Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Miller Lite Dodge team overcame an ill-handling race car, a fender-bender on pit lane, and a pit road speeding penalty in Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard to post an 11th-place finish and close within 13 ...
Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Miller Lite Dodge team overcame an ill-handling race car, a fender-bender on pit lane, and a pit road speeding penalty in Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard to post an 11th-place finish and close within 13 points of becoming eligible for the 2007 Chase for the NEXTEL Cup.
Perhaps team gasman Chris Williams best summed up the day for his Penske Racing No. 2 Dodge team.
"Today definitely proves that the old saying, 'It ain't over till it's over,' certainly applies to NASCAR racing, too," Williams said. "We haven't been able to have many days like these, but it seems like the true championship-caliber teams do. We certainly appear to be headed in that direction now. We just have to keep it up."
Tryson noted the Miller Lite team took a potentially bad day and made a decent showing out of it.
"Kurt Busch proved that he is a true champion level driver out there today," Tryson said. "It seems like they threw every possible kind of adversity at him today and he was able to bounce back. It was a day when our team got everything we possibly could, and then some, out of it. I'm so proud of Kurt and everybody on our team."
Busch started Sunday's 400-mile, 160-lap battle at Indianapolis Motor Speedway from the sixth spot and almost immediately faced handling issues.
"It's super tight in, but it gets super loose when someone's on my bumper," Busch said after falling to 14th on lap 33. "We've got ourselves a real handful here today guys."
Busch had fallen to 19th during the race's sixth yellow flag on lap 62 and was notified just before the return to green that he was being charged for a speeding violation entering the pits. He was forced to drop back to 30th for the lap 68 restart.
When the seventh of nine caution flags was displayed on lap 76 for debris on the backstretch, Busch had made it back to 23rd when he hit pit road for additional adjustments to fight the "tight in and snappy loose off" chassis condition. A 13.170-second pit stop put him in position to gain five spots exiting pit road. However, when Clint Bowyer veered right exiting his pit, he clipped Busch to the outside, while Scott Wimmer plowed into the rear of the Miller Lite Dodge, resulting in damage to the car's rear end.
"The front end is fine and so is the left side, but it knocked the whole back panel off," spotter Jesse Walker radioed. "NASCAR is saying you have to come back down pit road and get the rear end cleaned out."
Busch was 26th for the lap 80 restart and fell back as far as 28th before being able to make additional chassis adjustments and aero improvements to the car's rear during a stop under the eighth caution period on lap 91.
With coaching from Tryson, Busch was really up on the wheel for the next 20 laps, picking off cars one at a time. A series of green-flag pit stops began on lap 123 and Busch had advanced all the way up to fourth on lap 127 before pitting the next lap.
The stops had cycled around on lap 129 with Busch running 17th and headed forward. Only six laps later, Dale Earnhardt Jr. blew an engine to bring out the race's final caution flag. While seven drivers opted to stay out, Busch was among those drivers who pitted for fresh tires with 20 laps remaining in the race.
Tony Stewart led on the restart, followed by Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya and pole-winner Reed Sorenson, respectively. After pitting, Busch was 16th on the restart.
While Stewart and Harvick battled it out for the lead up front, exchanging the lead back and forth, Busch was again passing cars one by one and headed forward.
At the checkered flag, it was Stewart taking his second Brickyard 400 in the last three years with a 2.983-second advantage over Montoya. Busch came through to post a respectable 11th-place finish.
"I'm so proud of Pat and my guys," Busch said as he walked from the garage to his team's transporter in the back lot. "We fought adversity all day it seemed and just never gave up. Our big goal is to make the Chase and if we can keep it up, we'll get there. This is definitely a race where we were able to hang in there and get all we could out of it. With the (No.) 8 car (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) having his problems, it certainly turned into a pretty good day for us overall and especially in the points."