Busch Earns Ninth-Place Finish at Pocono on Monday LONG POND, Pa. (Aug. 3, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch had a taste of leading today's Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway and posed a serious threat to score his...
Busch Earns Ninth-Place Finish at Pocono on Monday
LONG POND, Pa. (Aug. 3, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch had a taste of leading today's Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway and posed a serious threat to score his third career victory on the 2.5-mile "Tricky Triangle" track. Unfortunately for the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, a series of late-race caution flags worked against him and he had to rally to finish ninth.
"We had a nice solid run today, coming out with a top 10," Busch said after posting his 11th top-10 finish in the first 21 races of the 2009 season. "Nobody gained or lost any points as far as our position in the standings goes.
"Nonetheless, I am still disappointed because I just felt like we had a car to win the race with 40 to go and we just had some untimely yellows," Busch added. "We didn't get any yellows last week to get the lucky dog, but got a bunch of yellows this week to take a possible win away. We had a great car, though, and we can be proud about that.
"We had done so well on all the restarts leading up to the end, picking up spots left and right," said Busch. "To tell you the truth, I'm beating myself up pretty bad right now because we had our worst restart when we needed a good one the most. I thought the 11 car (eventual race-winner Denny Hamlin) was a tick better than us, so I'd hoped to duck in behind him. He was back there on the late restart and we were right behind him. He blasted through the field and we'd hope to be right there glued to his rear end. It just didn't work out that way."
Busch might have failed in picking up his third career victory here at Pocono today, but he certainly worked to solidify his bid to make this year's "Chase for the Championship." He entered today's weather-delayed race, the 21st of 26 races that make up the "Chase to the Chase," leading 13th-place David Reutimann by 247 points. After today's battle and with five races remaining until the 12-team Chase field is set, Busch now holds a 289-point advantage over 13th-place Kyle Busch.
"I know Kurt wanted more out of today's race than the ninth-place finish and we all did," said crew chief Pat Tryson. "We had to go the conservative route in today's race by getting the four tires there toward the end. Some guys stayed out and 10 or so guys took on only two tires and lined up in front of us. So we went from leading the race to being 15th on the restart.
"These double-file restarts have added a lot of excitement for the fans and we're all for that," said Tryson. "They've definitely raised the stress level up and down pit road. Kurt's one of the best out there in gaining ground under this new format. He picked up eight spots one time, three on another and two on another in just a single lap. He got a little ticked at himself that he couldn't follow Denny (Hamlin) up through there at the end, but it was a super day for us as far as the big picture goes.
"We have a pretty good lead on 13th right now, but a lot can happen with five races remaining before the Chase," said Tryson. "We need to go on to Watkins Glen next weekend in a pretty conservative mode. We need to run strong, don't chance it on fuel and keep the car on track for the entire race. If we can get another top-10 up there, it'll open up the door to go all out to win some races at Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond."
After qualifying was rained out on Friday, Busch was to start yesterday's race from the fourth starting spot. Adverse weather conditions on Sunday saw him begin the event from that second-row-outside spot today.
Busch fell to the sixth spot after a competition yellow on Lap 21 and rejoined the top-five competitors on a Lap 61 restart after the third caution of the day. He was running fifth when Bobby Labonte spun in Turn 3 to bring out the fourth caution period on Lap 96.
The incident produced the first "jumbled up" restart on Lap 101. Several drivers stayed out under the yellow. Others opted for right-side tires only. Busch was among the group going with four fresh Goodyears, which dropped him back to 13th on the restart.
Busch's incredible inside move off Turn 1 and through the Tunnel Turn saw him advance all the way up to fifth after only one lap under green. He had moved up to fourth after a round of green-flag pit stops cycled around on Lap 134.
A caution for debris on Lap 142 sent Busch and others back to pit road. Teams that had stretched their mileage and stayed out in the pit cycle opted to not pit this time around and lined up in front for the Lap 146 restart. The turn of events helped put Mark Martin, Brian Vickers, Jeff Burton and Sam Hornish Jr. into contention. Hamlin lined up fifth, with Carl Edwards sixth and Busch seventh.
Busch had fought his was back up to fourth when Penske Racing teammate David Stremme had an altercation with Robby Gordon that brought out the seventh caution of the race on Lap 150. Busch made an outside run on the Lap 152 restart that shot him up to second the next circuit around. He got under Martin on Lap 153 to officially take the lead on Lap 154.
Busch led through two cautions until pitting under Caution No. 9 on Lap 167. With Busch, Tryson and team going with four tires and other teams again going with only two, the "Blue Deuce" lined up 15th for the Lap 170 restart. While Hamlin, who was 14th on the restart, appeared to make all the right moves, Busch got stuck in the outside line and was marred in traffic in the 11th position for lap after lap.
Busch was able to maneuver up to seventh, running just behind sixth-place Hamlin, when the 11th caution flag of the race flew on Lap 182 for a wild multi-car crash that saw Labonte go head-on into the outside wall.
The race restarted on Lap 187 with 13 laps to go. Clint Bowyer led, with Hornish second, Kasey Kahne third, Juan Pablo Montoya fourth, Matt Kenseth fith, Hamlin sixth, Busch seventh, Tony Stewart eighth, Vickers ninth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. 10th.
While Hamlin used an inside shot around the traffic to gain spots, Busch got mired in traffic and fell back. While Hamlin was taking the lead on Lap 191, Busch was caught up in a pack of cars, beating and banging for the 11th spot.
At the finish, Hamlin was able to emerge with a 0.869-second win over second-place Montoya. Hamlin's win was his first of the season and third in eight races here. It was an emotional victory for the No. 11 JGR Toyota driver as he dedicated the win to his grandmother, who had passed away late last week. Bowyer finished third, with Hornish coming through with his first top-five tally in finishing fourth. Kahne was fifth, with Vickers sixth, Martin seventh, Jeff Gordon eighth, Busch ninth and Stewart 10th.
After 21 races, Stewart holds a 197-point lead (3,188 to 2,991) over Jimmie Johnson in the current Sprint Cup point standings. Johnson had a miraculous run here today that saw him come from three laps down to finish 13th. Jeff Gordon is third (2,989) and Busch is fourth (2,751). Busch now is 437 points out of first and 197 out of second. He is 199 out of third and has a 38-point advantage over fifth-place Hamlin. He leads 10th-place Martin by 129 points, 11th-place Matt Kenseth by 187 points and 12th-place Greg Biffle by 188 points. Biffle now holds a 101-point advantage over 13th-place Kyle Busch.
Hornish's great finish here today moved him up to 27th in the standings (1,966 points). Penske teammate Stremme finished 32nd here today and is 31st in the standings (1,766 points).
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour now heads back to Watkins Glen International for the final road course race of the 2009 season