Kurt Busch Earns Third-Place Finish at New Hampshire LOUDON, N.H. (June 28, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch finished a strong third in Sunday's rain-shortened LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Busch's fifth...
Kurt Busch Earns Third-Place Finish at New Hampshire
LOUDON, N.H. (June 28, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch finished a strong third in Sunday's rain-shortened LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Busch's fifth top-five and ninth top-10 finish of the season saw him maintain the fourth spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings as he distanced himself from fifth and padded his cushion for Chase eligibility.
"It was a solid day for us," Busch said of Sunday's performance by the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge Team. "We made some good adjustments in the pits. My biggest downside was restarts, slipping the tires and getting forward bite going through the gears. I just couldn't get the car to stay low.
"With our pit crew, we had some off stops, but then we had some on (good) stops that kept us bouncing around out there. But when the time came to push really hard, the car was there. The crew gave me a great stop and we were reeling in what I thought was the leader...the 24...but Pat (Tryson, crew chief) told me that I was in third - that it was the 20 car that was leading and it was as if that it took all the wind out of our sails.
"The rains were there," Busch said of the way the race finished. "I was catching Jeff, but we just ran out of time. Overall, last year, to drive into Victory Lane and do it in a rain-shortened race and then today where we were fast enough to win and not get the win, that's how this sport evens itself out. You have your good and your bad luck and overall it was a good day for our Miller Lite Dodge."
Busch started today's race from the fourth spot and flexed his car's muscle early in the going, taking the lead after only seven laps. The only time he fell out of the top five for the remainder of the race was during the cycling of green-flag pit stops.
By staying up front, Busch was able to steer clear of several accidents, some which came shortly after one of NASCAR's recently-implemented double-file restarts. The 2004 series champ and three-time winner here commented on those restarts:
"The track here at Loudon has always been slick on restarts and with double file restarts, you have to keep in the back of your mind, even in Saturday's practice, you have to have a car good on a long run," Busch said. "Now, you're going to have all these restarts, you might want to focus a little bit on short runs as well. It's a tough balance, and this track really challenged the double file restarts. It was after 150, the race would have been complete, I actually had raindrops on my windshield, and so I pushed the go button, over stepped the line, rubbed Jeff a little bit and knew the boundary line that I crossed. But yet, if I was on the outside and he was on the inside re starting, he probably would have slid up into us. It's just a slick track. You need five or six laps to start get going and then start racing."
Potential adverse weather was on everyone's mind the entire day at NHMS. With rain overnight washing the rubber off the track, officials had stated in the pre-race drivers' meeting that they would throw a "competition yellow" early in the race in order for the teams to check tire wear. That caution flag flew on Lap 46.
What appeared to be a duel setting up between Jeff Gordon and Busch for the win took a strange turn after the leaders made their final scheduled pit stops on Lap 235. Gordon emerged as the leader, with Busch second, and Tony Stewart third, but there were several drivers who had pitted during an earlier caution who were on a different pit cycle.
Ryan Newman attempted to stretch his fuel, hoping for the threatening rain to hit the track. He was forced to yield the lead and hit pit road on Lap 264. His gamble cost badly as the No. 39 car stalled and had to be pushed off pit road, dropping him to a 29th-place finish.
Joey Logano, who had damaged his car earlier in a Lap 183 incident and fallen a lap down, was fortunate enough to catch a caution and get the "lucky dog" free pass back onto the lead lap later in the race. Veteran crew chief Greg Zipadelli executed brilliantly in calling his driver in at the best opportunity to top off the fuel.
The final caution flag of the race was displayed on Lap 267 when the fine mist in the air turned into sprinkles. Zippadelli coached young Logano to save all the fuel he could, hoping the rain would get so heavy that NASCAR would bring out the red flag and halt the race prior to their team having to pit for fuel.
The big gamble by the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Team paid off as the officials brought the cars down pit road after completing 273 laps and displayed the red flag. The rain persisted and got heavier, forcing NASCAR to call the race as official at 5:40 p.m. EDT. Logano became the youngest driver to win in Cup history.
"What's ironic is we had this race, I don't know how many years ago, where we stopped racing back to the yellow and created the "lucky dog," and I think he (Logano) got two of them, maybe three of them today," Busch commented on how the race unfolded. "You can take a car that's not able to stay on the lead lap and get the lucky dog and pit and make it enough fuel to get to the end, its funny how it happened here at this track. We had a smart crew chief (Zipadelli) take advantage of the situation.
"It's just one of those things," Busch added. "You win some, you lose some, and what's tough, congratulations to him (Logano). He's the youngest winner, but it takes away from Kyle, my little brother, who is the youngest winner in NASCAR history. A little sentimental history, but hey, when you win, it's a win. And I've been on the other side of the fence, so I can't complain."
"I think it was a good day for our Miller Lite Dodge Charger," said crew chief Tryson. "The difference in this one is that the guy that had a couple of problems was able to run further on fuel than everyone. We were trying to race the 24 and a couple more laps, the 20 would have been off and we would have been racing for the win. Third-place isn't bad. It was a good point's day and we'll go on (to Daytona)."
The finishing order here today showed Logano as the winner, with Gordon second, Kurt Busch third, David Reutimann fourth and Stewart fifth. Brad Kesolowski, Kyle Busch, Sam Hornish Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top 10.
With 17 of 36 races completed on the 2009 Sprint Cup Series tour, Stewart leads Gordon by 69 points (2,524 to 2,455). Johnson (2,355) is third, with Kurt Busch (2,254) fourth and Carl Edwards (2,157) fifth. Rounding out the top-12 drivers and currently "Chase eligible" are Denny Hamlin (2,132), Newman (2,127), Kyle Busch (2,108), Greg Biffle (2,106), Matt Kenseth (2,054), Mark Martin (2,052) and Juan Pablo Montoya (2,049). Kurt Busch currently holds a 206-point advantage over 13th-place Kahne (2,048).
Penske Racing's Hornish holds down the 25th spot with 1,638 points, while David Stremme is 31st with 1,441 points.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads back down to Daytona International Speedway for the third of four exciting restrictor-plate races of the 2009 season.