Chicagoland: Kurt Busch race report

JOLIET, Ill. (July 15, 2007) -- Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Miller Lite Dodge team started from the rear of the field in Sunday's USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, but rallied to finish sixth and now stand only 77 points out of ...

JOLIET, Ill. (July 15, 2007) -- Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Miller Lite Dodge team started from the rear of the field in Sunday's USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, but rallied to finish sixth and now stand only 77 points out of eligibility for the 2007 Chase for the Championship.

"It was a tremendous day all around for our Miller Lite Dodge team," a happy Busch said just after crawling from his No. 2 Dodge in the garage after the checkered flag waved. "Pat Tryson made all the right calls on the box and the guys were pretty flawless in the pits all day long. I really wanted that first top-five here at Chicago, but I guess we shouldn't get that greedy having to start from the rear and all."

Busch qualified 35th, but had to drop to 43rd at the start of the race due to an engine change in his Miller Lite Dodge prior to qualifying on Friday.

"With a third at Daytona last week and a sixth here today, our team really has a lot of momentum going and it'll be a great time for our week off next weekend," Busch said. "It's a great big-picture day for us as we continue to nip away at that deficit up to 12th. That's the big goal, making the Chase, and if we continue to string together great solid runs like we've had the last couple of weeks, we're definitely headed toward achieving that goal."

After the race started, Busch made steady progress through the field. He was up to 30th on lap 18 and got around Jamie McMurray for 20th on lap 39. After pitting on lap 49 during the first round of green-flag pit stops, Busch was up to 16th when the round of stops cycled around on lap 55.

It wasn't until lap 59 that the race's first caution flag flew, this one for a Jeff Green spin in turn 2. While Kevin Harvick and Reed Sorenson stayed out to gain track position, Busch was among the majority of drivers who stormed down pit road. The No. 2 team went with right-side tires only and was up to 14th on the lap 64 restart.

"Tight in, loose off," Busch radioed in on lap 100 as he moved up to 13th.

Only eight laps later, the second round of green flag stops began. Leader Harvick hit pit road on lap 110 and second-place runner Jimmie Johnson came down pit road a lap later. Tryson coached Busch around for four more circuits and the team picked up five bonus points for leading laps 114-115 before pitting.

The extra time spent on the slower old tires saw Busch running 14th when the stops cycled around on lap 117, but he was back up to 13th on lap 154 when McMurray slammed the turn 4 wall to trigger the second caution period. A 13.362-second stop helped put Busch in ninth for the lap 160 restart.

When Robby Gordon crashed on lap 164 to bring out the race's third of seven yellow flags, Busch remained on the track and was up to eighth for the lap 169 restart.

Dave Blaney's turn 2 crash on lap 202 brought out the fourth caution flag and sent all 18 lead-lap cars back onto pit road. Busch's crew went with four tires, fuel, a right-rear tire air pressure adjustment and a track bar change. The 12.736-second stop had Busch still in eighth for the lap 208 restart.

Johnson cut a right-front tire on lap 223, slamming into the turn 4 wall and eliminating all predictions that Sunday's race would come down to fuel strategy in determining the winner.

With all of the 17 lead-lap cars having to pit again for fuel to make the distance, the big decision became deciding on how many tires to take. Busch, Tryson and the crew rolled the dice, taking no tires and opting for only fuel and a track bar adjustment. The end result saw the No. 2 car enter the pits in seventh and exit in third for the restart with 37 laps remaining.

At the return to green, Tony Stewart led, with Matt Kenseth second, Busch third, Harvick fourth, Casey Mears fifth, Ryan Newman sixth, Denny Hamlin seventh, Jeff Burton eighth, Clint Bowyer ninth and Jeff Gordon 10th. Carl Edwards, Sorenson, Mark Martin, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 17 cars that were still on the lead lap.

Kenseth got around Stewart to lead lap 231, but Stewart passed the No. 17 car to gain control of the lead for good on lap 232.

Busch held off Harvick for a couple of laps, but the No. 29 went around for the third spot on lap 233. The hard-charging Edwards got around Busch for fourth on lap 244, just before J.J. Yeley crashed in turn 2 on lap 245 to bring out the sixth caution flag.

None of the leaders pitted with less than 20 laps remaining in the race and the action returned to green on lap 249. Busch held down the fifth spot, but Mears managed to pass him just as Joe Nemechek crashed in turn 3 to bring out the final caution flag.

The final 12 laps went green with Busch finishing sixth and teammate Newman coming home eighth.

After 19 races this season, only seven remain to determine the 12 eligible drivers for this year's "Chase for the Championship." Martin Truex Jr. possesses the 11th spot with 2,208 points. Earnhardt is 12th with 2,151. Newman holds down the 13th spot with 2,121 points, while Busch is up to 14th with 2,074. McMurray fell back to 15th with 2,040 points.

"This is a really good group of guys we have on this team over here and I'm so proud to be working with Kurt and this Miller Lite Dodge team," Tryson said as the team loaded its car into the transporter. "We have a lot of potential and we're getting the momentum rolling behind us. We're having a lot of fun right now, but that doesn't mean that we don't all have our noses to the grindstone, getting everything we can out there. We just have to keep it up, stay focused and grounded. We're all looking forward to Indy and looking forward to the opportunity to get Roger [Penske] and Miller Lite their first win in the Brickyard 400."

After taking next weekend off, Busch, Tryson and their Miller Lite Dodge team return to action at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, as the teams begin the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard racing weekend. The race marks ESPN's return to covering NASCAR's elite NEXTEL Cup Series.

-credit: pr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya