CRASH ENDS STRONG DEBUT RUN FOR BUSCH IN MILLER LITE DODGE -Car Capable Of Winning Ran In Top Five For Majority Of Race Prior To Late-Race Incident- DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 19, 2006) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch definitely had a...
CRASH ENDS STRONG DEBUT RUN FOR BUSCH IN MILLER LITE DODGE
-Car Capable Of Winning Ran In Top Five For Majority Of Race Prior To Late-Race Incident-
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 19, 2006) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch definitely had a car capable of winning today's 48th Annual Daytona 500, but had his day unfortunately end prematurely when he was crashed out of the event in a late-race incident.
"It's a shame, because we had a winning car out there in our Miller Lite Dodge," said Busch, who was making his debut here today for Penske Racing. "We were running up front for the entire race and then just got a shot from the rear by the 26 car that put us in the wall and ended our day."
Busch started his Miller Lite Dodge in the 13th starting spot, but wasted little time in showing that he had a strong mount. He was up to ninth after just four laps and was seventh on the very next lap.
After bouncing back from problems during an early caution flag pit stop, Busch worked his way back up to seventh prior to the second caution of the race, which came out on Lap 49. A 14.133-second stop under that yellow helped move Busch all the way up to third for the ensuing restart.
Busch worked to position himself to lead the race. Under the third yellow of the race, which came out on Lap 79 for a multi-car crash, he led Lap 81 on the pit lane and picked up the five bonus points for doing so.
The 2004 NEXTEL Cup champion was able to continuously pilot his No. 2 Dodge to the front of the pack after the next four restarts after cautions, working the draft extremely well with Penske Racing South teammate Ryan Newman. The Dodge duo were running one and two on Lap 167 and were already plotting strategy to pit together for the final time should the race have stayed under the green.
Travis Kvapil tagged the Turn 4 wall on Lap 176 to bring out the eighth yellow flag of the race. A 16.840-second stop on Lap 177 placed Busch 11th in order for the Lap 179 restart. An air pressure adjustment would work to loosen the chassis up a bit to Busch's liking.
"Okay, Roy--count the laps down 15 to go, 10 to go, five to go," Busch instructed crew chief Roy McCauley, as the "2 car" climbed back up to the sixth spot on Lap 183. "We're really good now."
McCauley was able to give only the 15 to go count, unfortunately, as the cars went from single file to double file on Lap 186. In the middle of Turns 3 and 4, Jamie McMurray moved in closely on the rear bumper of Busch. He continued his aggressive action exiting the turn and tagged Busch hard, sending the Miller Lite Dodge into the outside concrete, first pancaking the right side and then badly damaging the entire rear of the car.
The incident brought out the ninth caution of the race and sent Busch down pit road for his crew to survey the damage. "I think we're done, guys," he radioed as the car sat in his pits. "I don't even have any brakes on this thing."
"Push her back to the garage, guys," McCauley radioed back. "We're done for the day. Sorry about that, Kurt."
The Miller Lite crew pushed their crumpled Dodge back to the garage and a disappointed Busch exited his car to face a throng of media members.
"We had a great car all day," Busch said. "I was so proud of my team. The Miller Lite Dodge was beautiful, working with my teammate Ryan Newman. We had a shot to win this race. Thanks to all my sponsors and all the guys that got behind us. We'll be back.
"We had the Miller Lite Dodge in position late in the race. I thought we had a shot. It's obvious. With 20 to go it was going to get busy. We were motoring. I'm so proud of our team. Our Dodges were great. It's a great way to start out. No matter where we end up in points, I think it was a great team effort. We really bounced back to have a great effort having everything new.
"We teamed up with Ryan Newman and showed strength all day. We were working together great. We just got a bump draft from behind that was a bit too rough."
"We had a fast race car out there--that's for sure--and Kurt really drove his heart out," McCauley said in his team transporter after the race. "We had a situation where the tires were just so tight in fitting in the fenderwells that some of our work in the pits didn't get done like we wanted. Kurt kept his cool, though, and we still had a great shot at winning until we got taken out. We always try to keep a positive attitude about things and keep a look at the big picture. I think everyone saw just how well the two Penske cars could work with each other. We'll bounce back next week at California and show how strong we can be on the intermediate sized tracks. We'll be back. I know how tough a driver that Kurt is and how strong of team we've put together here."
McMurray crashed later on in today's race, helping set up a green-white-checkered finish.
At the stripe, it was Jimmie Johnson taking the win. Johnson, racing today without crew chief Chad Knaus, who was suspended after rules violations this week, was able to hold off a huge pack of cars at the finish. After a scoring check, it was Casey Mears as the runner-up, with Newman finishing a strong third, Elliott Sadler fourth and Tony Stewart fifth. Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ken Schrader and Dale Jarrett rounded out today's top 10 finishers. Busch was officially credited with a 38th-place finish for the day.
The NEXTEL Cup tour now moves on to California Speedway for next weekend's running of the Auto Club 500. The schedule calls for Friday practice at 12:05 p.m. leading up to a single round of qualifying at 3:40 p.m. Saturday's final practice session is scheduled from 10:35 a.m. till 11:20 a.m. Sunday's 250-lap, 500-mile race starts at 1:05 p.m. PST and features live coverage by FOX-TV and MRN Radio.