Kurt Busch Finishes 13th at California FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 25, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch bounced back from going a lap down in today's rain-delayed Auto Club 500 here at Auto Club (California) Speedway to post a 13th-place...
Kurt Busch Finishes 13th at California
FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 25, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch bounced back from going a lap down in today's rain-delayed Auto Club 500 here at Auto Club (California) Speedway to post a 13th-place finish and hold down the fourth spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings.
Busch was 13th on the restart of today's weather-delayed race (after 87 laps had been placed into the record book last night) and had climbed to seventh when green-flag pit stops were the order beginning on Lap 121. Attempting to stay out an additional lap to pick up the five bonus points for leading a lap came back to bite Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing No. 2 Team.
Instead of pitting at full power with the leaders, Busch entered the first turn on Lap 123 and radioed that he had run out of fuel. He was forced to coast around the track and onto pit road for his stop. By the time the crew had serviced the car and finally got the engine fired again, Busch found himself running 30th and a lap down to leader Jimmie Johnson when the stops cycled around on Lap 125.
Busch and team got the break they needed when Michael Waltrip lost control of his Toyota in Turn 2 on Lap 150. His spin brought out the ninth caution flag of the race and allowed Busch to take the 'Lucky Dog' transfer spot and get back into the lead lap.
Running 24th on the Lap 153 restart, Busch was able to pick off cars one by one for the next 50 laps. He was back in the top 20 at Lap 165, but chassis changes to try to keep his Dodge from getting tight in the middle of the turns backfired during a stretch from Lap 171 until he pitted again on Lap 205.
During the team's final pit stop on Lap 221, the team opted to "go back the other way" on the earlier chassis adjustments. Busch was able to climb from 17th back up to 13th in the waning laps, before stalling his forward motion with seven laps remaining in the race.
"We were able to work our way up front, but we just stalled around the 12th position," Busch said back in the garage after the race. "The competition was real tough and our Miller Lite Dodge was fighting loose on exit. We were trying to make adjustments, but could never make it (the car) better - and then we were chasing track conditions - cool at night and rain. At the start of the race today - it started off really fast in the beginning - then it starts to warm up. So you're trying to make adjustments and learn with the car, but then the car plays trick with you at the same time.
"That was our struggle today," Busch continued. "We made small changes and the car would react the opposite way of what we were hoping. It would get looser or tighter - we weren't making the proper adjustments - so I don't know if we need to reverse our philosophy or what."
Busch's finish here today has him fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings after two races and he is certainly pleased about that.
"Yeah, it was a good day for us as far as the big picture goes," said Busch, now fourth in the standings, trailing leader Kyle Busch by 36 points. "With the situation we're in, we're hanging in there really well as far as the points go. It's our goal to be right there in the top 10 after five races, when the points situation reverts to this year's standings and we're doing a good job as far as that goes."
While the Hendrick cars of Johnson and Jeff Gordon looked to have the race in hand for much of the day, Roush Racing's Carl Edwards saved the best for last, powering under Gordon for the second spot on Lap 230 and running down leader Johnson. Edwards' No. 99 Ford and Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet ran side by side for several laps before Edwards finally took the lead for good on Lap 238.
At the finish line, it was Edwards winning by 1.430 seconds over Johnson. Jeff Gordon blew his engine on the final circuit, but still finished third, with Kyle Busch fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth. Martin Truex Jr. finished sixth, with Tony Stewart seventh, Kevin Harvick eighth, Kasey Kahne ninth and Ryan Newman 10th. Brian Vickers finished 11th, with Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch (13th), David Regan and Greg Biffle rounding out today's top-15 finishers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series continues its western swing next weekend as the tour heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for next Sunday's UAW-Dodge 400. The green flag is set to fly at 1:30 p.m. local (4:30 p.m. EST), with live coverage by FOX-TV and PRN Radio beginning an hour prior to the start of the race.