Kurt Busch Finishes 16th in Sunday's Martinsville Battle

Kurt Busch, Penske Racing Dodge
Kurt Busch, Penske Racing Dodge

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 3, 2011) – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch posted a hard-fought 16th-place finish in today's Goody's Fast Relief 500 here at Martinsville Speedway and is now fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings after six races have been put into the record books.

"Just typical Martinsville racing, but under the additional pressure with the tire situation," Busch said immediately after the race concluded. "But it was the same for everyone. We were way off on our setup at the beginning of the race and got a lap down only 50 laps into the race. We spent the next 175 laps trying to get the lucky dog (free pass). We had to play it conservative because we had used one more set of tires than the leaders when we got our lap back. I got into the back of the 47 car (Bobby Labonte) and really messed up the right front fender, so I had to be careful about any beating and banging for the final 200 laps.

"We went a lap down again during a long green, but used the wave around on the next caution and got back on the lead lap," Busch said. "Our goal was just to try to stay on the lead lap and out of trouble the rest of the day. We were able to do that until we pitted under green with 35 to go and then the caution came out. We just had to hang on and get all we could after that and on down to the finish. That's just our luck here."

Busch started 20th here this afternoon, but a severe tight handling condition saw him fall all the way back to 36th on Lap 13. Leader Denny Hamlin put the "Double Deuce" Dodge down a lap after only 43 circuits. The first caution of the race came out on Lap 51 and allowed Busch's Steve Addington-led crew to begin making necessary adjustments.

Busch battled with the likes of Matt Kenseth and Paul Menard for the "Lucky Dog" spot and the free pass back onto the lead lap till finally getting that break under the fifth caution period of the race that occurred on Lap 203 because of Hermie Sadler's stalled car.

In his battle to get the free pass, Busch and crew had hit pit road one more time than the leaders and had bolted on their sixth set (of 11 allowed) of tires. Because there was still more than half of the race remaining, Busch, Addington and crew had to go the conservative route. An unintentional run-in with Bobby Labonte on Lap 231 brought out the seventh caution period of the race and saw Busch sustain substantial damage to the right-front fender area of his Dodge Charger.

Numerous trips to pit road during the yellow relegated him to the 27th position for the Lap 239 restart. He made steady progress after that, climbing to 23rd at Lap 248, 19th on Lap 337 and 14th on Lap 455. That forward progress ended just after he made his final pit stop on Lap 462. The stop came under the green and only four laps later, Regan Smith hit the wall in Turn 2 to bring out the 11th and final caution.

We just had to hang on and get all we could after that and on down to the finish.

Kurt Busch

Busch was 18th and running one lap down on the Lap 471 restart. He nursed his battered Dodge home to gain two positions in the final laps and finish 16th.

Up front, it was Kevin Harvick getting around Dale Earnhardt Jr. with three laps to go and holding him off for a 0.727-second victory. Kyle Busch finished third, with Juan Pablo Montoya fourth and Jeff Gordon fifth. Kenseth battled back to finish sixth, with pole-sitter Jamie McMurray seventh, David Ragan eighth, Clint Bowyer ninth and Mark Martin 10th.

After six races, it's the younger Busch atop the standings with 219 points. Carl Edwards is second with 214, with Jimmie Johnson third (207 points), Kurt Busch fourth (205 points) and Harvick, winning his second consecutive race, up to fifth (with 204 points). Ryan Newman (203), Montoya (201), Earnhardt (199), Kenseth (195) and Martin (181) round out the top 10 in points.

"We certainly wanted more than that – a whole lot more," said crew chief Addington. "We just got so far behind and had to play catch-up all race long. We had just pitted when the caution came out there with 30 laps to go. We ran close to the 17 (Kenseth) almost all day. He hadn't pitted yet and caught the break when the yellow came out. He wound up finishing up there with a strong top-10 (finished sixth).

"It was a struggle for us, but Kurt and the guys hung in there," said Addington. "I'm just glad that the tire situation didn't get any worse than it did. We played the conservative route after our tires showed cords on the first stop after 50 laps and didn't take any chances at all the rest of the race. To have the day we did and still leave here fourth in points is some consolation."

Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski was one of the drivers who did see tire issues put a damper on his day. Keselowski appeared to have a potential top-10 run going in his Miller Lite Dodge until he had a right-front tire go down and lost two laps when he had to hit pit road under the green. The "Blue Deuce" was credited with a 19th-place finish here today and is shown as 25th in the point standings with 132 points.

-source: penske racing