the four-time defending NASCAR champion.
And Johnson, most likely, figured his annual Bristol frustrations would continue.
Both were wrong.
Johnson grabbed his first career win Sunday at Bristol with a masterful final 10 laps, denying Busch a victory in a race he had dominated.
"To pour my heart and soul into this race to beat (Johnson), I was trying to hit my marks every lap. I feel exhausted, I feel disappointed," Busch said.
Johnson knocked Bristol off his to-do list by plowing from sixth to first in just three laps. His previous best finish in 16 starts was third, and nine of his finishes here had been outside the top 16.
"You walk into this facility and look around, and you want to run well," Johnson said. "It's really been a downer for me to walk through the gates, look around, 'Man, I'm going to (stink) today.' I really had that mindset coming here."
That changed last season when Johnson led laps in both Bristol races, grabbing a pair of top-10 finishes while giving him a guide on how to get around the concrete track.
"I started building my confidence," he said. "Those two races gave us clear direction where to work, me a clear direction on how to drive the car."
And that's all he needed with 10 laps to go after a late caution ruined Busch's clear shot at victory.
Busch led 278 of the 500 laps and had a decent gap on Johnson when NASCAR called a debris caution with 17 laps remaining. All the leaders headed to pit road, and Busch and Johnson both took four tires on the final stop.
Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart all took two tires, giving them the first four positions on the restart. Busch was fifth, Johnson was sixth and the race resumed with 10 laps to go.
Kenseth's difficulty getting up to speed stacked up traffic behind him, including Busch, who lost his opportunity to leapfrog his way to the front.
Not Johnson, though. He weaved through the mess up to second, Stewart moved into the lead, and Johnson needed just over one lap to pick him off, too.
"When we're winning at tracks that we're not supposed to, boys better look out," Johnson warned. "Even that 2 car (Busch) that doesn't want the 48 to win."
Busch, a five-time Bristol winner who hasn't been to Victory Lane at the bullring since 2006, was irate over his radio at the loss. He settled for third behind Johnson and Stewart, missing his chance to win his second consecutive race of the season and prove his Penske Racing team has made enough gains to run consistently with Johnson and the Hendrick Motorsports bunch.
"I'd rather lose to any of the other 41 cars out there than the 48 car," Busch said. "I thought we had him beat. I gave it my heart today, but we came up short."
It was Johnson's third win of the season and 50th of his career. Next up for Johnson is Martinsville Speedway, where he's won five of the last seven races, a stat not lost on Busch.
"They're going to be tough next week at Martinsville. We'll be lucky to finish 10th," Busch said. "That's why I was really pouring my heart and soul into winning this one. He's going to have a solid car next week."
Biffle finished fourth and was followed by his Roush Fenway Racing teammates Kenseth and Edwards. Dale Earnhardt Jr. overcame a speeding penalty to finish seventh, Jamie McMurray was eighth and Kyle Busch and Jeff Burton rounded out the top 10.
Kevin Harvick maintained his lead in the Sprint Cup Series standings by finishing 11th.
Johnson became only the 12th driver in NASCAR history to win 50 races. He reached the milestone in his 296th start, and only three drivers did it faster: Jeff Gordon (232), Darrell Waltrip (278) and David Pearson (293).
Even with his stats, though, team owner Rick Hendrick doesn't think his driver gets his due.
"If you look at the stats and you look at the talent and you look at the dedication, just look at his record — I don't understand why it's not written now he's one of the best that's ever done this," Hendrick said. "You look at Jeff, and I've been around for a long time, I've watched a lot of guys from Richard Petty on up to current day.
"When you look at the level of competition since he's been in the sport, what he's done, what he's accomplished, I mean, I don't know what he's got to do."