Daytona II: Kurt Busch race report

Kurt Busch Earns Fifth-Place Finish at Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch showcased his restrictor-plate racing prowess again tonight in the Coke Zero 400 here at Daytona International Raceway. The 2004 NASCAR ...

Kurt Busch Earns Fifth-Place Finish at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch showcased his restrictor-plate racing prowess again tonight in the Coke Zero 400 here at Daytona International Raceway. The 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion turned what looked like a sure dismal finish with 40 laps remaining into yet another top-five run when the checkered flag flew.

The end result was Busch's sixth top-five and 10th top-10 finish in the season's first 18 races. Tonight's effort here at Daytona sees Busch maintain the fourth spot in the point standings and increase his "buffer for Chase eligibility" - or his advantage over the 13th position in the standings - from 206 points to 313 points.

"A top-five finish is surprising due to the fact we had a little trouble midway through the race, but we definitely had a strong car," said Busch. "Our Miller Lite Dodge was steady and we bounced back from those mid-race troubles. We were not in contention for the lead. We were about a fifth- or sixth-place car. We had some damage, so we were just looking for a top 10. We definitely needed a solid run tonight just to give us that confidence we're going to be OK, but we still have some work to do heading down this stretch run.

"It was a good run for our Miller Lite Dodge tonight," Busch added. "We had a tire shred in the race and then we had a problem with David Ragan when guys tried to go four-wide. I went from OK to bad right there, but we came in and made some changes to make the car looser. You just have to let it hang out and let 'er rip. I was just hoping to hang on for a top 10. We got fifth tonight and that was more than we expected."

Busch started tonight's race from the fourth spot and made a dash to the front to lead Lap 3 and pick up the five bonus points. He settled in to run in the top-five until the first caution of the race came out on Lap 12, when Mark Martin tangled with Matt Kenseth. Busch hit pit road in the third spot, but overshot his pits. The mistake dropped him back to 21st for the Lap 16 restart.

Busch had climbed back up to 13th when Casey Mears crashed in Turn 4 to bring out the second caution period of the race. He was able to pit and line back up in the 13th spot for the Lap 31 restart.

The "Blue Deuce" was strong enough to move back up to fifth after 45 laps and he maintained that spot through the third yellow of the race, which was brought out due to tire problems with Matt Kenseth's Ford and Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr.'s Dodge.

Busch continued to run solidly among the top-10 competitors until the final 60 laps of the 160-lap, 400-mile race here at the "World Center of Speed." It was quite incredible, as Busch and Jeff Burton bounced hard off each other on Lap 86. Kenseth was bump-drafting Busch from the rear and lifted the No. 2 Dodge into the air as he slid into Burton's No. 31 Chevrolet. It was amazing that the incident did not trigger a multi-car crash.

Busch had lined up in fourth on a Lap 107 restart when his car went from being competitive to being "evil tight." He attempted to fade back and not get involved with anyone else. David Ragan tried to move up the track and clipped Busch on Lap 122. Busch was able to hold his wheel straight and the No. 6 Ford went into a spin to bring out the sixth caution period of the night. The culprit for Busch turned out to be a shredding tire and he was fortunate to catch a lucky break with Ragan's spin and caution.

The contact Busch had with Ragan forced two pit stops during the ensuing yellow due to a hole being knocked in the front end of the Miller Lite Dodge. Busch was shown on NASCAR's scoring loop as running 26th on the Lap 126 restart.

Busch was able to maneuver back up to 10th on Lap 138 and stayed there for the remainder of the race. A caution for debris with 15 laps remaining saw all the leaders hit pit road for a final time. Busch and his Pat Tryson-led No. 2 Dodge Team worked to loosen up their car during the final pit stop of the race.

Busch was eighth on the Lap 149 restart and lined up ninth after Scott Speed's crash set up another restart with four laps remaining. On that restart, Tony Stewart led, with Denny Hamlin second, Kyle Busch third, Jimmie Johnson fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth. Elliott Sadler, Carl Edwards, Marcos Ambrose, Busch and Regan Smith rounded out the top-10 drivers at the time.

Kyle Busch passed Stewart coming to the white flag and led through Turn 4, but Stewart gave him a bump and tried to pass on the outside. The younger Busch moved up to block and Stewart moved him out of the way, spinning Busch into the wall. Busch was then hit by Kasey Kahne and several other cars were collected at the start-finish line. Johnson finished second followed by Hamlin, Edwards, Kurt Busch, Ambrose, BrianVickers, Kenseth, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Sadler.

Busch's Penske Racing teammates Sam Hornish Jr. and David Stremme finished 32nd and 35th, respectively here tonight.

After 18 races have been put into the 2009 Spring Cup record book, Busch holds down the fourth spot on the point standings with 2,414 points. He trails leader Stewart by 305 points, but most importantly, Busch increased his lead over 13th (Mark Martin) to 313 points. Hornish holds down the 25th spot with 1,705 and Stremme is 32nd with 1,499 points.

"It was a good night for our Miller Lite Dodge Team," Tryson said. "We were real good early and then got a little damage in that wreck and it made the car a little tight. We didn't have the speed we had earlier. All-in-all, to come home fifth is good. It was a good night points wise. That's the big picture part of it. We would have liked to have won, but we'll take fifth."

The Sprint Cup Series Tour now heads to Chicagoland Speedway for next Saturday night's LikeLock.com 400. Saturday's LifeLock 400 (267 laps, 400.5 miles) has a scheduled 7:00 p.m. CDT (8:00 p.m. EDT) starting time and features live coverage by TNT-TV and MRN Radio.

-credit: pr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Marcos Ambrose , Carl Edwards , Regan Smith , David Stremme , Elliott Sadler , David Ragan , Denny Hamlin , Sam Hornish Jr. , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Team Penske