Darlington Raceway 500
KURT BUSCH FINISHES 27th IN SHOWTIME SOUTHERN 500 AT DARLINGTON
Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Driver Eighth in NASCAR Sprint Cup Point Standings After 10 Races
DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 7, 2011) -- Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch fought to a 27th-place finish in tonight’s SHOWTIME Southern 500 here at Darlington Raceway. Driving a backup Dodge Charger in tonight’s battle, Busch fought handling issues most of the race and is now eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings after 10 races have been placed into the 2011 record book.
“It’s just been a long string of tough races,” Busch said of his last three races that resulted in 18th, 22nd and 27th-place finishes. “The "Lady in Black" got us here this weekend. We unloaded a really fast Shell/Pennzoil Dodge on Friday - a top-three car in practice. We may have sealed our fate when we cut a tire in practice and put our primary car in the Turn 1 wall. We were super tight with the back-up car to start the race and we never could loosen the car up. We threw everything at it - track bar, wedge, shims – you name it, Steve (Addington, crew chief) tried it. This place is tough enough with a good race car. When your setup is off, it's just a nightmare.”
Busch started tonight’s race from the 25th spot. Driving the backup car that had no practice laps at all on it, he reported that his ride was, “so tight that on a scale of one to five, it’s a five” only three laps into the race. Even with a competition yellow scheduled for Lap 40, that prompted Addington to bring his driver in when the first caution flag flew on Lap 5 when Mike Skinner tagged the Turn 3 wall.
Addington and crew utilized wedge, track bar and air pressure adjustments that provided little relief. Busch managed to stay on the lead lap until his younger brother, Kyle, put him a lap down after 166 circuits. He was still only one lap down when the sixth caution of the race flew for a Jimmie Johnson spin on Lap 221.
The team had been trying to get a shim place in the right-front suspension in order to free up their Dodge. Busch had pitted with the leaders, which already would draw a penalty of starting at the rear of the field. But when he circled the track to enter the pits once again, NASCAR officials ruled that he had advanced on the field. When his crew had completed inserting the shim, he was held on pit road for enough time to fall two laps down to the leader.
The adjustment loosened the car up so much that Busch spun on Lap 228 and had to pit under green. When David Ragan and Brian Vickers crashed on Lap 230, the “Double-Deuce” Dodge was four laps down and running in the 33rd spot. He was able to soldier on and bring the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge home in the 27th finishing position.
We may have sealed our fate when we cut a tire in practice and put our primary car in the Turn 1 wall.
“Just another bad night at the race track,” Addington offered. “We’ll regroup and get this turned around. We’re a tough bunch and Kurt is one of the greatest drivers out there. We’ll get it figured out.”
The battle down to the finish here tonight was one that will be discussed for years to come. The race appeared to be in the hands of points-leader Carl Edwards until Jeff Burton’s blown engine brought out a caution flag with 10 laps remaining.
While most of the lead-lap cars hit pit road for a final time, Regan Smith, Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart elected to stay out and assume the top three spots on the restart with five laps remaining. A skirmish between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick sent Harvick’s RCR teammate Clint Bowyer crashing into the inside wall and set up extra laps and a green-white-checkered finish.
Smith was able to hold off Edwards by 0.196 seconds to take his first career victory. Keselowski, who came back from a lap down earlier in the race, was able to grab an impressive third-place finish, with Kasey Kahne finishing fourth and Ryan Newman fifth. Denny Hamlin, Stewart, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out tonight’s top-10 finishers.
The battle for the checkered flag was exciting, but the fireworks that ensued after the race was the subject most spectators were talking about as they exited the track tonight. After the checkered flag flew, Harvick chased Kyle Busch down to the pit road entrance. Busch attempted to avoid Harvick, who then climbed from his car to confront him. Just as Harvick reached Busch and stuck his left arm through the driver's-side window, Busch, who was still in his car, mashed the gas and spun the No. 29 Chevy into the pit-road wall. All the antics were caught on the TV cameras and will likely be the featured clips from tonight’s race. Harvick and Busch were summoned to the NASCAR hauler immediately afterwards.
After 10 races have been put into the books, Edwards leads the point standings with 378. Johnson is second with 355, Kyle Busch third with 339, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth with 331 and Harvick fifth with 328. Newman is sixth with 317 and is followed by Stewart (313), Kurt Busch (eighth with 306 points), Bowyer (297), Matt Kenseth (295), A.J. Allmendinger (287) and Biffle (286) rounding out the current top-12 drivers.
Keselowski’s great finish here tonight, his first top-five behind the wheel of the Miller Lite “Blue Deuce” Dodge, moved him up two positions in the points. He is now 26th with 220 points, but is only 25 points out of 20th with 16 races remaining to determine this year’s Chase drivers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Dover International Speedway for next weekend’s running of the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks.
-source: penske racing