BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 25, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch entered Saturday night's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway pointing to the race as his big question mark of the three events remaining to determine the players in this...
BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 25, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch entered Saturday night's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway pointing to the race as his big question mark of the three events remaining to determine the players in this year's Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship.
After finishing a strong sixth in Saturday's 500-lap battle around this lightning-fast 0.533-mile concrete oval, Busch was pleased, to say the least.
"It was definitely mission accomplished for our Miller Lite Dodge Avenger team here tonight," Busch said after cooling off after the race and meeting the throng of media gathered behind his team transporter. "Don't get me wrong. There are still two races remaining to put it all in place, but we have to be able to breathe a little sigh of relief after our performance here tonight.
"With all the attention that has been focused on the battle back there for the final Chase spot, it was quite amazing that we were racing the (No.) 8 car [Dale Earnhardt Jr.] for the majority of tonight's race. We knew that he finished right in front of us at the finish, but we didn't know at first that he'd sneaked in there and led a lap, too, like we did for the bonus points. We thought it'd turned out as a scratch and we were still 163 (points) ahead. But now they're telling me that we did lose five points of our advantage.
"The big thing is that we still haven't changed our game plan and strategy, and it was evident here tonight. We're not locked in yet and we'll continue to do what we have been doing over the last month or so and that's try to keep our consistent competitive pace going."
Crew chief Pat Tryson went a step further, labeling Saturday's results as "everything we could have asked for and more."
"The fact is that we struggled here yesterday morning [Friday] in practice, but we never gave up," Tryson continued. "For us to be running out there for four-fifths of the race as a strong top-five car really did make a statement, I think. Our team -- both the 2 and the 12 cars -- are becoming a really strong COT team. We'll only get better in time and we're already looking forward to the Richmond race in a couple of weeks.
"But the strategy has remained the same, in that as much as they want to play up the story line that we're playing defense and that we're just concentrating on the 8 car lap after lap, that could be no further from the truth. We're continuing to look ahead and try to reel in the guys who are in front of us in points. I am really proud of Kurt and the guys with the way we performed here tonight."
While Busch's advantage in holding the 12th spot in points fell ever so slightly from 163 points to 158, he is now only eight points behind 11th-place Martin Truex Jr. and nine points in arrears to the 10th-place Kevin Harvick.
Busch started Saturday's race in 19th, but was on a patient move toward the front from the drop of the green flag. After passing Matt Kenseth for 10th on lap 86, Busch continued to gather steam. He joined the top-five after a pit stop under the second caution period on lap 214. He ran in fourth until Tony Stewart got around him on lap 495. Earnhardt Jr. passed Busch for fifth one lap later.
With two races remaining before the title chase begins, Busch possesses a 158-point advantage over the 13th-place Earnhardt Jr. Busch trails the 11th-place Martin Truex Jr. by a mere eight points and the 10th-place Kevin Harvick by nine.
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup tour now heads back out to the California Speedway for next Sunday's Sharp Aquos 500. Next Sunday's 250-lap, 500-mile battle has a 5:00 p.m. local (PDS) starting time and features live coverage by ESPN-TV and MRN Radio.