Kurt Busch Finishes Runner-Up To Teammate Newman In Daytona 500 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2008) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch started last and finished second in today's 50th annual Daytona 500 here at Daytona International Speedway.
Kurt Busch Finishes Runner-Up To Teammate Newman In Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2008) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch started last and finished second in today's 50th annual Daytona 500 here at Daytona International Speedway. His day in this special edition of NASCAR racing "Super Bowl" was so filled with drama that it could warrant documentation by a book or even a movie.
Due to electrical problems in his 150-mile qualifying race last Thursday, Busch was forced to use his "Champion's Provisional" starting spot here today and was 43rd ( and last) on the starting grid. He overcame a glut of obstacles en route to his runner-up finish behind Penske teammate Ryan Newman. Fighting a "super tight" Miller Lite Dodge for the majority of the 200-lap, 500-mile battle, Busch bounced back from a speeding penalty and a serious overheating condition to push his Newman to team owner Roger Penske's first win in "The Great American Race."
"It was a great run for the Miller Lite Dodge," said Busch, still looking for his first win in the Daytona 500, but now with three runner-up finishes in only eight races. We started 43rd. For one instant, driving down the back straightaway, if Ryan didn't pull up in front of us, I honestly thought we had a shot at winning the Daytona 500. But, you know, having that mindset all day of just plugging away, working our way up, and if this thing ends and we're 10th or better, that's a victory.
"For us to come home and push Ryan to victory, I feel like I've got a small bit of that victory within me," Busch said. "I was emotional pushing him across the line. It felt incredible to have a Penske 1-2 finish today. To have Newman jump up in front of me, I thought that was the most beautiful thing in the world because I knew one of us Penske cars was going to win at that point. I'm just very happy. I'm not bitter at all for finishing second. To take this car and finish second with it, I think that's something special. But then that's definitely overshadowed by a Penske 1-2 finish today. That is something very important and I think that needs to be acknowledged."
Busch experienced extremely tight handling conditions from the drop of the green flag here today. His Pat Tryson-led team massaged their chassis throughout the race via track bar, wedge and tire pressure adjustments.
After climbing up as high as 21st in the early going, Busch fell back to 37th before making his first scheduled pit stop under the green on Lap 35. He overshot his pits and had to be pushed back into the "box" before getting the initial service and adjustments. He had fallen all the way back to 39th when the stops cycled around on Lap 39.
After pitting under green again on Lap 76, the first caution flag of the race flew on Lap 80 for debris on the backstretch. Busch, Tryson and crew elected to stay out for track position. The "blue deuce" lined up behind Reed Sorenson for the Lap 84 restart and wasted little time in grabbing the lead one lap later.
It was the Busch Brothers -- Kurt and Kyle -- holding down the top two spots for the next 15 laps, before the elder Busch was shuffled back to seventh at the race's midpoint on Lap 100. "We need the front to turn better and the rear to stick better," Busch radioed to his crew.
Busch had fallen to 21st in the running order on Lap 121 when green-flag stops were again the order. After pitting for fuel, tires and additional adjustments, Busch was tagged with a "drive-through" penalty for speeding in exiting the pits. When the stops cycled around, he was running 32nd and was a whopping 32 seconds behind the leaders.
The second caution flag of the race flew on Lap 152, this one again for debris. Attempting to pit when the pit road opened, Busch barely avoided disaster when he almost collided with Greg Biffle. Biffle was exiting his pit when Busch was attempting to enter his. The end result saw Busch have to go back around the track and hit pit road again. Relegated to restart at the tail end of the lead lap, the team decided to add tape to the grill in an effort to give the car more downforce. It would almost prove to be a fatal move.
Running 26th on the Lap 155 restart, Busch held his own until the third yellow of the race flew on Lap 161 when Roush Racing's David Regan and Matt Kenseth crashed in Turn 4. Busch hit pit road again during caution and was 20th in the order for the Lap 165 restart,
Inching up toward the front of the field by Lap 170, the team's move to add extra tape to the grill almost bit their effort. "That tape has the radiator getting really up there," Busch radioed. "The water temp's up to 260 and we're not going to make it to the end. What do you want me to do, Pat?"
"Stay out there and keep doing what you're doing," Tryson shot back.
Fortunately for Busch and crew, they caught the caution they needed on Lap 177 when Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. spun off Turn 2 to bring out the fourth caution period.
Busch was able to pit for fuel, tires, adjustments and to address the issue with the tape on the grill on Lap 178. An ingenious move saw gasman Chris Williams make the move to the front of the car to pull the tape off without having to utilize any additional personnel.
Busch was back up to 13th for the Lap 180 restart with only 20 laps remaining in the race. Only three laps later, leader Clint Bowyer was spun out by Juan Montoya to bring out the fifth caution period. Newman had the lead for the Lap 187 restart, with Montoya second, Jeff Burton third, Greg Biffle fourth and Kyle Busch fifth. The Miller Lite Dodge was running 14th.
Dave Blaney got a tap from Kevin Harvick, sending him into the fourth turn wall on Lap 189 and bringing out the sixth caution period of the event.
Busch was seventh on the Lap 192 restart, but only two laps later Casey Mears was into the wall to bring out caution flag No. 7.
With only three laps remaining, Burton led when the field returned to green-flag racing. Kyle Busch was second, Tony Stewart third, Newman fourth and Dale Earnhardt fifth. Busch was sixth, Kasey Kahne seventh, Reed Sorenson eighth, Elliott Sadler ninth and Robby Gordon 10th.
Stewart grabbed the lead with two laps to go and had the Penske tandem directly on his bumper. Busch and Sorenson held the top line coming down for the white flag. While Stewart opted for the lower groove, Newman jumped to the outside and got a push from Busch down the backstretch and through the final turns.
The Penske duo drafted on past Stewart at the line for a 1-2 finish. Stewart was third, with Kyle Busch fourth and Sorenson fifth. Sadler, Kahne, Robby Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Greg Biffle rounded out today's top-10 finishers.
"Kurt was the push from heaven that made it all happen," Newman said. "Without a doubt, he could have easily gone three-wide and split us through the center and made one heck of a mess there. But he chose to be a teammate, and that was the most honorable thing that he could do."
"The way today's race unfolded for us, my car just didn't have the muscle that it takes to win at Daytona," said Busch. "To have that mentality of, Hey, let's just do the best we can, protect our car, make it to the end, and gave us an opportunity to go for the win. But we weren't able to drive into Victory Lane because our car just didn't quite have the muscle I thought it needed. I'm still on the high of Penske Racing finishing 1-2. I'm sure later on this week and throughout the year I'll wish that I had an opportunity to win. But to finish runner-up for the third time, it's great. I've got many more years ahead of me. I finished second in the truck race here before. I've finished second I think twice in an IROC car. Newman beat me once in an IROC race. I do remember that. I'm going to have to remind him of that (smiling). But it's a tough race. It's a tough track. To have a shot at winning, to sniff it, smell it, feel the emotion on the last lap of being close, is something that will fuel me for the rest of my career to try to win one of these."