Busch and Miller Lite Team Win All-Star Race CONCORD, N.C. (May 22, 2010) - The NASCAR record book will show that Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch piloted his special "Vortex Bottle" edition of the famous "Blue Deuce" from the pole position...
Busch and Miller Lite Team Win All-Star Race
CONCORD, N.C. (May 22, 2010) - The NASCAR record book will show that Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch piloted his special "Vortex Bottle" edition of the famous "Blue Deuce" from the pole position to the win inSaturday night's All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. But there is absolutely no way it could begin to tell the drama that unfolded here tonight as the 2004 champ and his Steve Addington-led team bounced back from near disaster to post the impressive victory.
"It's an unbelievable experience," Busch said of claiming the special high-dollar and non-points race. "It's something that you sit there and you look at the greats that have won this race, the ones that have had so many years go by in between the wins, just to have an opportunity to go for it tonight, I felt like our Penske Dodge was right where it needed to be at the end. But it also started there. I felt like starting on the pole, having track position early on gave us a good indication on what we should expect for the evening, on how we had to adjust on the car and keep it up front."
Busch started from the pole in the 100-lap, four-segment battle due to qualifying getting rained out Friday night. Yet he was able to show so much strength in the first 50-lap segment that he proved to have a car very capable of winning. In the early going, Jimmie Johnson was able to get by and control the lead, but Busch drove a steady wheel and maintained the second spot until the mandatory pit stop on Lap 25.
Outstanding pit work began on the first stop and continued all the way through the race for the "Blue Deuce" over-the-wall gang. The evening's first stop, clocked at 12.533 seconds for four tires and fuel, saw Busch enter and leave the pits in the second spot. Busch had led 10 laps in the early going and had younger brother, Kyle, lined up in front of him for the restart. Kyle led with Kurt in tow until the closing laps of the first segment when the elder Busch powered by on the outside to lead the final two circuits of the first segment.
The four-tire stop before the second segment saw the 2004 champ restart eighth, but he was back up to third on Lap 52. Fighting a loose condition, his car washed up the track and almost into the outside wall on Lap 63. He fell to fifth at the conclusion of the second segment.
The call was for two right-side tires under the ensuing caution as seven cars stayed out and placed Busch eighth on the Lap 71 restart. While Jimmie Johnson was setting sail in the lead up front, the "Two Car" experienced its worst handling woes all evening. Busch impacted the wall on Lap 73 and began to fall back through the field. He told Addington and crew that the right side of his car was "junk" as his crew chief coached him on to complete that segment.
Busch had fallen to 11th on Lap 76 and remained there after the third segment had ended. During the 10-minute break, Addington and crew repaired the damage done from the wall contact and made chassis adjustments to bring life to their car during the final 10-lap run to the finish. His crew's incredible 11.889-second four-tire stop shot him up three spots as the race was ready to return to green.
Busch was eighth on the restart that got no further than the first turn before a multi-car crash took out the likes of Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon and a host of others. With no caution laps counting, the field got another restart with 10 laps to go.
Busch was sixth on the restart and quickly moved up to fourth. But with teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch playing the blocking game up front, the younger Busch wound up in the outside wall, with the Miller Lite Dodge driver making a valiant charge to the inside to get around the lead tandem and Johnson in just one turn of Lap 93 to grab the lead.
The "Blue Deuce" was able to get out to a comfortable lead only to see a later crash involving his brother and Kasey Kahne bring out another caution flag with two laps to go. Busch lined up as the leader, with Johnson second, Joey Logano third, Hamlin fourth and Martin Truex Jr. fifth.
Hamlin and Johnson got into each other with a lap to go, sending Johnson spinning down into the infield grass and forcing a green-white-checkered finish.
After the restart, Busch was able to pull out to a comfortable lead and cruise to the win over runner-up Truex. Logano finished third, with Hamlin fourth and Tony Stewart fifth. Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick and Penske teammate Brad Keselowski rounded out the top-10. Only 13 cars were around for the finish.
"To win the first segment, that was pretty special, one small step as well," Busch explained to the press in the media center after the race. "Getting into the second segment, we did four tires. That put us eighth on the restart. We weren't able to move up as fast as I thought we could. Got all the way up to third. We were a little loose on that run, faded back to fifth when the second segment closed out. With our strategy to put on just two tires going into the third segment, our thought process was to leave the chassis alone. When we did that, man, the car was awful on that third segment. We were just way tight. Just a whole different attitude in the racecar."
"It wore on me pretty heavily," Busch said. "I was telling the guys, we're way tight, we're out of the mix. We faded all the way back to eighth or 10th place, bouncing off the wall. Just trying to get all I could out of the racecar, even though we didn't change a thing. We were very tight. I thought our night was done after that third segment. When we got in for the break, took a deep breath, took those 10 minutes to sit there and try to figure out what we could do as a team to make the car better. I wasn't very helpful. I'll have to admit that. I told Steve Addington, The car is way tight, just fix this bad boy, go for it, go for everything you think we need, I'll drive the wheels off it. If we spin off loose going for it, it means we made adjustments to make the car better.
"It helped us communicate in a certain fashion where the crew chief has to stand up and take the role of being the leader and make the changes. That's sometimes the best-case scenario, where the crew chief makes his work done, puts the faith in the driver, and the driver understands that the crew chief gave it all that he's got, and the two of us went at it. We were able to move up on our pit stop during that four tire mandatory stop. We moved up to eighth place. I felt like the outside is where I found myself on most of the restarts tonight. We got bottled up on one of them.
"From the rest of the night, though, the outside prevailed for us. I think we went all the way from fifth to first in one lap. The Miller Lite Dodge was money when it counted. We really had a fast racecar. It was a pleasure to drive it. The segment before that, though, I wouldn't have given a million bucks for it. Now it has a million dollar name to it. The right side, we have to replace it. We'll think about bringing this car back for next week. I know we have a better piece for next week ready to go for the 600. I'm proud of our effort tonight as a team, as my crew chief and I continue to develop our relationship."
"It feels great," Addington added. "It feels great for the team. It feels great for Penske Racing. This is a big, big win for us from where we are as a race team. I think it builds confidence in us as a race team and what we have going on, going forward from here on trying some different things on the racecar."
The Sprint Cup tour returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway for next week's 13th points-paying battle of the 2010 season, the Coca-Cola 600.