Busch Rallies for 15th-place Finish at Infineon Raceway SONOMA, Calif. (June 21, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch knows that his finish in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway could have been better, but he also knows it...
Busch Rallies for 15th-place Finish at Infineon Raceway
SONOMA, Calif. (June 21, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch knows that his finish in Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway could have been better, but he also knows it could have been much...much...worse.
Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing No. 2 Team impressively salvaged a top-15 finish out of what appeared to be headed toward a devastating day in their bid for a spot in the 2009 edition of the "Chase for the NASCAR Championship."
The "Blue Deuce" was running fourth on Lap 90 of Sunday's 110-lap road course race when contact from three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson sent Busch into a spin off the track and into a tire barrier. The incident put today's race under the caution for the fifth time of the day.
Busch, Tryson and crew were able to repair their Dodge and get it back onto the rear of the field without losing a lap. Busch put on a driving clinic during the remaining 17 laps after the race returned to green. Restarting in the 38th spot, the 2004 series champ was able to mount a charge all the way back up to the 15th finishing spot.
"I initially was thinking that it was a pretty tough day out there when you're running fourth and a three-time champion dumps you," Busch said after cooling off in the team transporter and then facing the throng of media members gathered outside. "I was so worried we were going a lap down and finish way back there.
"He (Jimmie Johnson) said he hit the curb and just launched into us," Busch said. "He came over and apologized right after the race. It was just two champion drivers going after the same spot. It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it should have been much better. The pit stops sequenced out perfect for us and we were right on top of it with our fuel mileage strategy.
"It was a great day for the Miller Lite Dodge Team, but the run-in with the 48 car just put us back to the rear and fighting as hard as we could to get all the spots possible," said Busch. "We'll go into New Hampshire next weekend as the defending race champions and look to get back on course up front. We have a lot of good tracks coming up and we're looking to getting our ship back sailing full speed in the right direction."
Busch started Sunday's race back in the 27th spot and hit pit road for the first time on Lap 22 for four tires and fuel under the first caution of the day. After getting the first fuel mileage reading, Tryson and crew deduced that they could possibly make it the rest of the way on only one more pit stop. The team immediately went into a fuel-conserving mode.
Busch and Denny Hamlin ran first and second lap after lap, with Hamlin working with Busch to allow the "2 car" to lead Lap 37 and pick up five bonus points for doing so. After making his last scheduled pit stop on Lap 67, Busch was hoping for the remainder of the race to go green, which would have led to a certain top-five finish.
Bobby Labonte's spin on Lap 76 bunched the field back up again and a multi-car crash on Lap 82 had all the lead lap drivers running in the same sequence and capable of going the distance. Busch was third on the double-file restart on Lap 87. Juan Pablo Montoya was able to use the preferred outside lane to pass Busch heading up the hill out of Turn 1. Busch was trying to maintain the fourth spot three laps later when Johnson made the aggressive move on Busch's inside that wound up spinning the Miller Lite Dodge into the inside tire barrier.
Busch was finally able to finally get his Dodge back under power and moving without going a lap down. The incident brought out the fifth caution of the race, which allowed the team to make two stops under the yellow to repair extensive sheet metal damage and take on four fresh tires.
Busch was mired back in 38th on the Lap 93 restart and had climbed all the way back up to 19th in the running order when Scott Speed's stalled Toyota brought out the sixth yellow flag of the race and forced a green-white-checkered finish. In what proved to be a real bump-and-grind fest during the final two circuits, Busch was able to squeeze out a 15th-place finish.
Up front, it was Kasey Kahne holding off Tony Stewart for a 0.748-second victory and putting Richard Petty Motorsports back into Victory Lane. Marcos Ambrose came through to finish third, with Johnson finishing fourth and Hamlin fifth. Montoya finished sixth, with A.J. Allmendinger rallying from an early race spin to finish seventh. Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon and Elliott Sadler rounded out the top 10. Patrick Carpentier, Max Papis, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray and Busch completed the top-15 finishers.
Penske Racing teammates Sam Hornish Jr. and David Stremme finished 38th and 39th, respectively.
Busch's finish allowed him to maintain the fourth spot in the Cup Series point standings. With 2,084 points, he trails leader Stewart by 280 points. He is 196 behind second-place Jeff Gordon and he trails third-place Johnson by 123 points. He holds a 33-point advantage over fifth-place Carl Edwards. Most importantly, he was able to increase his distance over 13th in the standings (now Kahne) to 170 points.
Hornish is now 26th in the standings with 1,496 points, while Stremme holds down the 31st spot with 1,362 points.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour now makes the cross-country journey to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for next weekend's LENOX Industrial Tools 301. Next Sunday's LENOX Industrial Tools 301 (301 Laps, 318.485 Miles) is scheduled to get the green flag at approximately 2:00 p.m. EDT. Race No. 17 of 36 points-paying events on the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and PRN Radio.