BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 17, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch appeared to be on his way to a strong top-five finish in Sunday's Citizens Bank 400 at Michigan International Speedway before bad luck in the pits took its toll. The end result...
BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 17, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch appeared to be on his way to a strong top-five finish in Sunday's Citizens Bank 400 at Michigan International Speedway before bad luck in the pits took its toll. The end result saw Busch relegated to a 25th-place finish, two laps off the pace.
"That's a pretty tough pill to swallow right there," Busch said as he cooled off after an extremely hot afternoon of racing in Michigan's Irish Hills. "We were definitely top-five here this afternoon before the problem. At least they said that it didn't hurt us much in the points. All we can do is try to get it all together and go after it again next week on the road course in Sonoma [Calif.]."
Busch started Sunday's race in 10th and gradually moved his way into the top-five. He showed that his Miller Lite Dodge was again a threat to visit Victory Lane by the race's mid-point as he took the lead on lap 109 before pitting during a long green-flag stretch.
Busch was running a strong fourth when the third round of green-flag pit stops was cycling through. He hit pit road on lap 153 for four tires and fuel, with an air pressure adjustment to the left-rear Goodyear radial. The service took only 13.352 seconds by the Miller Lite crew.
However, only two laps later Busch radioed his crew that he was feeling a bad vibration. The stops cycled through and the No. 2 car was still running fourth on lap 160. Jimmie Johnson led, with Carl Edwards second, Martin Truex Jr. third, Busch fourth and Tony Stewart fifth.
The vibration worsened and the team was forced to pit again on lap 165 to address the problem. The issue was found to involve the lug nuts on the right-front wheel.
"We're still not out of this thing," crew chief Troy Raker told Busch as he returned to the action one lap down and in 20th. "Almost all of these guys are going to have to pit again, at least for a splash of fuel. Just keep after it."
While chasing down Denny Hamlin in an effort to gain the "Lucky Dog" free pass and regain the lost lap should another caution flag wave, Busch faced the vibration once again on lap 173.
By lap 181, the situation was such that Busch was forced to pit again with only 18 laps remaining in the race. After hitting pit road again on lap 182, Busch fell to 29th in the running order. Busch was able to fight back up to a 25th-place finish during the closing laps.
"The loose lugs on that stop with 50 laps to go did some damage to the wheel studs," Raker explained. "That came back to bite us and we had to make the other pit stop. Kurt drove his heart out and the guys gave us great stops all day except for that one problem. We'll keep after it and we're determined to get the good finishes that Kurt and our team deserve."
After Sunday's race, Busch remained 16th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings with 1,547 points. With 11 races remaining in the quest to make the 2007 "Chase for the Championship," Busch trails 12th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 144 points.
The NEXTEL Cup tour now heads to Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., for the first of two road course races this season. Busch won the pole and finished fifth in last year's battle on the 1.99-mile track located in the California wine country. Next Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 [350 kilometers/110 laps/218.9 miles] has a 2 p.m. PDT [5 p.m. EDT] starting time and features live coverage by TNT and PRN Radio.