Darlington: Kurt Busch race report

Kurt Busch Finishes 16th at Darlington in Miller Lite Dodge DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 9, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch finished 16th in Saturday night's grueling Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and dropped a spot to third in the...

Kurt Busch Finishes 16th at Darlington in Miller Lite Dodge

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 9, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch finished 16th in Saturday night's grueling Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and dropped a spot to third in the point standings. Even with the disappointing performance here today, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champ was able to increase the advantage he has over 13th position in the standings, padding additional points to his Chase eligibility status.

"It was a really tough night out there for the Miller Lite Dodge," Busch said while cooling off after the race. "We started eighth and that was as far up front as we ever ran (all night). We missed the setup really bad. We were so loose during the first part of the race, it was like I was going to crash every lap. When we started adjusting on it, we got it better, but really got the balance of the car messed up.

"The last 100 laps out there were about as wild as it gets," Busch said. "It was survival of the fittest. Guys running in the top-10 were spinning and hitting the wall. It was unbelievable how the pit stops kept shuffling everything around. We got our car too tight at the big end of the track and too loose at the little end. We were just way too loose with no side bite. We just started with a setup that was so loose that all the crutches that we used to tighten it up just killed the balance of it. It's amazing that we weren't wrecked and back in the garage at the end of this one."

Busch started tonight's battle from the eighth position, but had fallen all the way back to 16th when the second of what would be a record 17 caution flags for the night flew on Lap 21 for Michael Waltrip's first mishap of the race.

The Pat Tryson-led Miller Lite Team went to work with what would be a total barrage of adjustments in their attempt to remedy their ill-handling Dodge Charger. Working with track bar, air pressure and wedge adjustments continuously through the race, the changes would give only a temporary boost to the car's performance.

Busch ran from 12th to 22nd during most of the race. His spin on Lap 215 as he exited Turn 4 brought out the ninth caution period of the race. The team opted to remove a right-rear spring rubber during their yellow-flag stop. Three times during the race, extra visits to pit road under the yellow were required in order to patch up damage the car had sustained from contact with the wall or with other cars.

With Mark Martin taking control up front during the late stages of the race, Busch, Tryson and crew continued to massage their car, determined to get everything possible out of the night. The "Blue Deuce" was 21st on a Lap 340 restart and was up to 19th on the final restart with 20 laps to go.

While Busch was able to make up three spots in the waning laps, it was a torrid battle up front between the Hendrick-fielded and Hendrick-supported units. Three-time series champion Jimmie Johnson had gone down a lap earlier in the race, but bounced back to give the 50-year-old Martin a run to the finish. The superbly-in-shape Martin displayed his incredible stamina by taking a popular win by 1.531 seconds over runner-up Johnson.

The Stewart-Haas teams continue to impress as Tony Stewart finished third and Ryan Newman fourth. Points-leader Jeff Gordon battled back from a lap down late in the race to finish fifth. Martin Truex Jr. finished sixth with Brad Keselowski seventh, Greg Biffle eighth, Joey Logano ninth and pole-winner Matt Kenseth 10th.

Positions 11-20, in order, went to Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Elliott Sadler, Paul Menard, Kurt Busch, A.J. Almendinger, Bobby Labonte, Reed Sorenson and Juan Pablo Montoya. Regan Smith and Jamie McMurray rounded out the 22 drivers who finished in the lead lap here tonight.

Penske Racing teammates David Stremme and Sam Hornish Jr. finished 24th and 30th, respectively, here tonight. Both drivers showed top-10 finishing potential before mid to late-race incidents set them back.

After 11 races have been put into the 2009 record books, Gordon leads the points by 29 over Stewart (1,601 to 1,572), who moved into the second spot here tonight. Kurt Busch (1,546) is third, with Johnson (1,465) fourth and Hamlin (1,445) fifth. Burton (1,384), Kyle Busch (1,380), Newman (1,363), Biffle (1,345), Kenseth (1,326), Martin (1,316, and Carl Edwards (1,271) round out the current top-12 drivers who have 'Chase eligibility."

Stremme (1,039) is 27th and Hornish (998) is 31st in the standings after 11 races.

"We were certainly hoping to run much stronger that that and I'll take my fair share of the blame for not running any better than we did," said Tryson. "Kurt drove his guts out and never gave up, even with such a bad-handling Miller Lite Dodge. While it wasn't a good day for us, many of the other top-12 points guys came out of here in much worse shape.

"We're certainly hoping to win some more races in the next few months, but I'm the guy keeping the watch behind us as the season progresses," said Tryson. "We came into this race with a 275-point advantage over the 13th-place guy (then David Reutimann) and we're leaving here bumping that up to 282 (over 13th-place Clint Bowyer) now, so that's something positive that came out of the race.

"I can't think of a better time than now for us to have a weekend on the schedule now when nobody is worrying about points," Tryson said of next week's non-points All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour now heads back to Lowe's Motor Speedway for two consecutive weekends of action.

-credit: pr

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Team Penske