LOUDON, N.H. (July 1, 2007) -- A potential strong finish by Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch in Sunday's LENOX Industrial Tools 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway was foiled by a slow pit stop on lap 122 and an encounter with the wall...
LOUDON, N.H. (July 1, 2007) -- A potential strong finish by Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch in Sunday's LENOX Industrial Tools 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway was foiled by a slow pit stop on lap 122 and an encounter with the wall as he raced to the checkered flag.
The problems resulted in Busch finishing 21st and falling to a 236-point deficit to the 12th and final spot eligible to compete in this year's "Chase" for the NASCAR championship. With nine races remaining until the cut is made, Busch is 15th in the standings with 1,749 points. Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to hold down the 12th position with 1,985 points.
Busch started Sunday's race on the outside of the front row and was a fixture among the top three for the first 100 laps. Busch took the lead for the first time on lap 69, during the first round of green-flag pit stops.
Fighting a handling condition that saw Busch's Dodge "loose" entering the turns and "tight" just after the center, Busch hit pit road on lap 71 for four tires and fuel. The Pat Tryson-led team serviced Busch's Dodge in 14.631 seconds, making track bar and air pressure adjustments.
Busch was third when the stops cycled around on lap 74 and held that spot on lap 96, when the caution flag fell for debris in turn 2. The team opted for track position and went with only two tires during the ensuing pit stop, allowing the No. 2 car to lead the field again on lap 98.
Four tires proved to be better than two when Earnhardt cleared Busch for the lead on lap 106. Busch was still running a strong fifth on lap 121, when the race's third yellow flag was waved.
The call this time was to go for four tires and additional adjustments. Unfortunately, the stop required 17.335 seconds and with several teams going with only two-tire changes this time around, Busch fell to 18th for the lap 130 restart.
Coached by Tryson to "use patience and pick them off one by one," Busch had worked himself back up to 13th with 100 laps remaining. He was able to momentarily get back into the top 10 when he passed Juan Pablo Montoya for 10th on lap 212.
Still fighting a car that was "too loose on entry and tight from the center out," Busch had fallen to 12th with 50 laps remaining. When the race's fifth caution fell on lap 254 for debris in turns one and two, it set up the final round of pit stops.
Denny Hamlin went with only right-side tires and picked up the lead for the lap 259 restart. Martin Truex Jr. lined up second, with Jeff Gordon third, Jeff Green fourth and Earnhardt fifth. Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, Robby Gordon and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 10. Kyle Busch was 11th, with Ryan Newman 12th, Sterling Marlin 13th and Busch 14th.
The race was slowed one more time on lap 259 for a David Stremme and Bobby Labonte crash in turn 3, setting up a final 38-lap dash to the checkered flag. Fighting an ill-handling car, Busch fell to 15th and held that spot until the last lap. Battling rookie David Ragan side-by-side for the final three circuits proved costly as Busch and Ragan made contact on the final lap, sending Busch into the turn four wall. By the time he collected his wounded machine and limped to the line, he had fallen to 21st.
Busch quickly jumped from his car, went straight to his team transporter, changed into his street clothes and left the garage without comment.
"He's really frustrated right now and I understand," Tryson said after briefly meeting with Busch prior to him leaving the track. "We'll keep trying until we get it right. I know Kurt and the whole team is really looking forward to getting back to Daytona for next Saturday night's race. He's really been on a roll in the plate races and we'll be looking to win one of them at Daytona next weekend."