BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 14, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch scored a hard-earned 11th-place finish on the Watkins Glen, N.Y., road course last Sunday and increased the distance between his "Chase-eligible" 12th position in the ...
BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 14, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch scored a hard-earned 11th-place finish on the Watkins Glen, N.Y., road course last Sunday and increased the distance between his "Chase-eligible" 12th position in the point standings to the drivers outside the Chase.
"That's the hardest I've ever driven to just get an 11th-place finish out of it," said Busch, who is now 96 points in front of Penske Racing teammate Ryan Newman [13th] and 100 points ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. [14th]. "It was so frustrating to have a car capable of winning or at least a top-five car and have to hit pit road while running second because of the fuel mileage we were getting.
"Pat [Tryson, crew chief] did a super job in keeping me calm and focused because he has such a great grasp on the big picture."
Busch has won races on all four tracks remaining to determine this year's Chase competitors.
"He [Tryson] had told me that the [No.] 8 car [Dale Earnhardt Jr.] had problems and was out of the race, but I was focused on trying to get around the [No.] 07 car [Clint Bowyer] and the [No.] 1 car [Martin Truex Jr.] because those are the guys in front of us in points.
"By the time we got home last night [Sunday], it had really registered that The Glen was a great big-picture race for us," Busch said late Monday afternoon. "I'm just so grateful to have Pat Tryson calling the shots. Just like I told him throughout the race yesterday [Sunday], I trust him to make the right calls and will do whatever he decides. He's that good of a strategist. It's a real confident feeling I have when I look back on the race now. While I was focused on nothing but moving forward, Pat had our backs covered all the way. That's really cool.
"We have a great team -- one that's definitely worthy of making the Chase -- and if we can keep everything clicking along, we can give it a strong run on down the line. But we're not counting any chickens just yet.
"We're taking them one race at a time and Michigan is the next one on our radar screen. We've won at Michigan before and had a lot of super strong runs. We're headed back in there looking to continue the competitive level we've shown during the last several races."
Tryson noted Monday night that "Kurt raced his tail end off yesterday at The Glen and if he didn't prove to one and all that he's one of the best road racers in NASCAR during the weekend, I don't know what else he could do. With us having to play the conservative route on fuel, we had to pit for the final time with 25 (laps) to go. They slapped us with a speeding penalty on Kurt's exit, so he was way back in the 37th spot for the (lap 66) restart.
"Kurt was able to scratch and claw his way all the way back up to 11th when it was over and it was an absolutely amazing piece of driving on his part. The way he was running there at the end of the race, if we'd had a couple of more laps, he'd probably have finished sixth or seventh."
Tryson has led Busch from a 236-point deficit to Chase eligibility to the current 96-point "Chase cushion" during his seven-race stretch as crew chief for the No. 2 Penske team.
"He was frustrated with the fuel mileage situation there at The Glen on Sunday and I understand that," Tryson continued. "Our engine guys are really working hard on that end of the equation and I'm confident we'll get better. Just like everything else in this business, there is no overnight fix. Chances are that we'll see the fuel mileage come into play once again at Michigan this weekend because the track is notorious for that kind of race.
"One of the biggest things we'll have going for us this weekend is the fact that we're bringing out a brand-new car, our (PSC-) 111 Miller Lite Dodge Charger. With the move to all COT cars next season, this will probably be the last of the old style cars to come through the shop. We've been spending a lot of time on this car getting it ready for Michigan and think it'll be a strong ride for Kurt this weekend.
"We just have to keep focusing on the big picture. We have to play out the conservative strategy for the next few races, but that doesn't mean we're not looking to climb further up in the points. We're only 58 (points) out of 11th, 126 out of 10th and 138 out of ninth. Like I told them after the race on Sunday, I'm so glad that I am working with a driver like Kurt who isn't pleased with an 11th-place finish. I'd lots rather have to control the fire than to light the flame."
Busch, who won the June 2003 race at MIS, has five top-10 finishes in 13 races on the 2-mile track. His fourth-place start in the June 2003 race rates as his best. Busch started 10th and finished 25th in his most recent race at MIS, the June 17 Citizens Bank 400. He led laps early in the race and appeared to be headed toward a top-five finish before loose lug nuts during a pit stop with 40 laps remaining in the race forced him to pit under the green. He lost two laps and could never recover them.
This weekend's NEXTEL Cup action at Michigan International Speedway begins with practice on Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday's 3:10 p.m. single round of qualifying will allocate all 43 starting spots for Sunday's battle. Saturday's action features practice sessions from 10-10:50 a.m. and from 1:50-2:50 p.m. Sunday's 3M Performance 400 [400 miles/200 laps] has a 2 p.m. EDT starting time with live coverage provided by ESPN and MRN Radio.