Mechanical Problems Relegate Busch to 37th Place at Pocono LONG POND, Pa. (June 7, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge Driver Kurt Busch's potential top-10 run in Sunday's Pocono 500 here at Pocono Raceway fell apart just after the midpoint of the race,...
Mechanical Problems Relegate Busch to 37th Place at Pocono
LONG POND, Pa. (June 7, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge Driver Kurt Busch's potential top-10 run in Sunday's Pocono 500 here at Pocono Raceway fell apart just after the midpoint of the race, as a broken water pump relegated him to a 37th-place finish. The result dropped the 2004 champion to fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings.
"It was just a bad day for our Miller Lite Dodge team; bad day in this race and bad for the big picture, too," said Busch. "We fought a tight condition for most of the first half of the race. We had a spring rubber pop out of the right rear. We kept working on it, but it just wanted to plow into the wall.
"Then (on Lap 129) I heard something just blow off...a loud poof," Busch said of the unfortunate problem that ended his potential top-10 bid. "I hit pit road immediately. It was a broken water pump and we sheered the pulley. We had to go to the garage to fix it and changed a shock while there. We got back out there and the rains came. The shock change had us running decent, but it was too little, too late. Just a bad day all around."
Busch started today's race from the fourth position, after Friday's qualifying was rained out and the field was set by the NASCAR rule book. From the drop of the green flag, his Miller Lite Dodge was experiencing a tight condition, or "plowing toward the wall," as Busch referred to it on the team radio.
Denny Hamlin's stalled Toyota brought out two different early yellows. Busch pitted under the second caution period for four tires, fuel and adjustments. It was the first race for NASCAR's new double-file restarts and Busch was on the outside of the fifth row for the Lap 16 restart.
Although Busch's "blue deuce" was still facing a tight condition, the cards played out with a green-flag segment of pit stops which saw the team stay out an extra lap to pick up the five bonus points for leading the race.
The stops cycled around on lap 48 with Busch running ninth. The team continued to adjust on their car, using wedge and air pressure changes to counter what was diagnosed by the driver as "really missing the setup on the right front."
"One lap I'm sideways and the next I'm ready to knock the fence down," Busch radioed on Lap 90 while running eighth. He held the ninth position in the running order at the halfway mark on Lap 100.
Changes made to the car during a Lap 105 pit stop, under the third caution of the race, made the car so tight that Busch fell back after brushing the wall. It was disappointing in that the team had been able to replace a spring rubber that had dislodged during the last trip to pit road. Teammate David Stremme had an incident with Dale Earnhardt Jr. that sent the No. 12 car up against the wall on Lap 112, bringing out the fourth caution period of the race the following lap because of debris.
While most of the lead lap cars stayed out, Busch hit pit road for right-side tires and a chassis adjustment. He was 19th on the Lap 117 restart. Busch had mounted a charge back up to 15th and was headed back toward the top 10 when he encountered the water pump problem on Lap 129.
The team went to the garage to make repairs and returned to action running 37th and 18 laps down to the leaders. The remainder of the race was spent trying to learning from experience knowledge regarding the new double-file restart pitting regulations.
At the finish, Busch was shown as 37th in the running order, completing 182 of the 200 laps.
Tony Stewart, driving a backup car and starting from the rear of the field, came through for the first points-race win for his Stewart-Haas Racing Team, saving fuel in the waning laps (and getting 41 laps out of a tank of fuel) by cutting his engine on and off. He was able to beat runner-up Carl Edwards to the finish line by 2.004 seconds. The two were followed in the finishing order by David Reutimann, Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman, rounding out the top-five finishers. Marcos Ambrose, Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Burton and Sam Hornish Jr. completed the top 10. Stremme was credited with a 34th-place finish Sunday.
Busch is now fifth in the standings and 224 points behind leader Stewart. He holds a 141-point advantage over 13th-place Mark Martin. Hornish climbed three spots up to 23rd and has 1,371 points, while Stremme dropped a spot to 30th and has 1,267 points.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads up to the Irish Hills area of Michigan for next Sunday's LifeLock 400 on the 2.0-mile Michigan International Speedway.