In a race that saw four different drivers, including Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch, lead laps before blowing tires to face major setbacks, the No. 2 Penske Racing Team could be considered as fortunate compared to some of the others in the ...
In a race that saw four different drivers, including Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch, lead laps before blowing tires to face major setbacks, the No. 2 Penske Racing Team could be considered as fortunate compared to some of the others in the Coca-Cola 600 here at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Busch started the 600, the NASCAR Sprint Cup tour's longest and most demanding race, from the eighth spot. Even though he was fighting a loose handling condition during the early laps, he made steady progress to be able to scoot around Jimmie Johnson on the restart after the second caution period to grab the lead on Lap 67.
Busch led two times for 64 laps and was running second behind leader Brian Vickers on Lap 161 when a blown right-front tire sent him careening into the wall to bring out the second yellow flag of the race. Even with a badly damaged right-side of his Dodge, he was able to maintain control and nurse his car back around to pit road.
After several stops under the yellow to repair bent sheet metal and repair the "toe-in" on the car, Busch was 17th on the Lap 165 restart. Even though he was an innocent victim of a "domino-effect" crash on a later restart that broke his right-front splitter and forced the team to make numerous stops under the sixth caution period on Lap 223, he pressed on.
Busch fell back as far as 21st in the running order on the Lap 228 restart after that caution and fought a continuous tight handing condition for the remainder of the race. Not catching the fuel mileage break that several others got at the end of the race, he was forced to pit with 10 laps remaining for a final splash of fuel and went on to finish 16th.
"After having a car that was strong enough to get up there and lead like we did, I'd be dishonest to not admit that it was a disappointing night for us," Busch said some 30 minutes after the race, when he had cooled off and retreated to the motor coach lot. "This just seems to happen too often with our cars. We have some really fast periods of races only to have problems with the right-front-tire.
"I really though that we had a fifth-place car at worst for about half of the race and then the tire blew," said Busch. "I know that all the guys around me were trying to make me see how things could have been worse by telling me that this guy had this happen to him and that guy had something else bad happen to him. Maybe I'll understand it all tomorrow when I look back and it all sinks in."
When Busch does review Sunday's race, he'll see that fate was extremely cruel to not only him, but many of the other drivers who managed to grab the lead and show strength. After Busch had his problems, Brian Vickers showed dominating capability until a blown tire sent him into the wall on Lap 186. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading on Lap 298 when a flat tire saw him meet the concrete to bring out the eighth caution period of the race. Tony Stewart appeared to have the race won after a series of gas-and-go pit stops in the final laps of the race only to see him forced back on pit road on Lap 398 due to a flat tire.
"That was a really weird race and I can understand why Kurt is a little frustrated," said crew chief Pat Tryson. "It was like you really didn't want to lead the race because misfortune was soon to follow. We definitely had more than our share of tire problems here tonight and I'm sure that Goodyear is already all over it.
"The bottom line is that I look back on our race at Darlington and then here tonight and I have to think that we're making some progress in racing these new cars," added Tryson. "I know that we still have a ton of work to do yet, but we're much better than we were a couple of months back. I'm really proud of the job that Sam (Hornish Jr.) Chris (Carrier) and all the guys over there on the No. 77 team did here tonight. They got a lap down and fought back like a veteran team would. With a little better luck, they would have finished in the top-10 here tonight."
Kasey Kahne was strong all night long here in the race, starting on the outside pole and remaining in contention during the entire race. When Stewart had his tire problem in the waning laps, Kahne was able to overcome a four-second deficit, take the lead and hold off Gregg Biffle to take the win by 10.203 seconds. Kyle Busch was third with Jeff Gordon and Earnhardt stretching their fuel mileage to finish fourth and fifth, respectively. Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler, Carl Edwards and David Reutimann rounded out today's top-10 finishers.
Positions 11-20, in order, went to Bobby Labonte, David Ragan, Sam Hornish Jr., Kevin Harvick, Mark Martin, Kurt Busch, Dave Blaney, Stewart, Regan Smith and A.J. Almendinger.
Kurt Busch moved up a spot in the Sprint Cup point standings to 21st. After 12 races, he has 1,192 points. Kyle Busch leads with 1,860 and has a 94-point advantage over second-place Burton. Earnhardt is third and trails Kyle Busch by 139 points. Kurt Busch currently is 294 points behind 10th-place Gordon and he trails 12th-place Kahne by 262 points.