Kurt Busch, Miller Lite Dodge Finish Eighth at Michigan BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 14, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch managed to exercise great fuel economy techniques during the final stretch of Sunday's LifeLock 400 at Michigan ...
Kurt Busch, Miller Lite Dodge Finish Eighth at Michigan
BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 14, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch managed to exercise great fuel economy techniques during the final stretch of Sunday's LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway, which earned him an eighth-place finish and boosted him up to fourth in the Sprint Cup points after 15 races have been completed in the 20009 season.
"It was a solid day for our Miller Lite Dodge today," said Busch, who recorded his eighth top-10 finish of the year Sunday. "We made changes all day and felt like the (changes) that we made for the last run really made our car competitive. Otherwise, we would have slid outside of the top 10. On that last run, we had to switch into fuel-conservation mode because we knew that we were about two laps shy on fuel, but we made it. Overall, we have to be pleased with our effort. We just didn't have a contending car to win the race. We'll take an eight-place finish any day."
Busch started fifth in Sunday's 200-lap, 400-mile battle and ran between fourth and ninth during the full distance. The Pat Tryson-led team fought a tight-handling condition during the entire race, with the adjustments made during the race's scarce three caution periods managing to keep Busch in the thick of things.
As always, Busch is searching for key elements that can make his team stronger in future races. "I just feel like we struggle when the track rubbers-in," said Busch. "We just don't have the (front-end) turn of the car. Usually our best run is the first run of the race. But, we kept working on the car despite the changing track conditions and I'm proud of my guys for their effort."
Sunday's race featured only six drivers leading laps, with Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle combining to lead an unbelievable 188 of the 200 laps. The decisive move of the race for the win turned into one based on fuel mileage, which has been very common through the many different races that have taken place here since the first that was held on Oct. 13, 1968.
The third and final caution flag flew on Lap 150, when David Stremme spun his No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge into the water barrels at the pit entrance in Turn 4. The final visit to pit road allowed the teams to make adjustments and prepare for the ultimate fuel mileage battle. Stremme and his Roy McCauley-led team would later make a valiant effort to return to the action, log additional laps and attempt to aid Busch with his fuel conservation effort.
Busch had been extremely tight during the entire race leading up to the Lap 156 restart. He lined up in the ninth spot for the final return to green-flag action. With the new double-file restarts, Busch fought for all the track position he could get until the field sorted out on Lap 162, with Busch still ninth. He managed to climb up to seventh on Lap 172. The final adjustments made to Busch's "PRS-605" chassis worked to make the car as competitive as it was all day long.
"It looks like we're gonna' be two laps shy of making it, Kurt, so save all the fuel you can," crew chief Tryson suggested on the team radio on Lap 164. "Everyone is in the same shape as we are, so just save what fuel you can."
Tryson's call was right on the money as there were no additional caution periods and that set up an incredibly exciting finish. Biffle had led from the restart, but Johnson had powered by with five laps remaining. Johnson was leading, but ran out of fuel at the white flag, handing the lead back to Biffle. Biffle ran out on the backstretch, with Mark Martin taking the lead.
Even though Martin's tank went dry in Turn 4, he had the fumes enough to cross the line in front of runner-up Jeff Gordon. Hamlim whizzed by Biffle to finish third and Carl Edwards got by to finish fourth. Biffle limped home to finish fifth. Busch ran out of gas in Turn 4, allowing Juan Montoya to finish sixth and Tony Stewart to come home seventh. Busch coasted home eighth, while pole-winner Brian Vickers finished ninth and Clint Bowyer crossed the line in 10th.
The win was Martin's third of the season, his fifth at Michigan and 38th career win overall.
"Man, that was about as wild as they get," said Tryson as he walked from the end of the garage, consoling his driver en route to the team transporter. "Kurt went into the fuel-conserving mode as soon as we told him where we stood with being two laps shy of making it. He deserves the credit for pulling out yet another top-10 finish for our Miller Lite Dodge Team. Like I told him, this is great practice for the race on the road course next week (at Infineon Raceway in California). That's likely to turn into another fuel-mileage race, just like today."
Penske Racing teammates Sam Hornish Jr. and David Stremme finished 29th and 38th, respectively, on Sunday afternoon.
Busch's finish moved him back up to fourth in the standings. After 15 races, he has 1,961 points and is 228 points behind leader Stewart. He is 86 points behind third-place Johnson and 27 ahead of fifth-place Ryan Newman. He is now 154 points ahead of 13th-place David Reutimann.
Hornish holds down the 24th spot with 1,447 points and Stremme is 32nd with 1,316.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads out to Infineon Raceway near Sonoma, Calif., for the first of two road course races on the 2009 schedule.