AVONDALE, Ariz. (November 5, 2000) - The John Deere Ford was donned in desert camouflage this weekend as the familiar green-and-yellow machine was replaced by a black-and-yellow counterpart symbolic of Deere & Company's Industrial Division. And...
AVONDALE, Ariz. (November 5, 2000) - The John Deere Ford was donned in desert camouflage this weekend as the familiar green-and-yellow machine was replaced by a black-and-yellow counterpart symbolic of Deere & Company's Industrial Division. And with a new look for the 32nd race of season, Kurt Busch and the John Deere crew set out to construct a solid finish at Phoenix International Raceway's one-mile oval, and build positive momentum into the final two races of the 2000 season.
Busch qualified the No. 97 Ford in the 26th position for Sunday's 312-lap race, but with prior experience at PIR in the Southwest Series and Craftsman Truck Series, the John Deere team hoped for a complete weekend from start to finish. The 500-kilometer race was slowed six times for caution periods, and the John Deere crew took advantage of each break in the action to put a better handling car on the track. Busch experienced a tight-handling condition that persisted most of the afternoon, but after the third pit stop on lap 126, Busch radioed to the crew that he had a car competitive with the field.
The stop, unfortunately, came under green-flag racing conditions and as Busch exited the pits, the leaders went by him, putting the John Deere Taurus one lap down. Undaunted, Busch kept the black-and-yellow Ford as close to the front as he could, hoping that a timely yellow flag would allow him to get back on the lead lap. That wasn't the case, and at the midpoint of the 312-mile race, Busch was driving in 28th position.
Busch remained in the 28th spot until the fourth caution flag waved, slowing the field down again on lap 202. Busch brought the car in for four tires and fuel subsequently, and returned to the race track in 28th position. With 102 laps remaining in the event, the race went back to green on lap 210 and Busch fell into line in 27th position. Busch was content to stay in line with the thoughts of making a charge at the end, and as the fifth caution flag waved on lap 248, Busch again brought the car into the pits for four tires and fuel before returning to the track in 29th place.
With the cars in places 23rd through 33rd racing for position when the race resumed on lap 252, Busch inched his way up the field, climbing to 28th with 46 laps remaining. Busch battled the cars one lap down, all-the-while letting those on the lead lap race, and as the checkered flag waved Busch crossed the finish line in 29th place.
Busch's 29th-place performance allowed the team to remain in the 21st spot in the Winston Cup owner point standings, and with two races left in the season they trail 20th place by only 50 points. Next weekend the Winston Cup circuit returns to 1.5-mile oval at Homestead Motor Speedway for a second straight year before competing in the season finale in Atlanta.
"We were out here this weekend gaining back respect, and I think we accomplished that. The John Deere Ford was good through Turns 3 and 4, but we couldn't seem to find our way off of (Turn) 2. That makes for a long day. It's tough to make a pass stick when you get beat off the corners, but we worked on the handling during each pit stop and made some improvements.
"After you go one lap down, especially at a flat, one-mile track like this, you have to yield to the leaders and that makes it tough to keep driving your line. We're still new to this game and we're in the learning process, but we feel like we're making progress each weekend. We've got some new over-the-wall guys, and it will take some time to get things running perfectly. Still, we'll keep working on pit stops and we'll get to where we need to be. We only have two races left in the season, but we can learn a lot from these two tracks coming up, something to help us get a fast start to 2001."