HOMESTEAD, Fla. (November 12, 2000) - The presidential election race wasn't the only race being talked about in Southern Florida on Sunday, and it was a "Bush" by another name garnering attention as the Winston Cup circuit made its second annual...
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (November 12, 2000) - The presidential election race wasn't the only race being talked about in Southern Florida on Sunday, and it was a "Bush" by another name garnering attention as the Winston Cup circuit made its second annual trip to the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Kurt Busch and the John Deere crew brought the same car to the 33rd race of the season that finished 13th at Lowe's Motor Speedway in October, and they hoped coupling that with an earlier two-day test session at the facility would be the combination for success.
The weekend got off to a fast start as Busch posted the 10th fastest time in qualifying, equaling his career-best Winston Cup starting position. With two early practice sessions on Saturday before Sunday's main event, the John Deere team felt confident they had a car capable of finishing the race as high as it qualified.
After two early caution flags on laps 25 and 32, the race ran uninterrupted for 170 laps, and it quickly became evident which cars were competitive and which ones were not. Busch radioed to the pits that he was loose exiting the corners on Homestead's 1.5-mile oval, but over the course of the first 100 laps, Busch never fell below 17th place and spent the first 50 laps running in the top 10.
A green-flag pit stop on lap 92 provided the second stop of the day for the John Deere crew, but it would become apparent soon after the stop the chassis change attempted at making the car more driveable caused Busch to begin battling a more severe loose-handling condition.
At the midpoint of the 267-lap race, Busch was solidly in the top 20, but he had lost a lap to the leaders as the long, green-flag run saw significant separation throughout the field. Busch brought the yellow-and-green Ford back into the pits on laps 145 and again the four-tire stop came under green-flag racing conditions. After the green-flag stops were completed, Busch guided the No.97 machine around the track in 17th place.
Realizing they had the chance to make it to the finish with just one more stop, the John Deere crew called Busch into the pits on lap 205, and after a costly speeding penalty, Busch returned to the race track three laps down to the leaders. With the leaders having yet to pit, the only thing that would keep Busch from gaining back one of his laps was an untimely caution, and on lap 209 the dreaded caution flag appeared. Busch opted not to pit during the break in the action, and as the race resumed green-flag conditions on lap 218, Busch was shown in 20th place on the leaderboard. Since the cars in 18th place through 27th place were also in the same racing situation as Busch, there was still time for Busch to pick off a few more positions before the checkered flag waved.
The race would be slowed just one more time on lap 223 as the fourth caution flag waved, but the John Deere team again opted not to pit with the intentions of picking up as much track position as possible. Busch fought his way to 19th during the final green-flag segment and followed teammate Jeff Burton to the finish line over the course of the last 30 laps to bring the John Deere Ford home in 19th place.
Busch remains in 21st place in the Winston Cup owner point standings, and closed the gap to 20th place with one race remaining in the 2000 season. The team heads to the 1.54-mile oval of Atlanta Motor Speedway for the season ending NAPA 500 next Sunday.
"We really didn't need that caution flag on flag on lap 209. We pitted under green and I got caught speeding into the pits, but the caution just four laps later was like rubbing salt in a wound. It still wasn't a bad day for the John Deere team, but we want to start making a more consistent run in the top 10. We did it at the start of the race for the first 50 laps, but now we need to hold on to that for a longer period of time.
"We're getting there, and we improved the car by the end of the race, so we can walk out of here with some notes for next year. That tells you something about this team, though. We're not happy just getting a top-20 finish, we want to be where Mark (Martin), Jeff (Burton) and Matt (Kenseth) are on a weekly basis. We did that in qualifying this week, and that gives us a little something extra heading into Atlanta."