Martinsville II: Kurt Busch race report

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Oct. 21, 2007) -- After enduring a myriad of problems in Sunday's Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch came home with a 31st-place finish, dropping him three spots to 10th in the NASCAR NEXTEL...

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Oct. 21, 2007) -- After enduring a myriad of problems in Sunday's Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch came home with a 31st-place finish, dropping him three spots to 10th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings.

"It was just a long day from the get-go," crew chief Pat Tryson said. "We were OK at the start of the race, than we got back in traffic and got messed up a little bit. We had the tire go down and got a lap down, then bent the suspension. We were able to get the Lucky Dog and get back on the lead lap -- twice. There, at the end, we got hit on the restart and busted our transmission. I guess that is just the nature of the beast right now. Nothing seems to be going our way."

Tryson was eloquent in giving a short description for a long day for his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team.

Busch started 11th and made steady progress in the race's early portion. He was up as far as sixth before the race's fourth of a record 21 yellow flags fell on lap 92 for a five-car spin in turns 1 and 2.

"It's tight from the center out and that's killing me. I can't pass anybody out here," Busch radioed his crew on lap 108 while still running sixth.

The Tryson-led team began contemplating changes to improve the car. The crew changed air pressures and made a minor wedge adjustment when Busch pitted on lap 116 under the race's fifth caution period.

With the numerous cautions along with various strategies coming into play, Busch was all the way back to 18th for the lap 125 restart. The day would take a drastic swing to the negative after the green flag flew.

Experiencing a handling condition that was "tight in the center and loose off -- we're just junk right now," the adversity finally struck a blow on lap 166. Busch had fallen back to 23rd. Entering turn 1, Busch's right-front tire suddenly went flat and his car shot abruptly up the track and smacked the outside wall.

Busch was able to avoid major damage by manhandling his Dodge, limiting the damage to the car's right-front area. Yet, the impairment was significant to hamper his effort for the remainder of the race.

Tire specialist Corey Russell quickly went to work analyzing the tire removed from the Miller Late Dodge. It was quickly determined that the tire problem resulted from the enormous heat buildup within the braking system.

"Looks like the brake heat melted the inside bead of the tire and caused it to immediately lose the air," Russell told Tryson almost immediately after the team had completed its stop.

Then-leader Jeff Burton had cleared Busch's nearly stalled Dodge just before the yellow flag flew to put the No. 2 car down a lap and Busch lined up 37th for the lap 193 restart. During the ensuing five cautions, the team made attempts to remedy a serious problem with the "toe-in" on the car only to never have the time on pit road to cure the problem. Instead, Tryson used air pressure and track bar adjustments to attack the issue with positive results.

When J.J. Yeley's car blew an engine on lap 258 to bring out the 10th caution flag, Busch picked up the "Lucky Dog" free pass and returned to the lead lap, running 33rd on the lap 270 restart.

Leader Jimmie Johnson was strong enough to put Busch down a lap again on lap 305. After passing David Gilliland on lap 434, Busch became "Lucky Dog-eligible" again and caught the break he needed on lap 441 when Casey Mears and Martin Truex Jr. collided and drifted high in turn 3, triggering the race's 15th caution period. Busch was again able to gain the free pass back onto the lead lap.

On two occasions, Busch purposely sped down pit road on entry in order to buy additional time to make adjustments to his car. The penalty resulted in him having to start at the end of the longest line when the race returned to green. Busch almost miraculously missed getting collected in three separate incidents after the race restarts that followed.

Busch had made it back up to 18th when caution No. 17 fell on lap 466 for a Kyle Petty spin that stalled out the cars of Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. He was running 20th on lap 477, when Truex was hit by David Ragan and sent spinning to bring out the event's 18th caution flag.

The team opted to pit under that yellow to get an advantage that fresh rubber could add for the remaining laps. It would not pan out as planned, however, due to Michael Waltrip getting into the rear of Busch's car on the restart. The impact lifted Busch's Dodge just as he was shifting gears, resulting in the car's transmission getting stuck in second gear.

The numerous trips to pit road during the waning laps relegated Busch to a 31st-place finish.

With 32 races now in the 2007 record book and only four events remaining to determine the NEXTEL Cup champion, Jeff Gordon leads teammate Jimmie Johnson by 53 points for the top spot. Busch is 10th.

"Disappointing day all around out there," Busch said after emerging from his team hauler following the race. "We just got behind when the tire went down and we hit the wall. The car's handling just went totally away after that. We probably bent some suspension parts then and no adjustments we could make on pit road would have fixed the problem.

"We decided to try to get all we could out of the day by coming back down pit road there with 20 laps or so to go. The 55 car [Michael Waltrip] got into the rear of us and jacked us up pretty good. That saw us locking the transmission up in second gear. Our day was done after that,"

The tour now heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway and the Pep Boys 500 on that lightning-fast 1.54-mile track. Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500 [500 miles/325 laps] has a scheduled 2 p.m. EDT starting time. The race will be broadcast by ABC and PRN radio.

-credit: pr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Kyle Petty , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , J.J. Yeley , Martin Truex Jr. , Carl Edwards , David Gilliland , David Ragan