Busch and Miller Lite Dodge Finish Third in All-Star Race CONCORD, N.C. (May 17, 2009) - Kurt Busch's strong third-place run behind the wheel of his "Taste Protector" Miller Lite Dodge in Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor ...
Busch and Miller Lite Dodge Finish Third in All-Star Race
CONCORD, N.C. (May 17, 2009) - Kurt Busch's strong third-place run behind the wheel of his "Taste Protector" Miller Lite Dodge in Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor Speedway left him only hungry for more. He'll get the opportunity to better that finish next weekend in the Coca-Cola 600 and Busch says his No. 2 Penske Racing Team is ready.
"It was really a good effort all the way around for this Miller Lite Dodge team," said Busch, who started tonight's non-points-paying four-segment, 100-lap race from the second starting spot. "I felt that the way that our car took off on green flag runs, the car just took too long to get going. That's a big mystery to us for sure and it's not anything you want in a 10-lap shootout. Overall, I thought that we had the best car on a 20-lap run, but that doesn't pay the big bucks tonight. We finished third, but that doesn't mean anything. If anything, we learned some things for next weekend's (Coca-Cola) 600 that hopefully we can apply and make our Miller Lite Dodge better.
"To take our 'Taste Protector Lid' Dodge Charger up to the front like we did and hang on for some segments of the race and then to put on some good pressure in other segments gives us a good feeling, and a little bit of a sour feeling knowing that we came home (in) third," said Busch of his second-best career finish in this race (finished second in 2003 edition). "But the good thing is that our car seems to run a little better on the longer runs, it just didn't pay anything tonight. For us, to qualify second and to run top-five all night, and then put on some pressure at the end definitely felt solid for our Dodge team. The horsepower that we built and the handling that we have was right there, we just couldn't quite take off on restarts which hurt us. Once we got going, I felt that our lap times were very competitive. Overall, a good night for us ... I was just hoping that the 17 and the 14 would duke it up a little and we would be able to come sliding through the smoke and hoist up the trophy.
"That's the good news of it," Busch said when asked about his car's growing strength as the lap count grew. "The fact that our car seemed like it would handle OK, but the other cars would come near us the longer that we ran. It's something that you don't know if you're setting-up into the car, it's just something that you're dealt. For a 600-mile race, you definitely want to be good on the long runs. What we can't do to ourselves is when we get to the end of the race, like it is right now...the track is cool...the temperatures have gone down...the lap times really pick up and that's where we've struggled a little bit... to lay those quick lap times down when tracks cool off."
After pole-winner Jimmie Johnson chose to take the outside-front-row spot for the start of tonight's race, Busch started inside of Johnson with the hopes of getting around and back up on the preferred higher groove on the first lap of the opening 50-lap segment. Johnson got a great start and Busch had to settle in behind the three-time series champion.
Jeff Gordon was on the move early an cleared Busch for second momentarily, but Busch fought back. Gordon's onboard camera gave the TV viewers some great looks at Busch's striking "Taste Protector" paint job that the team was displaying this weekend. As Busch and Gordon battled side-by-side and front-to-back, the special gold lid on Busch's quarter-panels got ample exposure.
A mandatory pit stop on Lap 26 saw Busch take on four tires and fuel, with the Pat Tryson-led team making air pressure adjustments in an attempt to give the No. 2 Dodge more grip. Johnson led after the stops cycled around, with Busch second, Gordon third, Matt Kenseth fourth and Mark Martin fifth.
The 50-lap segment ended with Johnson the leader, Kurt Busch second, Gordon third, Martin fourth and Kyle Busch fifth.
While the "2 car" went with four tires and fuel under the yellow-flag stop, several teams opted for only two tires and that shuffled the order for the start of the first of two 20-lap segments that followed.
Kyle Busch led at the start of the second segment, with Kenseth second, Jamie McMurray third, Sam Hornish Jr. fourth, Martin fifth, Johnson sixth and Kurt Busch seventh. A tight condition hampered the Miller Lite Dodge for much of the second segment, but the car got stronger as the laps progressed. But with cautions slowing the action, Kurt Busch was still running seventh at the end of the segment, with brother, Kyle, being shown as the leader.
Things got shuffled up during the third segment, which saw only Johnson among the leaders to hit pit road between the two 20-lap segments. Johnson's fresh tires allowed him to shoot up through the field, but he brushed the outside wall hard just before Hornish and Greg Biffle made contact to bring out another yellow flag. Gordon came through to be the leader at the end of the third segment, with Kenseth second, Kurt Busch third, Kyle Busch fourth, Johnson fifth and Tony Stewart moving up to sixth.
During the 10-minute break that set up the final 10-lap dash to the finish, Busch, Tryson and crew went with camber, track bar and air pressure adjustments, while taking on their four fresh Goodyear tires.
Things really got heated up during the final 10 laps, with three-wide action up front causing Johnson to go for a wild spin. While Kyle Busch led, brother Kurt got shuffled back as far as fifth. Gordon moved up to challenge the younger Busch for the lead, with Ryan Newman coming out of nowhere to also stake a claim for the top spot. A three-wide play put Gordon on the low side and squeezed him into a spin only two laps into the final segment. Gordon spun into the grass and then darted back across the track and into the outside wall, ending his night.
Double-file restarts kept the action close and the excitement high during the final laps of the race. Kyle Busch led on the restart after Gordon's incident, with Newman second, Kenseth third, Stewart fourth and Kurt Busch fifth.
Kenseth moved up to challenge Kyle Busch for the lead with Newman and Stewart pressuring the front two. Newman's tire issues took him from contention as another yellow flag fell for debris, which set up a five-lap battle to the finish.
Kenseth led on the final restart, with Kyle Busch second, Stewart third, Kurt Busch fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth. Kenseth got a great jump from the inside as Stewart moved under Kyle Busch for second. Kurt Busch got around his younger brother for third with three laps to go and set his eyes on the two front-runners.
Stewart was able to use an inside line to grab the lead from Kenseth with two laps to go as the Miller Lite Dodge continued to close in. Stewart went on to emerge the winner by 0.971 seconds over Kenseth, with Kurt Busch third, Hamlin fourth and Carl Edwards fifth. Martin, Kyle Busch, rookie Joey Logano (who got into the field by a fan vote), McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-10 finishers.
Hornish, Busch's Penske Racing teammate, had scored an impressive win in the preliminary qualifying race (Sprint Showdown) and brought his Mobil 1 Dodge home in the 16th spot. David Stremme, the third Penske Racing driver, made a valiant run in the preliminary race, but finished third and did not make the field for the featured All-Star Race.
"I'll tell you what, Kurt drove the wheels off that cool-looking Miller Lite Dodge out there tonight," offered crew chief Tryson. "We just need to get our cars capable of taking off better and getting into the corners better. But the great thing is that we learned a lot here tonight that we can use next week in the (Coca-Cola) 600.
"Our plan has worked out great so far," said Tryson. "This was the Texas car and not the best one in the stable. We purposefully are saving the Atlanta winning car for next week. As strong as we looked to be headed toward on any long runs tonight, it only adds confidence to how strong we can be here next weekend. That's a long race and there will be plenty of long runs.
"Tonight was just for fun," summed up Tryson. "Next week the points are on the line and we're going for all the marbles."
The Coca-Cola 600 weekend gets under way on Thursday. Practice leads up to the 7:10 p.m. qualifying session to establish the 43-car starting field. The track will be idle on Friday, but action heats back up on Saturday with the final two practice sessions. Next Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 is set to get the green flag at approximately 5:45 p.m. EDT and will feature flag-to-flag coverage by FOX-TV and PRN Radio.